What is needed to start Float Tubing?

Basic equipment consists of your normal fly fishing tackle, a float tube of your choice (probably a Vee or U tube design), stocking foot chest waders, a life jacket (of at least 120 Newtons capacity), and a pair of fins. A wooden framed pan net, and a series of simple 'lanyards' to tie loose equipment on to the tube are desireable. It is possible to equip yourself with a basic kit of  all this for around £220 today.

 

Float tubes are available for less than £100 if you shop around. These will often be made in the far East, but even the large USA companies are now sourcing their tubes and bladders from China or Korea. Don't dismiss a float tube because it is in this price range, many members have used Ron Thompson float tubes for a couple of years hard use. If you wish to spend more money, then the Fat Cat style USA made tubes are very good, the UK based Snowbee tubes of similar design are also very strong and stable. Be aware that importing equipment from the USA will inevitably attract the attention of HMRC, and the very least you will get away with is VAT duty on the goods and postage charges! Members are now finding sources in Germany for buying USA originated equipmet - EEC transactions avoid the import duty!

 

Waders vary in quality and price more than any other part of the equipment. If you want a zip fronted wader, (quite useful for chaps spending hours on the water), then be prepared to pay more for the privilege. Standard full fronted waders come much cheaper, and some of the inexpensive ones are equally as good as the more expensive makes - nearly all are made in the far East. Float Tubers generally have more trouble with leaky waders than any other piece of equipment. Vision waders are generally well made and  good. Nearly all of the longer term BFTA members now wear breathable waders all year round, as they are much freer to move around in than neoprenes. Just wear long johns or thin thermal suits underneath your trousers to stay warm. Although not absolutely necessary, stocking foot waders make operating fins much easier. Old stagers prefer neoprene diver's overboots worn on top of the stocking foot, (known as 'flats boots' in the USA). Otherwise ordinary wading boots can be worn and the fins strapped to these.

 

Choosing a pair of fins is relatively easy for the beginner. A standard pair of lace on or webbing strap fitted, 'caddis style' fins are relatively widely available for around £30 in the UK. Sometimes these are given away free together with a pump as an offer on new tubes if you shop around. Although not ideal, diver's fins can be used straight onto the stocking foot, but try and choose a pair with a shorter blade if you want to leave the water with comfortable knees. Real afficionados will choose Force float tube fins, but you will have to source these from the USA for around an eye watering £180 these days. You will need to do a lot of float tubing to justify this as an initial expense. Whatever fins you use make sure they have an extra strap or shoe lace tied to one of the secure eyelets/buckles and then around your ankle - fins generally sink if they come off!

 

The life jacket is absolutely essential - you will not be allowed on the water with the BFTA if you do not wear one. The best style is the very compact braces type. It's down to you if you want an automatic or a manual pull version. The disadvantage of the automatic type, is that on a wet day in the wind with water splashing over your exposed lifejacket, is that they can and do go off! The advantage of course is that if you fall in the water, (extremely unlikely unless you are very foolish), then they will inflate without any effort and clear thinking on your behalf. If you use a manual type, make sure you know where the pull toggle is when you are wearing it and make sure it is hanging clear rather than folded into your clothes. Ideally a 150 newton lifejacket is best and can be bought for £40 or so.

 

Wooden pan nets have the advantage that they are compact and float on the water of dropped. They do have the disadvantage that if you catch a double figure trout you will be very lucky to get it into the net and keep it there. Whatever net you use, make sure it is tied to the tube with some form of lanyard if you don't want to lose it overboard. Some members now use magnetic links on their nets, but it is still best to keep it tied on as well. It is possible to tie tennis ball(s) in netting to the handle or rim of metal nets to allow them to float if they escape.

 

Anything with a little weight about it should be tied to the float tube. Spools with sinking lines, wheatley fly boxes, priests and bass bags, are all easily lost overboard and sink like stones when they escape, thus making for a frustrating and potentially expensive day out.

 

Rod length is always a perennial question. Anything between nine and ten feet will do, and the AFTM number is down to personal preference, somewhere between #5 an #7 would be normal. Extreme casting is not necessary from a float tube. Believe it or not trout tend to ignore your presence, and if anything, will come and see what you are rather than bolt for the far shore. Carrying a second rod, either set up with a different line, or collapsed down in case you break one, is an advantage. If you want to carry a tackled up second rod, you will have to make, or invest in a rod holder, (again probably sourced from the USA).

 

Be warned: once you have fished from a float tube you will find it very addictive! It is armchair fishing at its best, and you can usually be as energetic or relaxed as you desire when floating on the water. Try it - but there is no going Back!

 

 

Summary: 

Basic equipment consists of your normal fly fishing tackle, a float tube of your choice (probably a Vee or U tube design), stocking foot chest waders, a life jacket (of at least 120 Newtons capacity), and a pair of fins. A wooden framed pan net, and a series of simple 'lanyards' to tie loose equipment on to the tube are desireable. It is possible to equip yourself with a basic kit of  all this for around £220 today. ...