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Float Tube Fishing in Ireland


Having a really great time fishing from the world's best floating fishing platform
 

Tubing on large lakes is all about dealing with wind, and your speed

The fishing is often better with a decent wave to stir the fish up. But how much wind can your tube take before the pleasure goes out of it? A force 3, 4, or even a stiff 5 breeze? What wave height until your fin power gets compromised by your fins breaking the surface? Flat, ripple, wave, rolling wave, or even whitecaps?

Is an extra high ride V-tube: Super Fat Cat, a Fish Cat 4 or ODC420, so favoured in the US, with "fast over the water ability" better? 
How about the medium profile "less sticks up to catch the wind" U-Vee hybrid Bullet, which I use in Ireland (so far!) or the similar Vee Shakespeare Expedition, or Sparton Steathrider Cruiser?

To get a view as to what gear copes best with the winds passing over a large exposed Irish pike or trout lough, it's necessary to weigh up the following factors:
 - effort required to fin the tube upwind, because that affects your willingness to fish far from point of launch on windy days
 - irritating tracking deflections when travelling sideways on to wind,
 - ability to control downwind movement from accellerating out of hand when the wind pushes you from behind
 - cost, bulk, comfort, weight. 
 

Advantages the Wind gives Float Tube Anglers
W
ind is a nuisance but can have its positive side as well. Some species of fish become more active and catchable when there is a bit of breeze. Many anglers over here like a bit of "fishing riffle", which breaks up the surface clarity and seems to make the fish less wary of predators. Of course, breezes often blow insects and other food into the water too, and that rings the dinner bell.

Predator species...like pike, trout, perch and even estuary bass, often gather along the windward shorelines on many of our lakes during a blow. The waves smacking the shore stir up a bit of mud and also concentrate minnows and other forage. Predators with good vision and sensitive lateral lines know that windy and muddy waters often hold disoriented and vulnerable prey.

But, how much wind is too much? That can be a combination of several factors. When you combine the size and design of your float tube, your personal strength and stamina, the size and type of fins you have and the force of the wind and/or currents, you will soon learn your own limitations.

Fishing from a round tube, with it's low profile seat, more of your extremities are below the water line, this creates water drag and lessen the pushing effects of the wind. However, it will also reduce the amount of propulsion you get with each kick of your fins. The wind does not blow you around as much as with a higher riding tube, but you also have to work harder to make any headway against the wind.

Moving up from round tubes the "mini-pontoon-tube" models...like the Trout Unlimited Kennebec. The higher floatation is lovely ... until the wind comes up. The twin high-riding round-end air chambers really  catch even a mild breeze. If  there is any breeze at all, control and simple fishing becomes impossible. It would be necessary to fin like mad to hold position while casting to a specific spot.

T
here are several U-tubes and V-tubes available, the Vee-boats are more streamlined so disregard U-tubes.  I got myself a Bucks bags Bullet, with vee reaching down to the water, thus holding the tube level. The Bullet has a medium level seat. An Expedition, or Cruiser is similar to a Bullet, but their V-shape is more pronounced. I haven't tried one yet, but they may beat a Bullet against wind.

Some anglers choose the vee-tube ODC420, or  Fat Cat with their raised vee-bow.  These tubes can tilt their bow down if the angler leans back and some don't like that, others don't mind at all. (The Bullet & Expedition don't do it.) The ODC and FC4 are nice tubes.  They offer a high-ride, with low water drag, easy propulsion across the water. Like a Bullet these tubes also have the handling of the pointed bow/stern when breezes kick up. I could fish with my back to the wind and maintain easy position with measured kicks that kept me in position where I wanted to be.

Tolerance for wind, and even preference for breezes, depends upon the kind of fishing you do. If you are throwing large lures, for large fish, moving air is not as much of a problem. However, if fishing delicate ... presenting tiny jigs on light gear and wispy line, success depends upon being able to feel the slightest tick or change in the "feel" of the lure on the end of the line. When a breeze comes up it affects both casting and feel. If it gets beyond the point where I can fish well, I leave the water.

 

In the final analysis, float tubing is a type of boating. When marine engineers design boats, and plan for weight, speed and fuel efficiency, they consider three factors: water displacement, thrust and drag.
In float tubes the water displaced is equal to our weight. Propulsion and efficiency are factors of thrust vs drag. Drag is water resistance and wind resistance to our desired movement added together. Drag increases the effort required to get our movement.

