A brief history of float tubes and cool magazine ads

Lewis Chessman

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Thanks, Joey. Fly fishing gear having an automatic mark up? Never heard of such a thing. Outrageous!
;)

My big worry would be losing fish via the anchor chord. Even a 3/4 lb brownie can turn me around in the tube and a 6lb grilse will actually tow me .... and if you're fishing with a dropper or two, as I often do, snagging seems inevitable at some stage. I'll keep kicking to hold station, I think. :)

Btw, I ran a search for 'Float Tube' on the British National Newspaper Archive but drew a blank after 150 years-worth of 'Float' and 'Tube' references. Nada, I'm afraid. I'll maybe check 'Periodicals' later.
Any idea if early tubers wore fins or were they a later addition? I did try without them once myself and it was woefully inadequate and exhausting. Never again!
 

Rip Tide

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I've never used an anchor with my tube. It's easy enough just to tread water to stay in place, if that's what you want to do.
However I do have one of those four fluke folding anchors that I sometimes use to stake out my kayak.
It's all of 1 1/2 pounds.
It's not the weight that makes the difference. it's the length of rope.

You definitely need good chest waders, unless it's a hot day and you're wearing swim trunks -- there's a reason they are called "belly boats"..

I live in New England and the ponds and small lakes here are ideal water. Some of the brook trout ponds in the Great North Woods are perfect for float tubes
I always wear my waders. Even on a hot summer day, once the sun goes down you get cold when half in, half out of the water.

The last few years we've been regularly fishing an area in the north woods where there's an abundance of the hike-in ponds
We've probably fished about 15 of them all with-in a reasonable distance of each other, and there's plenty more.
Most people portage in beater canoes to their favorite ponds and leave them there, but for visiting anglers like ourselves, the tubes are ideal

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Joey Bagels

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Truth be told, I’ve never actually used an anchor either. I used to bring my onion sack with me, but never found any good rocks to fill it with. Also, I get pretty impatient and move a lot. Anchoring would work in a strong wind, but I’m lazy and usually head in to cast from shore...or do this:



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Lewis Chessman

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Hi, Riptide. Nice pics, thanks - can you edit in what make & model your tube is, please? It'd be good to know.
And help a Limey out .... what is 'a beater canoe'? :confused:

Ha! Joey, yeah, I was thinking of a few boggy lochs I fish where finding stones would take a few hours of good fishing time.

Riptide touched on this earlier in post 10 ..... Has anyone else thought that animals react to float tubers differently than to bank anglers? I think it's the same if you wade deep - maybe its the lack of visible legs - but I've been inspected by a great skua, a black swan and an otter, each coming far closer than they might if they knew I was actually a mammalian biped. And I've watched deer come down to the loch to drink, aware of me but not too concerned. Oh, and there was that wolverine I saw when waist-deep in an Idaho river. Just stood on a fallen tree and watched me for about two minutes before lolloping off without a care.

To paraphrase 'Animal Farm', ''No legs good, Two legs bad', perhaps? :)
 

Lewis Chessman

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I've just been looking at the very first picture in Joey's op. I think the guy in the float tube has hinged flippers (or flappers!) on the sides of his legs. Whaddayareckon?
 

Lewis Chessman

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Isn't that shot from 'Laurel & Hardy Go Fishin'' (Hal Roach, 1928)? Stan gets hooked on the backcast and takes Ollie down to the backing on his first run. Ollie ends up tipping over trying to gaff him then bursts his tube and sinks. I'm sure it's that.

;)
 

mikechell

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"There have been some accidents where people overturned float tubes."
I've "heard" of tip overs, but I've never known anyone who actually DID.

"The round ones, particularly, are easy to tip over forward." Not even close !!!
In my round tube, I'm in the water from hips down. The top of the tube is level with my navel, maybe a little higher. With this weight distribution, it is IMPOSSIBLE to accidentally tip a round float tube. You could, possibly, dip your face in the water, but your not going any farther unless you're kicking and trying to.


I've lived in Florida since 1992. Been on many different waters with my tube. Never went out in high winds, so I can't speak for it's ability there. But the 'gators have never bothered me, wading without, nor floating in my tube.

My only complaint about the tube ... I can't cover as much water as I can in my boat. There are lakes/ponds I can't get a boat into, but I can fish them with the tube. But the far reaches of those are always just a little farther than I can manage in a day.
 

Rip Tide

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Hi, Riptide. Nice pics, thanks - can you edit in what make & model your tube is, please? It'd be good to know.
And help a Limey out .... what is 'a beater canoe'? :confused:
That's not me in the pictures, that's my fishing partner and I'm pretty sure his tube is a Caddis. I do remember that he got it from Sierra Trading Post
My tube is the one that they sell in the big box stores. I actually found it washed up in the woods.

