You should always get your safety gear ready before you attempt float tube fly-fishing. Familiarize yourself with casting from shore or in an open field before you get in your float tube with your fly rod. Although it’s important to make sure that your tube is filled properly with air (a float tube bladder should be inflated enough to remove most of the wrinkles in the nylon cover. If inflated properly, the tube should be very firm, with less than 1/2 inch give with a thumb press. Properly inflated tubes will keep you higher out of the water, causing less drag on the float, and making it faster and easier to paddle around), it’s just as important to not over inflate your tube. You could burst the tube’s zippers and the seams of the bladder or even the nylon shell. Also, do not travel with float tubes fully inflated in the back of a truck since a rise in elevation or a period of time in direct sun will cause over inflation if not much worse.
Also, be mindful of your personal weight relative to the maximum weight limit stated in the specs of the tube you may be about to purchase. Float tubes are not a one-size-fits-all item. For larger fellows, the Outcast Super Fat Cat is worth a look, if not a pontoon boat. If you are budget minded and see the (very) old style “donut” type tube on Craigslist or a swap meet, move on. You will not find this flotation device satisfactory in terms of both safety and elevation in the water, plus they are near impossible to get into or out of.
Personal Safety Equipment
Sunglasses are a must. Polarized sunglasses are recommended and available at most fishing stores. They greatly assist in personal protection along with reducing the glare from the water surface allowing for increased sight fishing opportunities.
The National Society to Prevent Blindness reports almost 40,000 eye related injuries were due to sports and recreational products.
- These lenses are a must for anyone on the water. Glare manifests itself in what is called polarized light. Glare increases on surfaces such as water and snow. This creates distracting blurs. Polarized lenses absorb 98% of the glare so you won’t need to squint. These lenses are great for fishermen who fish in shallow water, letting you see the bottom and the fish a whole lot clearer.
- Lens Material: Since fishing is not a high-risk sport, any lens material can be used.
- Lens Color: The color of lens you choose will depend on when you prefer to fish. For early mornings or late evenings, a rose colored lens is recommended. A brown lens is best for midday and offers the most protection from the sun.
- Prescription Lenses: Polarized lenses are available in most prescriptions, ask your optometrist for more information.
Headwear provides protection from misplaced casts on windy days. I have frequently taken hooks out of my cap rather than my head and I’m not the best-looking guy to start with so this helps. Your hat will also offer shade from the sun. When you are low to the water in a float tube, the sun seems to find a way to burn your eyes at the best of times. A hat that protects both your neck and face is ideal.
Float tube repair kit
Note: vinyl vs. rubber tube info below may be somewhat dated and not applicable for newer float tubes.
- Nothing can make a trip one or two hours from home more pointless than a flat with no way to repair it. A standard tire repair kit will work for those that have replaced their vinyl bladder with a tire tube. Personally, I have never used mine but I am very thankful it’s there. For those using the vinyl tube, keep the repair kit that came with your tube in one of your pockets. If possible, I recommend switching to a rubber inner tube. Ask the manufacturer what rubber inner tube they recommend for your model.
- For vinyl bladder users, it may be smart to purchase an extra bladder right when you buy your tube. Sometime down the road you might not be able to find a replacement.
- All float tube users should have a valve tool kit so they can quickly release the air from their tubes when finished for the day. This will save you a lot of time as it only takes minutes to remove the air from a tube without the valve stem in the tube. Keep an extra valve stem or two sealed in a plastic bag and stored in one of the pockets. They are very small and seem to get lost the second they hit the ground.
Personal flotation device (PFD)
A PFD, life jacket or inflatable fishing vest is perfect and a must. A large hole in your tube will have you swimming rather quickly.
It could save your life if you are in the middle of the lake and for some unforeseen reason, you have an accident. You do have sharp objects near a plastic floatation craft.
First Aid Kit
A small first aid kit ($10.00 at Canadian tire or Wal-Mart is perfect). I have mine in a plastic bag to prevent moisture and water from damaging the contents. Chances are at some time you will need it either for yourself or someone else you are fishing with.
Distance from Shore
Something to think about while you are on the water: If for some reason your tube was to deflate, have you already thought about how to exit your tube and paddle in while you are loosing air? Plan accordingly when you are fishing alone. I find most of my fish in 12 – 16 feet of water and that’s not very far from shore in most lakes. Rather than cross the middle of the lake when fishing alone, a trip around the shoreline is a lot safer and is usually the most productive for trout fishing anyway.
Float Tube Safety Tips
Here are some good safety tips while fishing from your float tube. These were sent to us by Ken Mitoma from Lake Elsinore, CA.
- Get a whistle for attracting attention if you get into trouble or alerting the boater that you are in front of his bow. Better yet, I purchased a very small air horn at Wal-Mart and it works great for getting attention.
- Got a tubing buddy? Go to Toys-R-Us a pick up a pair of headset walkie-talkies so you can keep in touch with each other. My buddy and I use Aviator 1000’s which gives us about 1/3 of mile range. They are also single channel so that more than two people can hold a conversation. They are ‘hands-free’ operation.
- Armor your tube. Why? Tree branches and even spines on the fish can puncture your tube. Use some carpet runner plastic on the inside between the outer covering and the tube. Very strong, but thin enough to allow for proper inflation.