I can’t be sure when I first stepped into a float tube.
What I do know, is that on the morning of 29th June 1985 Roger Baert arrived on the farm, to come and help us see if we could catch some of the Trout we had stocked in our new dam. He was a little late: He had stopped on the way in to watch a duiker for a long while. I fished from the little rowing boat that my father had bought us, aptly named “DryFly”, and Roger fished from a float tube. Not just any float tube mind you, but the first tube ever brought into South Africa.
When Roger left later that day, he left the first entry in the logbook, and he left the first float tube. The latter was on loan to me, on the “never-never”.
I fished many hours in that tube, before passing it on directly to the next youngster Roger had lent it to.
I forget who it went to next, but I can tell you that, thanks to Roger’s generosity, most of my friends used it at some time. Later, I made my own. Or should I say my mother made me one. This was a rough and basic craft, but that was all that was available then. Some of us just tied some straps on an old truck tube and carried on:
Then at some point, I bought a Fly-fisherman “mark something” tube. I would tell you which one it is, except that the artwork has all worn off now, and I am not one for remembering model numbers. Some would recognise it. I still fish with it.
A short while back, a friend expressed surprise when I told him I had never even sat in a kick boat. I said I didn’t really need to: I have a float tube, it’s very comfortable, I enjoy using it, and it’s not broken. I launch it quicker than most of my friends in kick boats, it doesn’t drift as much as they do in the wind, and I catch enough fish from it. If it’s not broken, why throw it away!
It did occur to me after that however, that it might break rather suddenly, and without warning. By that mean it could burst on me one day. That would be a tad uncomfortable with winter having arrived now. Probably frightening too. So I took the ‘20 something’ year old inner tube out of it the other day and had a look. I couldn’t see anything wrong, but not knowing much about these things, I took it to the local tyre shop, where they blew it up, and then stood around remarking at the strange shape it had adopted. It had actually developed a permanent memory of what a D tube should look like!
On closer inspection we found some thin spots, and I was persuaded to buy a new one. They did however remark that the new ones aren’t much better than my old one, even with its thin spots, since they now apparently put more plastic in the compound. Something about it being a bit more impervious, and saving people from having to re-pump it occasionally. But considerably more prone to breakdown in the sun, and less tolerant of being de-deflated and re-inflated regularly. New stuff! tut.
I guess a tube sits you lower in the water, and that means it could be more difficult to keep your line airborne. Maybe the fish see more of you, since more of you is below the surface, in their domain.
Maybe that’s why I seldom catch fish close to the tube. And if you are deeper in the water, perhaps you are colder than if you were out, ………some of the time.
Although I own a beautiful boat, sometimes nothing beats the doughnut for slipping quietly along, or steadily working a shoreline, without the hassle of an anchor, or the occasional ‘clank’ of a paddle touching the gunwales.
To those of you who do still use the old doughnut tubes, some details, and what works for me: I wear stocking foot waders with a canoeing type shoe over, and then a pair of fins of the type that you push your shoe into and pull a strap over the heel. I tossed out the rubber straps the day I bought the fins, and replaced them with some rubber cord that I knotted onto the buckles. I push the tube into shallow water, with my rod and fins in hand. Then I step into it and wade a little deeper. When I am calf deep I put one heel into the gravel at a time, and thrust the fin onto the toe in front of the tube. You can pull the strap onto the back with one hand reaching down inside the tube (through the seat). Then turn around, 2 steps backwards, sit down , and you are off. No walking around on the bank with fins on, like some pregnant coot, or a tube around your neck like an African political victim. Oh, and pressure: Pump it up until you can read the brand name of the inner tube through the canvas (but carry an appropriate number of additional items that float to compensate for the extra danger you so incur! (I carry a horde of those wine caskets that you can inflate.)