Common sense should suggest that the higher you float and the more hydrodynamically designed your craft, the more efficient the propulsion and control from your fins. And, the bigger and more efficient your fins...at converting leg energy into thrust...the better able you will be to withstand heavier breezes and to keep fishing longer. But at some point you will be raised up so high that your fins don't work well, and the wind begins to have too much effect, then you wish you were lower in the water.

Compare an 18' Irish lough boat with an inflatable dinghy. The dinghy is shorter but wide with lots of space inside, light to carry, but has no keel, and gets severely blown around in wind. The boat is better for wind and wave, raised vee bows for penetrating big waves, deep keel for stability from rocking, streamlined to minimise engine size required to push it. But it is too heavy for even two people to carry and requires a towing car and trailer. Both of them can scare fish in calm weather.
These are the considerations we must balance in our tube selection, for there is no "best choice" just the one that suits our way of fishing the most.


I am firmly convinced that the V shape, with the upraised and pointed bow/stern, is the best design for anyone who wants good propulsion efficiency and control in the wind.  I have fished from my Bullet for over 5 years, a friend has his Fat Cat for over 4 years, another his ODC420 ... longer than any other craft we tested in the past.

A low profile (round tube), (high water drag, low wind drag) tube is very slow, but wind resistant. However when the wind starts a water drift downwind across the lough the water speed of this tube can be too slow, and the occupant may be swept away against their wishes.

A high profile tube, (low water drag, high wind drag) zooms over the water at great speed for little effort. So the lough's water drift doesn't matter much. But wind now catches the exposed angler and tube more and begins to make things unpleasant.

This (height of ride aspect) relates size of angler to size of tube, and reminds me of the self made tubes Del Canty caught his monsters from during the 1980s. Del went out in water too rough for boats sometimes. His tube was largish compared to other tubes of that time. I am 200lbs and I fish best from a tube rated for anglers up to 350lbs. The spare capacity keeps me higher in the water. It is interesting that I have come independently to accept the same idea.  My tube should not settle too deep in the water or I lose speed. 
So always pick a tube which is suited to your size and weight. On a windy day, if you are a little guy in too big a tube you will be blown around and not like it. If you are a big guy in a little round tube, you will settle deeper, and be crawling along at a snails pace.
 
Typical Situation Where a Storm Gets Up
For example :  we make a tubing trip to a local lake. Lately we observed that the wind gets up around mid morning. So we launch in glassy conditions at 6am and fish for a couple of hours in calm. At 10.30 it becomes a ripple, then a wave. But then the wind rises to around force 5/25mph with gusts up to 40. The 25 mph winds created 1 foot waves. The waves were handled better by the V-tube as opposed to the U shaped tube.
One angler is in a Caddis U-boat and gets blown around something fierce. A round tube would be worse.
I am in my Bullet and able to make some kind of gain over the water. But it is slow ... 40 yards in 20 minutes.   That is a lot of kicking. We seem to be lucky (not really - we planned this) because the wind blows us back home ...  in the direction of the launch point and cars. Otherwise, it would be a 2 mile walk round the lake to the original launch area.
So you can see by looking that this scenario that, it is best to have some wind experience gained on milder days in order to safely handle yourself in the event of an unforeseen windstorm emergency.
Practical Issues of  Tubing in the Wind
Advantages over a boat: Remember in a boat you drift towards trout which cruise upwind rising as they go. But in a tube you can hold station, finning gently to cancel the drift, and hold position stationery. This is great when the fish are localised, or a small hatch of fly has concentrated them. You can hold, slide sideways just a little, maybe drift down a teeny bit, and catch fish all the time. In your tube you can fish a small area in a way impossible to boat anglers. That's, because you are not disturbing it, and then having to move on, looking for more, undisturbed fish.
Disadvantages over a boat: When the lake is big and wide and you're on the wrong side in a tube, that's it. You ought to have driven round and then launched. A boat can drive across the lough on full power, but tubes need time to cover distance. So think where you want to fish before launching!  Of course it is easy to take the tube out, drive round and launch on the other side of a big lough, all in a few minutes, and we do this frequently.
Sometimes trolling happens to be the going method, a tube trolls better slow-ish, and a boat trolls better fast-ish. So they both have their day. 
Jetskis .. Don't take a tube out where young jetski users hang out. These are the sort of guys that crash cars on straight roads, and you don't want to be in their path. Even a fishing boat is not much comfort in this situation, but I suppose it's safer. For me ... I stay out of those lakes whatever my craft ..... unless it's before breakfast.  Jetski drivers get up late!
Ireland is a pretty windy country so the ability to tube comfortably in force 4/15mph winds on large waters would increase the number of tubing days in a year by a significant amount.  If it cuts up too rough, it can be very hard to "come back in where you prefer" as opposed to where is nearest.
Have a backup In the past I have tied my wading shoes (I wear stocking foot waders) to the outside of the tube, or alternatively, bagged my trainers in back pocket, on windy days. This in anticipation of the day when I find I have to come out at a distant location, and walk back to the launch zone / car.   So far, I haven't had to actually do that. But sometimes there has been gritted teeth, and perspiration involved in the return journey !
Wind
has limited my tubing efforts in the bigger Irish lakes a certain amount. This has been mainly a decision on the basis of comfort/enjoyment .
I tend to go tubing more often in small lakes up to force 4/15mph winds. But in bigger lakes of eg 3 miles x 1 mile, I have limited my tubing to force 3/10mph winds. (Using my Bucks Bags Bullet Vee-boat) I must try a Fat Cat - Bullet swop with a pal soon to compare both on the same day.
 

