Float tubes etc for Lake Fishing

Many thanks to all who replied to my request for input about float tubes and their use in high lakes. Each and every response was useful.
It is very cool to have this forum and to be part of this community. Thanks again!



Active Member
A great question. I have thought about this very thing in the not to distant past. My floattube wieghed 6 pounds and has an inflation valve that works for blowing it up by mouth. That way I could carry it deflated. To bad it got stolen and I haven't yet replaced it. It was a Creek Company U-boat type. Definately want the lightweight breathable type waders with a stocking foot. a pair of light weight shoes or noeprene booties. these can be rolled up rather small. I would strap the fins to the outside of my pack. I set a goal of keeping all my fishing gear to under 20 pounds. That way I could have space for the 10 essentials and tent and sleeping bag. I never really did that much hiking in to lakes for the purpose of fishing, but I do enjoy hiking in general quite a bit. For those who know me, yes, I do get my chubby self into the hills on occasion. Stop laughing!! :LOVEIT YT
Thanks for your input. How long does it take to blow up a tube? Could you use a compressed air cylinder? Blowing a tube up at 5000' must be a chore to say the least. O-boat or U-boat? Will breathable waders keep you warm enough? How about a backup flotation device? How small a pair of fins are practical? Is a 9' rod better than a 8' in a float tube. If you wiz in your waders is it better to be wearing goretex or neoprene? :WINK


A good question, I hope you get a lot of input on this one. I have done this very thing many times and this is how I do it. I use a Bucks Bag Mustang light weight U-tube that weighs about 6 lbs. I usually inflate the tube before hiking in if the trail is relatively open.I wear a small day pack to which I strap the tube and I strap the fins onto the tube. The pack carries lunch,drinks and misc. items including vest and SOSpenders. I carry a hard case that holds two fly rods and reels in my hand. Breathable waders make it comfortable to walk in with them on, neoprene gets you pretty sweaty before you arrive. For shoes I use low priced low top running shoes with velcro closures. I trim these to fit my fins exactly and they work very well. They are easy to get in and out of and the velcro tabs provide a place to tether the fins so you never lose them. They are much better to walk in than booties. After 8 years of wear on my old ones, I bought a new pair today for $20.
The whole package is way under 40 lbs. and is real easy to negotiate. I have walked into several lakes in BC that were 3-5 kilometers from the roadhead with no strain at all. Hope some of this helps. Ive


U-boat for ease of entry and exit. No warmth in breathable waders, you must wear fleece to keep warm. 9' rod will be better than an 8'. Use the big fins, the difference in weight won't amount to mouse nuts overall but if the wind comes up you will be glad to have the longer fins. Wizzing in your neoprenes will be like wearing a wet suit I suppose. I have come pretty close but so far no accidents!!Ive
Ive, Thanks for the input. I don't think I would like the running shoes idea, My destination is lakes 4-7 miles in and usually min 2500 ft elev gain, often rocky so I would have to stick with hiking boots. Ditto for wearing the waders, they would be trashed on arrival. What make/model waders do you like?


New Member
Most of the highlake fishermen I know (me included) use an inflateable raft. You might not like this if heart is set on tubing though. The advantages are weight reduction and protection from the ccccold water. I beleive an Explorer 200 raft weighs somewhere around 7 lbs with oars and folds up reasonably small. You can find a raft that will float 200 lbs+ for around $20.00. I use a high back stadium style seat for back support.
With this set up I can fish all day and even nap in it. The downside to this is it can feel awkward casting from this sitting position. Sometimes the oars can get in the way too, I just bring 1\2
the oar nowdays. I can pack for a 4 day trip with the raft and keep under 45lbs. Floating the highlakes can be very addicting so be careful.
DJH, Thanks for the input. I had thought of a raft, in fact in the mid 70's just after college in Spokane I had a raft. It weighed 3 lbs. and was made in Switzerland. It used the stuff sack as a pump (very clever), and I remember it cost around $100.00, a huge amount then. My buddy and I split the cost and we used it in the high lakes of the Selkirks in N Idaho. Erganomically I never liked fishing in the recumbant position, and as I recall I was always sitting in a puddle of water. I will keep it in mind though.

No one has commented on the inflation of a float tube without a pump so I am quessing that most guys pre-inflate prior to hiking, no? Now that I recall my old raft the stuff sac had a valve on one corner, and was completely open on the other end. You attached the valve to the raft, gathered/closed the open end in your hand and squeezed the trapped air into the raft, then repeat. The sack wasn't very big, same as sleeping bag stuff sack. It maybe took 10 min to blow the raft up. Seams to me we finished it with a small plastic bicycle pump but I am not sure.


New Member
I've been float-tubing for quite awhile.

I bought a 8' Outcast inflatable pontoon boat ($1100+ accessories) and don't use my float-tube anymore! I would use my float-tube if I had to walk over 300 yards into a lake, however.

Ideally get an 8' inflatable pontoon boat (I can carry mine over land about 300 yards, by the way) instead of a float-tube...better yet get this AND a u-tube, and you'll catch more fish. Pontoon boat goes much much faster between hot fishing holes...you'll simply catch more fish! My dad has the ultimate small-lake fishing machine, and I'd recommend this to you: 8' one-man pontoon boat, with hand-held GPS, electric motor, side-finding fish-finder, anchor pulley system (+ a 2nd anchor to keep the boat from spinning when casting), car-battery operated electric pump to pump it up by your car on shore, 2 rod-holders, and a storage box on back.

