Fly Fishing From A Float Tube: A Guide To Float Tube Fishing

Everything you need to know about fly fishing from a float tube, including tips and tricks, flies to use, and more!

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Do you want to learn more about fly fishing from a float tube? In this guide, I’ll take you through the basics of float tube fishing, methods that work best, and tips and tricks to keep you safe on the water.

I’ve been fishing South African still water for trout for over 20 years. Many of these lakes are very large and deep, and you require a float tube to work the water thoroughly. After all these years, I can tell you one thing; float tube fishing isn’t just about jumping into an inflated tractor tire with a fly rod in your hand.

No, it requires much more thought and care. But, if done correctly, there are few things as fulfilling as float tube fishing.

Difference Between a Float Tube and a Boat

Apart from the fact that both Float Tubes and Boats float and allow you to access otherwise inaccessible water, these two crafts are inherently different.

an angler fly fishing from a float tube in the lake

Let’s look at the pros and cons of each and which one will suit you the best.

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Here are the pros and cons of fishing and owning a boat:


  • A boat allows you to bring a lot of gear with you on the water.
  • Some boats are designed to run over very shallow water, like skiffs or drift boats. These allow you to pass very shallow areas like flats and rapids while you continue to fish.
  • You can work much more water with a boat because you can travel farther and much faster.
  • If you prefer fishing with friends, a boat is an excellent way of spending time with fellow anglers.
  • You stand up high above the water when fishing.


  • Depending on the boat you have and where you live, maintenance and certification cost might be an issue.
  • If you have a larger boat, you need a crew to assist with launching, operating, and fuel costs. If you can’t get a crew, you won’t be able to fish.
  • A boat costs a lot more.

Float Tube

Here are the pros and cons of owning and fishing from a float tube:


  • Many anglers prefer fishing alone, and a float tube is a great way to do it. It means that you can get out on the water, so you don’t need a crew to launch a boat.
  • Boats are not allowed on many stillwaters and lakes. The only way to access the deep sections of these waters is by using a float tube.


  • Because you sit at water level, many anglers find it hard to make long casts from a float tube. If you’re going to fish from a float tube regularly, I recommend obtaining a 10ft fly rod. This rod gives you the extra length to make long casts with ease.
  • Although modern flat tubes give you many stowing options, you are limited to the amount of gear that you can take with you on the water.
  • You can only move as fast as you can kick.

Note: Don’t think that you may only target certain species of fish from a float tube. These crafts are super buoyant and will be able to land most species of fish. If you don’t believe me, just look at this video.

Fly Fishing From a Float Tube Tips & Tricks

I’ve been fishing from a float tube since I was a kid. Through the years, I’ve had experience with quality tubes, bad tubes, and everything in between. In this section, I will share my thoughts, tips, and tricks so that you don’t have to learn the hard way.

Stay Warm and Dry

This tip only counts if you’re fishing in cold weather and icy water conditions. In these conditions, you’ll be wearing a pair of waders. Make sure that they don’t leak and that they keep you warm. There’s nothing worse than having to turn around and head back for the cabin halfway into your fishing session.

Buy the Right Float Tube

When I say buy the right float tube, I’m not saying buy a specific brand or float tube style. This tip is more safety-related. Make sure that the float tube has at least two separate air bladders. What this means is that if one gets punctured and you’re in the middle of the lake, you can still make it to the side.

Use the Wind

When you’ve arrived at your favorite lake or stillwater, your rods are set up, and the float tube is packed; pause for one moment before hopping into the water. I want you to pay special attention to the wind.

Plan your drift so that the wind helps you to fish. There’s nothing worse than paddling hard against the wind for most of the day. The angler that uses the wind works more water, is less stressed, and at the end of the day catches more fish.

Gear for Fly Fishing from a Float Tube

Below, I go through some of the most essential gear considerations for fishing from a float tube.

The Float Tube

As mentioned in the tips and tricks above, make sure that the tube you’re buying has at least two air bladders. This feature will keep you safe in case something goes wrong.

