Tubing on large lakes is all about
dealing with wind, and your speed
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
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
- 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.
the Wind gives Float Tube Anglers
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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
So far, I haven't had to actually do that. But sometimes there has been
gritted teeth, and perspiration involved in the return journey !
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
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
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
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.
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
Fins .. the power transmission!
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
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
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
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
which are offered by other float tube manufacturers to go with their
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
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
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
The stiffer fin requires a slightly different finning style for best
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
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
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
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