My uncle in Montana is probably the most advanced fly-fisherman I know, and he also basically choses a pontoon boat....doesn't use a float-tube.

If you get a float-tube, get the kind (u-shaped, usually) that DOESN'T require a pump...the u-shaped ones can usually be blown up by mouth, so no need to pack in a small pump. U-shaped ones also kick a bit faster. Only problem is resting your hands on the metal bar that separates the "U"....round tubes are softer there. But it's not that big of a deal. Force fins are worth the money. My dad likes those neoprene "socks", that he puts over his stocking-foot waders...keeps his feet warmer, he says.

This is still way way cheaper than buying, say, a 17' boat...so look at it that way.

If you use the pontoon boat from saltwater beaches, you'd "need" to get a STAINLESS frame on the pontoon boat....our Outcast model has this.

Just because you CAN buy a boat (float-tube) for $99 doesn't mean that that's the best way to go.
Sounds like you're getting some good input on float tubes & whether they will work for what you want to do. I happened upon 2 pairs of Caddis brand float tube flippers for 17.50 each. That price is unheard of & you may want to snag a pair. You'll find them at Fred Meyer store in Renton (downtown store) They are on a "clearance rack" right across from sporting goods near the North entrance of the store. If I didn't already have I would certainly go get a pair for that price. They were there as of 8:30 last nite. :THUMBSUP
I re-read your post. If you want alpine fishing options as well then you'd need a o-tube or u-tube.

Water temps up there can be cold with your feet in the water all the time, so get fleece under the waders, and warm socks.

I've had neoprene waders and they fell apart on me way too much...I have Simms ($200, though) waders now and they haven't leaked yet. Also, if you have to hike in, the neoprene (doesn't breath much) will get you really soaked inside from persperation.

Consider a 3-piece rod, maybe. 9' fly-rod is way better when casting in a lake than a 8' rod.

Weight can be a concern, like you said, so do look at weight of your gear/boat.

The reason we don't use our one-man rafts (we currently have 11 boats, by the way) much is that they slowly TURN in the wind when we're fishing a spot so we end up having to cast/retreive behind us often...a bummer!! With a float-tube you simply use your feet to always keep in the direction you want. You can use the oars of a raft to do this, but then you have to put your rod down, and I seem to inadvertantly turn about every 90 seconds if there is ANY wind at ALL. Also, slow TROLLING a wet-fly is better with a tube than a raft, since both of your hands can hold the rod to set the hook quickly and feel the strike in time (this maybe increases your catch by, say, 40%) Having fins in the water all the time can also KEEP you in the right spot (w/out having to anchor)...difficult with a raft.

But, when we have to travel a long way over the water to get to a spot in an Alpine lake, then we use a raft! Float-tubes, since they have no oars, are very very very slow! By far the worst thing about them.

When tubing you don't need to pack in normal wading boots...consider light "booties" instead. They go over your stocking-foot waders (the fins then go over the booties)...you'd hike in using regular hiking shoes. www.kman.com is one place to consider looking for this specialized fly-fishing gear. They have quality stuff, and great selection, but they are "expensive."

For drive-to lakes get the inflatible pontoon boat!
DaleD & Troutski, Thanks for your threads in this discussion, I think I am narrowing in on a float tube, no particular brand, I would think lightness would be the issue for me. Can a good all around boat behad in the 5-6 lb range. Who carries the largest cross section of boats to look at?
I was quite happy buying my float tube from Cabela's. They also have great customer support. I have a caddis with the boston style valves. This allows you to quickly deflate your boat. Rather than bleed a little air out of a tiny valve you have to hold open.

For a pump, I went with a foot bellow pump. Like what you would use for a pool toy or an inflaitable mattress. However, the ribbed air tube made so much noise. So I switched it out with a flexible straight sided black plastic tube. I think it is called pond pump tubing. Anyway, the pump was about 12.99, and the tubing was 14 cents a foot. I bet the pump weighs about a pound, so you may be interested in carrying this with you. But I would warn, a folded-up float tube is a bit of an ackward package, plus you have to have a dry place to put whatever bag you carried your tube in.

One possible solution is a large dry bag with built-in backpack. That would keep everything dry while one the water (extra cloths, lunch, emergency kit), and you would pack out a "wet" bag. this would only work for day trips of course.

I don't know if anyone has given you a lecture about a pair of SOSpenders. Don't worry, mine is short! Get a pair.
Reeltrout :COOK Check out the SuperCat ... a very lightweight packable mini-pontoon boat. It is available in Federal Way at the Mad FlyFisher 253-945-7414 or online at www.newworldmfg.com/supercat... a little pricey at $575 but well worth it. You might also look at a similar product made here in Seattle by Extreme. They make a similar product for around $450. I think they are located in Tukwila. I have their belly boat and it is very well made and much less expensive than comparable products (325 lb. rating for $85 at the Fishing Show two years ago.. you can still buy it for $100). The other two products will set you back some bucks but well worth it. If you want to go with a pontoon then check out [email protected] I bought mine at GI Joes on sale for $225 two years ago and have added another $100 in accessories. Orvis put their name on it this year for another $200 in cost with all the bells and whistles. It is the finest pontoon boat out there for the money. You can buy a wheel system that a buddy of mine makes )($75) with aircraft quality precision.. Good luck.
PS don't forget to strap on a fish finder ... The Fishing Buddy is a great little toy that really does make a difference. It at least tells you when you are casting over nothing.

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