In the dead of night on a loch in Shetland, during the ‘Simmer Dim’ (when it doesn’t get darker than twilight) I found myself drifting towards a pod of big browns feeding close to the lee shore. I was able to manoeuvre gently in to a stable position which allowed me to target a big brown I had spotted feeding. I dried my Sedgehog and applied a fresh coat of gink, then pitched it into a likely spot. In the half light, I could just see the wake it created as I twitched it back through the shimmering ripple. Then the excitement began, a massive bow wave appeared behind the fly, followed by a heavy take…I was into a very big fish..

An Introduction to Float Tube Fishing

Float tube fishing is often overlooked as a most effective and pleasurable method of catching trout. Anglers often avoid fishing from a tube for fear of it being physically demanding or even a degree dangerous. I would argue that it is safer than using a boat, less strenuous and very relaxing. Here are some of the advantages of using a float tube:

  1. Controlling your position is easy, even in high wind conditions.
  2. The tube is, unlike a boat, virtually noise free.
  3. It allows you to fish usually inaccessible parts of lochs which don’t have a boat.
  4. It is excellent for getting very close to fish, and other wildlife- (I once had an otter fishing 50ft from my tube one night on a Shetland loch)
  5. It’s perfect for holding your position and controlling your drift.
  6. The tube is designed with an eye for detail, for example it is fitted with an apron that doubles up as a line tray, as well as ruler to measure fish.
  7. The float tube is very comfortable- like an armchair in the loch.
  8. In a spiritual sense, there’s a feeling of being at one with the elements.

Safety Features

Most float tubes have at least two floatation chambers making sinking almost impossible. Should one of the chambers gets punctured, then the rate of deflating is usually slow, giving time to recover the situation by paddling to shallow water. (We keep puncture repair kits in the pockets of each tube)


For comfort and safety the following should be worn:

  1. A well maintained self inflating life vest
  2. Polaroid glasses, which both protect the eyes from glare and, worse still the danger of being hooked by a fly.
  3. Thermal leggings and warm socks under the waders (even in the summer).
  4. A baseball cap or something with a brim.
  5. A high SPF sunscreen and lip balm - being so close to the water can cause reflective sunburn.


I equip my clients with a 10ft #7 weight Zero G rod with a double tapered Orvis Wonderline 3 floating line loaded to a Battenkill Large Arbor IV reel. As long casting is rarely necessary I find that the double taper line gives excellent presentation at short distances, and that it is far better to focus on presentation than distance, as you can always position the tube close to feeding fish. I use an 18ft leader, typically 9.5lb (0.210mm diameter) Fluorocarbon, degreased. The reason for using this heavier cast is that it cuts quickly through the surface film and then sits sub surface.

If fishing smaller flies (14’s to 18’s) it’s advisable to drop down to either 7.5lb (0.185mm) or even 6lb (0.160mm) (fluorocarbon for better presentation).

I generally recommend fishing two flies as this minimises the risk of tangles and, in my opinion, two flies further apart give a more realistic presentation. The spacing should be 6ft dropper to tail and 12 ft. from the dropper to the braided loop.

Choice of fly is naturally dependant on venue and conditions, but I tend to push my clients to try dry flies such as CDC hoppers, daddies, sedge patterns. Or you can mix it up by fishing with a nymph such as Diawl Bach, Gold bead Hares Ear or a Pheasant Tail on the point.

When dry fly fishing, I constantly reinforce the importance of degreasing the leader, especially in calmer conditions, to prevent the cast sitting up in the surface film, like a hair in a glass of water. To do this, a good tip is to add in a mix of 30% biodegradable washing up liquid, like Whole Earth in to a tub of Orvis Original Mud, this cuts through the grease easier and gets the cast sinking very quickly. When fishing two dries, it’s also important to keep applying the treatment every 5 minutes or so.


It pays to start with short casts with this method as fish tend not to be spooked by the tube. Begin with a short 15ft cast, and follow this with casts of 20ft, 25ft and so on, fish round an imaginary clock to cover the water methodically. Opportunistic brown trout tend to take the fly quickly if it’s presented properly in its feeding window. So with that in mind, cast, wait for a take, if nothing happens, move on.

The method is different for rainbows, as they will sometimes cruise around the fly for some time before taking it, so leaving the dry fly in one place can be very effective. The trick is to spot the fish, then anticipate the direction and speed it is headed. Do a quick calculation in your mind, and place the fly in to the next spot you anticipate the fish will move to, without delay so that your cast settles and sinks sub surface. If you have the right fly on, this will almost guarantee a take. Another great tip is to look carefully at the surface around your static fly and watch for any changes in the movement of water pattern. I teach my clients the trick of spotting these subtle changes in surface which prepares them to react swiftly when the fish takes.

With each cast try to dispel water off the CDC flies with a vigorous false cast before casting back down in a new spot. However, should the fly remain wet, a useful accessory is an Amadou pad. This is a fungus that absorbs water and when used in conjunction with the excellent Orvis floatant gel, will help to keep your flies up on the top for as long as possible.

If the wind gets fierce, i.e. the waves are starting to come over the back of your tube, you are reaching the optimum conditions for float tubing. In these conditions, put your hood up and dap the flies by holding the Zero G almost vertical and allowing two large palmered flies like an Olive Bumble and a Kate McLaren to dance on the wave. The takes can happen as close as 10 ft. from the tube as you silently drift down wind, a method that can produce some explosive sport.

Last season one of my American clients, using this method, hooked a beautiful wild brown trout of
8 ½ lb just 20ft from the tube. Having stripped off the entire fly line it ended up towing my clients around the loch for a full 10 minutes (free of charge!).

By the way, I lost that big Shetland brown, it slipped the hook inches from the net. Never mind, from then on I was hooked on fishing from a float tube.

In summary, if you have never tried fishing from a float tube, then you don’t really know what a great experience you are missing. Get one now, get out there and enjoy lots of wonderful sport.

Stewart Collingswood, Orvis Endorsed Guide
Contact Stewart at, specialists in luxury fishing packages and corporate hospitality in Scotland.