TUBING BASICS FOR THE BEGINNING FLY FISHERMAN
by Daniel Kiazyk
Well here I go…. into a realm that has increasingly become more popular in fishing circles… a realm that has its experts. My purpose here is to make a series of suggestions for those who want to start out fly fishing from a tube --- but maybe were afraid to ask. If I could make one recommendation right from the start it would be to join a club…. you won't go wrong and they usually have a few members who started from ground 0. But if that's not an option for you, you can still probably get along quite well! One caveat needs to be mentioned before I continue: I write from the perspective of a multi-species angler with no acute bias for this or that type of fishing --- I'm not a purist by any stretch of the imagination (so forgive me for any blasphemy my fly fishing friends!). This perspective believes whole heartedly that walking a mile in another's boots (on in this case, paddling by foot or becoming a fly fishermen in a belly boat) is the best means at getting at what works. Thus in my reflections which follow, I'll set out a few of my personal reflections on equipping yourself ---- only if you're first starting out ---- and you want to have a general idea of what is involved in the sport.
Neoprene waders are a good starting point. This is the skin that will protect you from getting wet as you propel yourself around a lake. Many materials exist (e.g.complex materials supplex, gortex and other space age materials used by NASA and the like!) but neoprene is very reliable and relatively inexpensive. If you can afford some of the other wader go for it but they really aren't necessary.
Once you've decided upon what kind of waders, your next consideration will be wader thickness. Wader thickness is for the most part less of an issue in summer (when thin waders are often preferable) than it is for fall and spring (when waters are cool). A thicker pair > 4. 5 mm in my opinion is a good idea. In Manitoba I don't think we mind being a little warmer... do we?
Some final considerations for a good pair of waders is pockets and repair. More "useful" pockets and a repair kit including a chunk of neoprene for big repairs are both good ideas. Scuba shops can help with the repair kit and trying on a pair of waders at the fishing shop will tell you if a wader's pockets suit your needs.
Which pair is best? I don't really know. I bought a lower end pair and have been quite pleased with their performance. Perhaps most important when making your choice is to try on the boots with your waders. Doing the latter will give you a good idea of the fit between these two components. Boots are a significant part of your gear in so far as they serve to protect your waders foot area from sharp objects (or leaks). They also make wearing flippers a little more bearable when out on the water for hours and hours (they protect your foot and waders form inevitable friction and wear).
So now your ready to "walk up" to and "step" into the water, but other components need to be considered if you're going to get at those better places on any given lake!
Too often passed over with only a moments thought when getting into this type of fishing is the means of propulsion for your belly boat – fins. Fins come in many shapes and designs. Which one is best depends upon use (application) / experience. There are a few considerations that need to be made when purchasing a set of fins. Ease of use (putting them on and off) is an important consideration. Lace tie-up fins can be a pain to remove when it's really cold. However, they do fit well when properly tied. A pull on rubber type of fin can be very easy to put on and take off, but they can be difficult to properly tighten, or simply the adjusting mechanism fails. Perhaps it should be said.... a few more dollars here might mean an easier passage across a windy lake.... you decide. Another significant consideration will be safety tethers that will hold a fin from going to the bottom of the lake (usually when you are in the middle of the lake). Usually tethers are supplied with your fins but if they aren't – purchasing this item could save you a lot of problems.
A vest is once again another significant item for the belly boating fly fisherman. Certainly it is a personal item but there are a few considerations that one can make to arrive at what might be best for you. So many models exist that it is not possible to say which is best. However it's not outlandish to say that some are better then others. One component of a vest that makes it "better" will be the number of pockets it has – more is better so long as they are easily accessible. Another significant design consideration for someone planning to use a vest while tubing, is that you have the ability to "zip it in half". A full length vest will hang in the water (and anything in it \pockets will be exposed to water and its effects). Hence a vest which can zip in half can be good in so far as it doesn't allow your gear to be immersed in water. One interesting development I've seem recently with vests are a softer inflatable PFD (personal flotation device) model ( you should always wear a PFD anyways while belly boating). The only difficulty with the latter in my opinion is that it lacks the number of pockets - which are really the raison d'etre with a vest. A good vest is one that allow you easy access to the gear you've stored in it. On the other hand your stuff shouldn't fall out of it with ease. One little thing I prefer is a soft foam fly patch as opposed to the traditional wool fleece patch. Yes it does have to be changed more often but they don't seem to give up as many flies as does the fleece patch. Choose a vest with a little foresight and you won't have to buy another for at least a few years.
Just A Tube?
Last, but not least, is the belly boat. Your "boat" will allow you to get at water previously inaccessible to shore line tactics or wading. Tubes have come a long way from their early incarnations. Space age materials and design ergonomics have created highly efficient fly fishing apparatus. Some of the more significant considerations when looking at a starting tube are as follows: Make sure you have enough storage space. Storage space is significant as it will help you bring the stuff you need to fish effectively. Weight is a significant consideration as you'll probably end up carrying your tube into a lake that is only accessible by foot. See what it's like to carry. Are the carrying straps to your liking or will it be uncomfortable? Finally the shape of a float tube is significant to maneuvering more aptly and is significant to moving into a stiff breeze and with less resistance. If you've ever been caught across a lake and a stiff breeze comes up (and you've got to get home etc.) this is something to think about…… perhaps spending a little more money might get you a tube that will serve you in a time of need……
As for your rod/reel an other miscellaneous items, personal choice is paramount. Here is where a knowledgeable fishing shop can be of help. Given the incredible number of different rods/reels (too numerous to mention in a primer such as this article) your going to have to do a little homework as to what YOU need. Most of the time you'll get what you pay for but you don't have to sell the farm to have a rod and reel that works. Given the number I've broken in the past couple of years (walking in the bush, fishing or just being negligent with my rods) you have to wonder how much is too little or how much is too much…. This stuff smells of philosophy and not fishing… Try 'em out and only then will you probably know what you need!
So where do I leave you? I admit fully to only having scratched the surface of this enormous realm. You've definitely got a lot to learn (as do I). That's not to say you cant do it alone..... But consider one other possibility.... join a club if it is at all possible. The guys I know from such a club are informative and knowledgeable ---- in a positive sense. Becoming a member of one of these clubs is inexpensive and meetings are held on a regular basis. However (and for whatever reason) if you aren't a member there's lots of room for you to develop your own experience. Take it easy and be thoughtful and safety conscious about what you want to do. You'll probably make some mistakes but that's the stuff that makes fishing such an interesting activity. You can change your tactics to include those things you've learned. Perhaps what I've written is a starting point for a life-long pursuit ….something fishing has become for me.