Warmwater Tips

Farm ponds, float tubes & tubes & fly rods

(Part 1 of 3)

By Dennis Galyardt


Some things just naturally seem to go together…bacon and eggs, picnics on the Fourth of July farm ponds and fly rods, plus one other item…the float tube. I've been bobbing around on farm ponds in a float tube for over thirty years and have come to rely on this form of recreation as my mainstay for evening and weekend fishing trips throughout the fishing season. Ice out to freeze up the belly-boat and the fly rod puts me in touch with warm water fishes whenever I venture forth.

I choose to tube ponds- for its advantages over bank fishing or boating. The tube is convenient to transport, quick to launch and is the most efficient means of locomotion in those tiny reservoirs. I wouldn't trade my "rubber ducky" and fly rod for any gear or craft available for fishing smaller ponds. By the way. the word "pond" is a relative term. Bodies of water ranging in size from one half acre to 100 acres are often called ponds. It must depend on the locale or the source of water. In Minnesota, waters of those sizes are counted as part of their 10,000 lakes. I have float tubed in all sizes of and shapes of watery environments; from sprawling Lake Michigan to tiny creeks I have enjoyed great sport, but for made to order fun, farm ponds are hard to beat.

The addition of a float tube, or the pontoon-style crafts, to your fishing arsenal may increase your catch 100 percent or more. Why? Mobility! The float tube will get you where others simply can't or won't go. Something I learned years ago, fishing trout streams in Montana, is that even on heavily fished waters there are places that are seldom reached by the average angler. These are areas with steep banks, lots of brush, boggy bottoms, rattle snakes or anything else that creates a difficult approach. The same rules apply to even the most mundane city pond or golf course water hazard. They all have areas that receive less pressure due to extreme conditions. If a spot is hard to reach chances are that a big fish lives there and the float tube will help the flyfisher get into position, Many farm ponds also have tough conditions for bank fishermen plus many have muddy, murky bottoms that are unwadable. The belly boat enables the angler to maneuver over the squishy substrate that can bog down anyone on foot.

As the season progresses many ponds become ringed with algae mats or other layers of aquatic vegetation. While these plants are vital links in the pond ecosystem, they are miserable to fish through. Some fly rodders try casting over them from the bank, but that's a tough way to fish and what happens when they have to drag in five pounds of gunk attached to the eight ounce blue gill on a three weight graphite rod? The float tube can solve that problem too. Just get to the other side of those weeds and cast toward them, After Mr. Bigmouth crunches down on the popper. play the fish into deeper, vegetation free water. The float tube provides a stable casting platform for the fly fisher. If you have ever had to battle a wayward boat and try to fly fish at the same time you know what a problem line control can he. In a float tube the angler becomes an aquatic version of the basketball player. The feet do their job and the hands do theirs. Thankfully this coordination came easier for me than that with the round ball.

The aquatic donut call give another advantage to the flyfisher the moment a good size bass latches onto the fly. The tuber can "swing" the fish toward unobstructed areas by kicking with only one foot. This turns the fight toward open water. The float tube really becomes a fighting chair, akin to those on marlin or tuna boats. By kicking the fins the flyfisher may drag a large fish away from heavy cover and lessen the risk of a broken tip pet. By paddling backwards instantly after the strike, the fish starts coming "your way" as soon as possible. I've landed several bass in the three to five pound range in very heavy cover, while fishing for crappies with a three or four weight out fit.

An incident that drove home the point of added mobility occurred on a small reservoir that was above normal pool by about six feet, The body of water was normally ringed with a dense stand of willow trees. With the high water level the trees were inundated and about thirty feet from the shore line. Crappies were ganged up on the inside, shore ward side of those trees. Boat fishermen could not penetrate the brush line. shore-bound anglers were frustrated because they were constantly entangled in the shrubbery. By launching my tube from shore I was able to paddle within inches of the drowned willows and score heavily on the 12 inch crappies. Vertical fishing with tiny micro-jigs and a strike indicator proved to he the key and would have been impossible without the float tube.

The float tube gives the farm pond angler another distinct advantage that of stealth. Being quiet is something that many fishermen ignore. Fish pick up noise in the form of vibration in the water by a special series of nerve endings on the lateral Ii He. The old t liner who sits in his aluminum jon boat and hushes his talkative grandchild is not going to catch more fish if the child is quiet, although he might enjoy the day more. He might hook more fish how ever if he could keep the youngster from banging around in the sheet metal boat. The tube fisherman, on the other land, can be ex tremely subtle in his approach and sneak up on the fish. Truly I have caught fish at my rod tip from the float tube. The tube puts the angler in harmony with the surroundings and allows him or her to approach the wariest fish. Big, wise bluegills often spook when a jug size bobber or bass plug crashes ill to their environment from a noisy boat. They can he tricked much easier when approached silently and presented with a delicate fly.

Where back casting room is a problem the tube puts the fly rodder out beyond the troubles of cattails, trees, or cornstalks. A long rod of nine feet or so often aids the low riding caster in a tube. The extra rod length helps to keep the backcast off the water. Smaller ponds aren't usually fished by boaters. They have all sorts of excuses: too little, poor access, no ramp and so on. Remember what I said awhile back about ponds with less than easy access for fishermen? The tougher it is to get to the place the more likely you will find a whopper.

With all these positives going for it you might think that the float tube would be the most popular item in the tackle shop...it just ain't so. Think about the times you've actually seen somebody float tubing, not too many I'll bet. The idea still has some catching on to do in most places. Many newcomers have fears that tubing will be difficult, dangerous or too expensive.

With the proper setup the float tube experience provides a relaxing, easy chair approach to getting some exercise and catching some fish. It's great fun. What kind of equipment am I talking about. When selecting a tube the flyfisher will see at least 10 companies that are advertising the special features of their products. With the newer pontoon style craft now in the water confusion is inevitable. Prices range from $50 for the stripped down versions to hundreds for deluxe models. How do we begin?

(Click here to go to PART 2)


Dennis Galyardt currently lives in Tecumseh, Missouri. He was the Warm Water editor of the Federation of Fly Fishers magazine Flyfisher. He is the 1999 recipient of the Federation of Fly Fishers' Dr. James A. Henshall Warm Water Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Promoting the Enjoyment or Convervation of Warm Water Fishiers.