Do I Need a Float Tube for Fly Fishing?

The quick answer to this question is No; it is not needed. But it can be a beneficial item to add to your fly fishing arsenal.

Do you plan on doing many lakes, reservoirs, or pond fishing? This could really be a big help to you.

Float tubes allow you to get to areas that you normally can’t fish because of vegetation on the shores or steep slopes or cliffs. If you are fishing streams, creeks, or tiny ponds, you definitely do not need a float tube.

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There are many different types of float tubes. When I started fly fishing, that was back a few years ago. I bought my very first float tube in 1973; this was my first of many because I used them so much they wore out.

The fly fishermen called them belly boats because they went around you in a circle, and if you were very big, some people touched the sides all around; I don’t know who they were talking about, though because I am a small person, only 6 foot 3 and around 260, so I am sure that they were not talking about me.

angler fly fishing with a float tube in river

Float Tube or Belly Boat

The first float tubes were made from a vinyl-type product. They were made to insert a large truck inner tube; then, you would zip it closed.

When you have this completed, then you would inflate the tube until it was firm. When you do this, remember that when you put this in the colder water, it will lose a little of the pressure and not be as firm.

This happened to one of my friends, and he was sure that he was going to sink, and he fished from the shore. The next time we were going out, he went to the extreme. He just kept putting air pressure in it until he ripped the whole thing apart.

Some new anglers will purchase a float tube because they are fairly inexpensive and are lightweight. They do not have to pull a trailer to get it to the water. Some people will purchase a float tube and use it a couple of times, and then there it sits, but this happens with lots of other items that we purchase.

What do You Need for Float Tube Fly Fishing

You will need the following products, for float tube fly fishing.


You will probably want a pair of neoprene waders. These will help to keep you warm; the water will be cooler than the air around you. Even on hot days, you can get very cold sitting in the water for a few hours.

You might even get a pair of breathable waders for float tubing in warmer waters, like small ponds and lakes. You can always add more layers of clothing to help keep you warm if you need to.

Fly Vest Personal Flotation Device

There are several different sizes and styles of fishing vests on the market today. Most will have pockets for your flies and other items like your leader, clippers, and other small items; they will typically run from around 50 dollars and up.

I would make sure of the buoyancy rating. The buoyancy of the fly fishing vest is how many pounds the life jacket will hold up in the water. The average man around 200 pounds only requires a 10-pound buoyancy to stay afloat. I would always try to go to the highest that I can and still be comfortable.

Swim Fins

Swim fins a great thing to have because that is the way you get around in the water. You use them to power and steer yourself around to wherever you would like to fish next.

Fishing Net

A fishing net is not required, but it will help you land your fish and turn him loose.

Or you can put him on your stringer if you decide you want to eat it. If you do get a fly fishing net, make sure to get a soft rubber mesh or durable nylon mesh net.

fishing float tube with rod and other fishing equipment

Float Tubes

One of the main downfalls of the old style of float tubes is trying to get into it. You had to make sure that the seat was unlatched so that you could step into it with your fins on.

Then you had to attach the seat back up so that you had a place to sit when you backed into the water. Yes, that is true. I did say to back in.

Have you ever tried to walk forward with a set of swim fins on? If you do, you will probably do a face plant.

I also hear some people say not to buy a round tube because they are difficult to get around because of their drag. He told me that the round float tube was like a snowplow that created drag. The round tube prevented the tube from cutting through the water.

There are several different brands and styles of float tubes on the market. Most of the newer styles are pretty much open in the front. This makes it easy to get in and out of it, unlike the older round belly boats.

Most tubes today are of u or v shape, making it easier to maneuver around in the water.

This is also a benefit if you are fishing in the wind because you do not get the full brunt of the wind.

This makes it so that you can stay in the same place without having to paddle like a wildman to stay in place, making it easier to get back to shore.

Adjustable Backrest?

Any float tube you buy today should have an adjustable and well-padded backrest. You want to make sure the backrest is adjustable.

This can make a big difference in how comfortable the float tube is for a long day of fly fishing. If it does not have this feature, you might want to consider a different brand or style.

How Many Pockets & Pocket Design

The number of pockets along with their design—is a personal preference. Before you go buying a float tube, you should note the number of pockets they have. Then look at how they are designed and how easy they are to use.

I think the biggest trend is towards the pontoon style of the fishing device. With the pontoon boat, you actually sit up out of the water to fish. You can use oars to propel you around through the lake or reservoir or use your fins.

I have seen pontoon tubes with coolers for here lunches and beer or soft drinks. They can also have electric trolling motors with batteries to help propel them around—some people like trolling flies and using fish finders and anchors to help them stay put.

The thing about pontoon boats, I have noticed if there is any breeze, most people struggle with them. The other day when we were out, there was a couple of guys with pontoons, and the breeze came up.

They were not able to fish and paddle at the same time, so they headed to shore. In front of me two guys in their old belly boats that were fishing and no problems. I know that the one was not a young guy as he started fly fishing the same year I did.

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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