The weather was perfect and so was the fly fishing on the lakes this spring. Everyone learned how to navigate in the float tubes, hooked and landed lots of rainbows, and had a great time. It was a perfect way for all of them to announce their first fish on a fly rod.
The fish weren’t all large, but they sure were cooperative. We’d paddle around to different hot-spots where we could see large schools of fish for everyone to cast to. And they went at it with gusto.
Besides hooking the fish, they all had to master the techniques of playing them in the tubes where they had to keep paddling backwards to keep the tension on the hook. Of course some fish got away because we gave them too much slack, but there were so many targets that the tubers quickly got an opportunity to practice again and again until they had it down.
The technique of landing a fish from a float tube was something else to learn. Getting the fish to come into the net head-first wasn’t always easy, but they all finally figured out how to maneuver the tube from side to side to get a better angle on the fish as they moved the rod tip backwards to bring it closer.
Since we needed to cast directly into the bank to connect with the fish in the spring, accuracy becomes the name of the game. Fish hang out there because the water is warmer and the food more plentiful in shallow water. Bead-headed nymphs, one of the most successful flies in a lake, as well as other patterns often get caught up on the debris on the bottom or the bushes along the shore because of their extra weight. As you can imagine, we had lots of lessons on how to avoid that complication or retrieve your fly. These women learned fast and were successful in doing it almost every time by the end of the afternoon.
Casting from a float tube can be delightful, because you never have to worry about bushes or other obstructions lurking behind you. It does, however, frequently require use of the side-arm cast to get the fly to where you want it. Tree branches hanging out over the water in front of you can be a problem because they are usually waving in the breeze and hard to get under with the fly. Everyone figures quickly that in many situations, the side arm cast is the only one that will do the trick.
Days fly fishing on a lake are always enhanced by the wildlife that inhabits the environment. Small rodents scurry from place to place, ducks and loons are busy mating, and birds swoop around after bugs in the air like the imitations that we are using to catch the fish. From time to time we also spot eagles resting in the trees to watch the fish action on the water.
Just three or four different flies are all you will usually need to catch fish on a lake in the spring. Gold-ribbed hare’s and pheasant tail nymphs are most successful, whether they have a gold bead head or not. Many people use size eight or ten woolly buggers in olive or brown, and a fly called a bead-head lake-leech is another effective pattern. As the weather and the water warm, dry flies begin to tempt fish to the surface. Then, tiny mayfly or caddis imitations usually are front and center.
A nine-foot four or five weight rod with a floating line with a leader of six-pound test should be your weapon of choice for early lake fishing. Float tubing requires a set of tubing fins and a life jacket as well. Don’t plan to use the same fins that you use for snorkeling as they won’t work for paddling a tube. Remember that you are sitting up in a tube, and not lying prone as when you’re snorkeling.
Float tubing is the perfect way to get out fishing while waiting for the salmon to appear and the rivers that have been closed to protect the spawning rainbows open. I’ll bet that you’ll also find yourself tossing your tube and fins and a lightweight rod in your vehicle and heading for a still water outing some warm evening after a hard day at work.