Thu May 9th, 2019
Special to the Drum
For some time, those of us that fly fish have been hoping for wetter autumns, winters, and springs. If you haven’t noticed we finally got our wish. It is now the first of May and the ski area is still open. Some of the lakes are still iced over, and the rivers have taken on a look of chocolate milk. Only a fly fisherman can look at the situation and say, “this is great.” The drawback to the fast-flowing, deep streams and rivers, is finding a place to safely cast your fly. There are solutions. They are float tubes, kayaks, stand up paddle boards (SUPs), or a bass boat. Take your pick.
Float tubes have been around for a long time. The earliest models were nothing more than an inner tube with some type of system you could sit in that kept you from falling through the opening. Over the last ten years big improvements have been made in the design of float tubes. The modern-day tube is u-shaped instead of being shaped like a doughnut. This allows for easier entry and exit. They have casting screens across the front that help to keep your line knot free. There are storage pockets along the sides for your gear. Mine even has oars that help with a long trip across wind-blown ponds. Another good feature to tubes is their price. You can purchase a new tube for less than $500.00.
The newest personal floatation device to attract fly fishers are SUPs. While paddle boards have been around a long time, they have only recently been adapted for fly fishing. It is possible to buy a rigid or inflatable SUP. Given the length of a SUP a rigid board needs to be transported on a roof rack or in the bed of a pick-up truck. An inflatable one will fit in the trunk of a car. A serious fly fisher would want to modify a SUP for it be comfortable. The modifications I have seen include a secured ice chest, fly rod holders, built in storage, and mounts for electronics. I would call that a tricked-out SUP. My needs would be a small ice chest to sit on when casting, and a rod holder for when I’m paddling. For those with really great balance, forget the ice chest. SUPs cover the gambit in price.
Kayaks, similar to SUPs, have been around a long time. Also, similar to SUPs, they can be customized to meet the needs of fly fishers. They come in lengths from 9 to13 feet. They are also rigid or inflatable, and either single person or tandem. The newer models, unlike the older deigns, can have a raised seat. To help with the paddling, some kayaks have a pedaling system. There are also lots of add-on options. Rod holders, battery storage for electronics, pulleys to help lift a small anchor, are just a few of the many extras you can add to a kayak. Similar to anything you can customize, the more you add-on the more expensive it will be.
Living in the area we do, we are fortunate to have several retailers that stock both SUPs and kayaks designed for fly fishing. Instead of looking at pictures of these floating fly fishing platforms, go put your hands on them.
I’ve saved the best for last, a bass boat. There are several large lakes in the area that aren’t real conducive to smaller, muscle-powered, fishing platforms. Sometimes something with an internal combustion motor is needed. To augment my tube, I acquired a bass boat several years ago. Similar to the above items that float, you can pay from little, to a number that will take your breath away. Thankfully, for those of us on a retirement budget, there are lots of used bass boats on the market. If you are going to look for one, I suggest you find one that is 16-feet long, has a four-stroke motor with around 50 horsepower, a trolling motor, and flat decks for casting.
The last item you need before boarding any these floating devices are life jackets. Make sure you have enough for everyone. They are less expensive than a search and rescue mission ending with a memorial service. Now, go have fun on the area lakes and ponds.