To Summarize ....
1 The size of the tuber should match the weight carrying capacity of the tube - a shallow draught tube is very important to reducing water resistence drag and making the most movement from energy expended.
2 In Wind: Vee boats beat U boats beat round boats - better streamlining is potent enough to more than compensate for the increased (Vee section) surface area that might catch wind.
3 Fitness, stamina, training, finning technique however you wish to put it ... let's say tubing technique and practise - contributes when the conditions are not as good as we would like.
4 The pointy-ended tubes perform well in the rough water. ...The size of the craft vs the size of the angler is probably one of the major variables. ... Heavyweight tubers in lightweight tubes tend to lean backward as they kick against the wind. That causes the bow to dip lower in the water and creates more drag. But, a "middleweight" tuber, with strong kicking legs, can make a Fish Cat fly.
The ODC 420 has greater weight capacity than the FC4, but slightly less than the Fat Cats. If budget is a consideration, the ODC 420 is a good choice for heftier tubers but not as good as the Fat Cats if there is a bit more money in the budget.
5 For windy conditions - pontoons are NOT the way to go ... toons are best for distance / speed in LOW wind ... for the wind it's all down to vee tubes. And the manufacturers more recent efforts seem to be the best answer so far for the windy day.
6 The next factor is Fin choice ... another important area that affects performance. It is becoming very clear that for every float tuber, the "best tube" is based very much on themselves, and what suits their personal circumstances.

Fins .. the power transmission!
Many tubers buy fins based upon availability and price, rather than properly researching the subject and buying what they really need. Then...once they own some fins, they defend their decision passionately, and will not budge to buy better fins, even when they know they blew it.
Why we need the best fins we can handle ....
Remember your legs are the engine in a float tube and those fins are the transmission.
Would you fly on a plane if it had cheap old engines?
How about a boat with a good engine but a bad transmission .... a one blade prop for instance?   Or a 2hp engine on a 18' lake boat. Would that be ok?  Of course not!
Maybe ok while the sun shines and there's no wind ...... but later ......
Some day a breeze will be blowing you away from the shore (you wish to return to).
The wind does not hear your desire for cheap fins.  Instead you will have to walk miles around the lough to get home.
On that day really good fins are priceless.
In a float tube you need the best fins, and what you think you want is irrelevant when a wind gets up.
The fins I have used and how they worked out ...
I've had four kinds - a cheapo set of
heavy rubber "industrial" diver's fins, stiffer and much better Deep See Explorer "one size fits all" ones from Bucks Bags, and Mares Plana Avanti x3's which I love. That's after having read several other reviews of them. They are a bigger fin that are rigid on the outside with a softer middle to cup the water on both the up and down kick. 
The cheap rubber industrial diver fins were passed on to pals as soon as I could upgrade. They were low cost, made of heavy rubber, short and wide in shape and they got me started in tubing for which I'm grateful. 
Bucks Bags Deep See Explorer Fins (the white ones shown) came next.  Stiffer, longer in shape, my water speed increased when I upgraded to these. They are similar to Browning Fins which are offered by other float tube manufacturers to go with their products.
The
 Explorer fins worked well for many years. Due to the tight ankle strap they were tricky to get on and off necessitating quite a "touch toes struggle" getting them on just right. I see the newer ones are softer which might suit beginners more but stiff fins are powerful fins. They now hang on the wall as my spare set.
The
Mares Plana Avanti X-3 fins (like the blue ones shown) are perfect as far as I'm concerned. Comfortable. More powerful, but not so stiff they wear me out. Easily on and easy off. If I had to choose between all the others and the Mares Avantis, the Mares would win hands down. Their ankle strap is a revelation. There is a neat clip that once you use it, you enter a new world of fin convenience. It loosens the ankle strap at a flick of a lever, and there is no force involved in getting a tight ankle strap over your heel. A small but brilliant innovation. My speed increased when I upgraded to these.