There are many different brands and models on the market. Each has its pros and cons. The list of features tends to get longer the more you’re willing to pay, but you don’t need to spend a ton of money to get out on the water.

a fisherman fly fishing from a float tube with plenty of fly fishing gear

Speaking of buying a float tube, I recommend purchasing one from a trusted retailer. Many of the tubes have a good warranty on them, but you need to shop to still be around by the time you want to repair them.


One of the biggest complaints many anglers have about float tubes is that it’s harder to cast a fly rod. The reason for this is that you’re sitting on the water level, so a standard 8’6” or 9’ rod does not allow you enough reach. The result is the line slapping on both your front and back cast.

A vintage bamboo fly rod on a streamside

If you plan on fishing from a float tube regularly, I recommend fishing with a 10’ (or longer) rod. The added length will help you keep the line off the water, especially when making longer casts.


A net with a longer handle and a bigger hoop helps a great deal to land fish on a float tube. A small, flimsy net makes it hard to land a fish and poses the risk of breaking a rod tip in the process.

Best Flies for Fishing from a Float Tube

Obviously, there are thousands of different flies that work well fished from a float tube, and every angler has his/her preference. You won’t find me on the water without the flies mentioned below.

Woolly Bugger

The Woolly Bugger is an indispensable fly in any scenario. I use it on small streams, big rivers, and of a float tube in lakes. I usually carry many of these flies in my box with variations in color, weight, and size.

My favorite colors are black, yellow/orange, and olive.

Damselfly Nymph

Any piece of water that has submerged weed beds and aquatic flora has damselflies in it. Stillwater trout feed heavily on this easy-to-get food source, so it’s a good idea to carry a good selection of these in your box.

Contrary to the common belief, these flies are not necessarily meant to be fished like a streamer (although they do work very well fished like this). My favorite method to fish them is drifted statically.

Buzzer and Bloodworm Larvae

I put these Buzzer Bloodworm Larvae flies together as they imitate one and the same thing. Chironomids are a vital food source for trout found in lakes. These flies are usually fished in a team (2 or 3 together) and retrieved slowly.

Bunny Leech

If you’re not someone who enjoys the slow methods of chironomid fishing styles, you probably love the fast-paced action of stream fishing. The Bunny Leech is an ideal fly and should be carried in various colors and weights.

Nymph Fishing from a Float Tube

This method, in my opinion, is probably one of the most underrated methods to catch, especially, trout. My favorite method to do this utilizes a floating line and a very long leader, in excess of 15 feet.

A tippet ring is tied to the end of the leader, attaching up to 3 different weighted nymphs. This rig is cast out and allowed to sink slowly. The trick is to stay in contact with the flies and allow the wind to drift you.

The line will form a bow as you drift along. You may also introduce a slow retrieve, something like a figure of eight will suffice. If the line moves at all (even if you don’t feel a take), strike immediately.

Streamer Fishing from a Float Tube

Streamer fishing is one of the most fun methods to fish off a float tube. The fly line and weight of the fly used depends on where the fish are feeding and how deep the water is. If you’re fishing over shallow weed banks, make use of a floating line and an unweighted streamer.

fly fishing from a float tube

When fishing in deep sections, use a fast-sinking line and heavy fly to get down as fast as possible. Once you’ve made the cast, count the time before starting the retrieve. This method allows you to repeatedly fish at the same depth once you find feeding fish.

Time To Go Fly Fishing from a Float Tube!

I hope that this guide inspired you to get yourself a float tube and start exploring still waters and lakes. You’ll find that you can work water much more effectively and get to spots where other anglers simply can not.

Please share this article with your fellow anglers and friends. Also, leave any comments, questions, and suggestions at the bottom of the page.

Until next time.

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Pierre is a fly fishing guide and professional photographer who has guided and hosted trips for top fly fishing outfitters. Since being introduced to fly fishing over 21 years ago, he has travelled, fished and guided across the globe. He has extensive knowledge on specific gear and tackle selection for various salt- and freshwater species. Some of his writing work includes blogposts for Alphonse Fishing Company and African Waters.

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