"Beater canoes" would be low value boats that anglers portage in and permanently stash on the shore of their favorite ponds.
The land that they're on is most often the property of one timber company or another and while they're not too happy about it, it's a long standing tradition, so for the most part they let it slide

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I counted the boats stashed on this 30 acre pond last year
There were 98 and it's about a 3/4 mile hike in off a bad logging road.
It's a good place to fish ;)
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Rip Tide

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I've just been looking at the very first picture in Joey's op. I think the guy in the float tube has hinged flippers (or flappers!) on the sides of his legs. Whaddayareckon?
Like this ?
They're for maneuvering forwards instead of backward as with regular fins.
They were the standard way to go for a long time
Never tried them myself

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Lewis Chessman

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Thanks for the canoe explanation, Riptide. :)
Yes, indeed! They look very similar in function though in the 1st pic they seem to be attached to the calf rather than the foot. Nothing new under the sun, huh? I was thinking earlier how similar float tubes are to coracles.

On the historical front, there's very little info on line about the rise in British float tubing. We seem very much to have followed your lead, pioneered by the late Steve Parton of Sparton Tackle, Long Eaton. A brief obituary is here. To the best of my knowledge, Sparton Tackle manufactured the only British-made float tubes, including the 'Cruiser' model. His 'Introduction to Floattubing' can be found here, a good guide for beginners.
 

JoJer

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Hi, captain and welcome!

I still use the hefty, basic fins (like U.S. Caddis, I think?) with wading boots but I've read a lot of chat on the UK FFF over the years on the benefit of more expensive but better designed fins which lessen the strain on the knees. Maybe the American members could recommend some good models to help keep you kicking?

I don't know if it actually helps but at the end of season pack up I always roll the air tanks up rather than fold them in the belief that folding puts more stress on the plastic over time and weakens it. So far, so good.

Having never heard of the Creek Co. before this thread I happened upon their Float Tube Anchor on eBay UK yesterday. It's simply a mesh bag you fill with stones on site and a rope, so very light weight in transit. Not available on their site today, it seems.
Has anyone ever tried them? They look like they might be more faff than they're worth, time-consuming to haul up and the line is just begging to hook a dropper when a fish runs haywire .... but maybe I'm wrong?
I use mesh bags for anchors on my canoe. They're just camping dunk bags for doing dishes, about 2.5'x12". I tie a surgeon's loop in the end of my anchor rope, Tie the excess mesh bag into a single over hand, then draw a loop through the anchor rope put it over the big knot in the bag and add a couple of half hitches. It stays put very well but is still easy to undo at the end of the day.
 

flav

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Thanks for all those photos Joey, they made me smile.

I actually bought one of those Bass Tracker tubes from Bass Pro (mail order catalog), probably in about 1980. I used that tube in many small lakes and ponds for years.

I've owned several tubes and pontoons since then, but I still have a soft spot for those old round tubes. There's nothing better for spinning around and covering a rise you hear behind you.
 

cpiercem

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Fun thread I've enjoyed looking at all the pictures and thinking back on my float tubing exploits over the years. The first float tube I used was one of a couple that my brother and I made way back in the 60s. I think we saw an article about one in either Outdoor Life or Popular Mechanics. We cut out t shaped seats from plywood and drilled holes for ropes to go through that we tied around the inner tube. It was amazingly painful to sit in and use but still fun. We didn't even have fins, which was probably good as it limited how far out in the lake we went.

The first commercial float tube that I had was a round Caddis tube, then a pontoon style Caddis tube about like these:
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From there I went to V shaped tubes, like the Fish Cat, and pontoon boats. I even motorized my Fish Cat float tube.

Float tubes and pontoons can be a great fishing tool. Many are light enough to pack into remote lakes. With just a few kicks I am able to hold my position in the wind better than in a boat or canoe. I do have a life jacket on, but the tubes are very stable and all of the newer ones have more than one air chamber.

If you take care of them they can last a long time and see a lot of fish.
 

Lewis Chessman

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Cracking work, Joey. Is it me or do that ads already look 'historic' as opposed to contemporary? I guess 30 years is enough to distance one era from another. Doesn't feel that way when you live it a day at a time, though! :)

It only occurred to me when reading these ads but: With the early tubes, those using truck tyres, would you need access to compressed air to inflate them or were the valves changed to permit inflation by mouth on the bankside?
 

Joey Bagels

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Considering that some of these adverts are 35 years old, that’s like looking at something from the 1950’s at the time these float tubes were new. Very odd to think of it that way.
As for inflation, they were plain old tire tubes, so mine just stayed inflated. Now that I travel with one, I use a small tire inflator that plugs into a car’s cigarette lighter. Also, a hand pump would work. I’m not aware of any changes that could be made to the valves.


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