With fins physical size and conditioning are factors ... as are the types of water and fishing you go tubing in.
Bigger is not always better. Stiffer fins are like bigger fins. You can overpower yourself with fins that are too big or stiff. They will beat you.  Your legs will be sore afterwards.  On the other hand, if you have small wimpy flexible fins, you will have to kick harder just to get the same amount of propulsion you would get from larger fins.
So there is a learning curve in fins.
Medium fins like Deep See and Browning are ideal for novices out in a tube for the first time.  At first medium fins suit lighter men, women and children float tubers who have the advantage that their tube settled higher in the water due to less weight, and their propulsion needs are not quite so demanding.
Later after you are used to finning along for long periods, that is the time to get better fins, like the Avanti X-3s. You will find it an effort on the first day after the upgrade, but the added speed, and longer possible fishing sessions are great.
The stiffer fin requires a slightly different finning style for best effect.
With mares you get almost equal power from the upstroke as well as the downstroke, and you end up with a slow and steady (higher resistance) kick vs. the high RPM-low exertion kick that the softer fins like. Think of a car in 4th gear vs 2nd gear and you will get the idea perfectly!

Last word on fins .... there are new "bow shaped" or "tilt angled" fins that are taking the scuba diving world by storm. They are set at an angle to the leg that is achieved while swimming . They will be recommended to you if you go into a dive shop. They are probably not suitable for tubing which is different in many ways. I haven't tried them, and don't intend to unless I can do so before paying for them. If you buy some I would appreciate a review from the tubing perspective. Until then my Avanti x-3s will do just fine!

 
Specific Large Lakes and Strategy for Fishing 
I regularly fish Lough Owel, Lough Ennell and L Ree from float tube.These can be considered very large lakes by any way of measuring.
From 3 miles x 1 mile approx up to  to 15 x 1 mile. The issues are covering distance, dealing with wind and waves, and dealing with tiredness from too much exercise for your condition which might compromise safety if not planned for in advance.

In these loughs, for good fishing,  you need a wind beaufort force 1 -3 for best results from the tube, from a boat that would be force 2 - 4 due to the greater disturbance it makes, and needing more push to make it drift.

For tubing in a stiff breeze of force 4 (22 mph+) you need to stay in shelter of a headland albeit at a good distance to reduce wave height for comfort's sake. Going up and over bigger waves is no problem at all, but kicking fins when occasionally the tube pitches and the fin pops up into this air is disconcerting and takes from the enjoyment of it.
So for example in a bay of under 1 mile length - the rougher lee shore would be easily fishable up to force 3/20mph, but for a force 4 the lee shore would be out in such a big area, however on that day the more sheltered upwind or windward shore poses no problems at all, just stay within 300-500 metres so the downwind drift does not get too tough for making the return trip.

Finning upwind into any big wind at all from the turbulent lee shore can be an interesting exercise. The return is guaranteed ok, since you drift downwind back to base quickly. Take it easy coming in to land - feet banging against rocks could occur, and a possible big wave as you enter shallow should be allowed for.

I have anchored and fished these areas and plan to do more of this kind of big lake - big wind tubing.

I've noticed that cheaper fins reduce my ability to handle wind by 1 on the beaufort scale, or about 4mph windspeed, I am happy to tube Owel or Ennell, and bays of Lough Ree in a force 1-3 with my old fins, but I would not go out in a really big lake on a windy day (Bft 3-4) without my Mares fins.

The Actual Distances Involved
A 4 - 6 hour fishing trip with flyrods tends to produce a GPS track of 1.5 to 2 miles in length if you keep moving and casting. It's a good healthy way to fish and get exercise.