Having a way to get out on the water can greatly impact the success and satisfaction of any fly fishing trip. A good pair of waders only get you so far. So, if you want a way to fish farther from shore, you’re going to need a raft, float tube, or pontoon to get you there.
All three options are quiet enough not to frighten the fish. They’re relatively inexpensive when compared to a conventional boat. And their low profiles are conducive to casting a fly line. Which vessel you choose depends mostly on the type of water you plan to fish. And, how much money you’re willing to spend.
Here is a basic breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages of each type of fly fishing vessel. Along with a few recommendations to help you make an informed decision.
They’re one of the least expensive options to get you out on the water. Plus, a float tube is one of the most convenient and easy modes of transportation available for fly fishing. They are lightweight and incredibly portable. You can easily stuff one in the trunk of your car and inflate it once you get to your destination. You can even attach straps to your float tube and carry it backpack-style to fish lakes that are only accessible by hiking trail.
If you plan to fish a lake or a calm stretch of river, a float tube is just what you need. They are very stable but are difficult to maneuver in a stronger current or windy conditions. You’ll need swim flippers to paddle yourself around the water. Even the strongest swimmer will find it tiring to move a float tube around for any length of time without them. And forget about paddles these tubes sit too close to the water.
In fact, inside a float tube, you will be very low in the water. This can be a disadvantage for a couple of reasons. First, it’s difficult to spot fish from such a low vantage point. Being so close to the water’s surface can also affect your casting options. Choosing a longer fly rod can help lengthen your effective casting distance, however.
Best Float Tubes for Fly Fishing.
Classic Accessories Cumberland Inflatable Fishing Float Tube
Cumberland proves that the company understands the sport of fly fishing with this awesome float tube. Packed with extras, including cargo pockets with durable double zippers, drink holders, rod holders, and a mesh stripping apron complete with a ruler, this float tube has just about everything you need for a great day’s fishing.
Another great feature of this float tube is the extra high seat. This seat gets you higher up out of the water than many other float tubes which make for a drier and warmer fishing experience. It also improves your visibility both when it comes to spotting fish in the water and being spotted by approaching boats.
The very best feature though is the included straps that are attached to the rugged PVC bottom allowing you to carry it like a backpack to your favorite fishing spot.
Caddis Sports Pro 2000 Float Tube
The unique teardrop shape and low-profile floats make this one of the most stable rides you can get. The extra stability makes for easier casting than you’ll get from some other float tubes.
You’ll find plenty of storage to keep your gear easily accessible, including two extra large main pockets, two smaller auxiliary pockets, and a bonus cargo area located behind the seat. It is hands down one of the most spacious and comfortable tubes on the market. It isn’t fast, and it’s not particularly stylish, but you can’t help but relax and have fun in this float as you cast a weed edge on a warm summer day.
Pontoons share many of the advantages of float tubes with the bonus of being able to cover more water. You don’t necessarily need cumbersome swim fins with a pontoon. Instead, you’ll use oars to propel yourself. Which is a major advantage on windy days and on rivers with a bit of current. However, a pontoon still offers the option to use swim fins for hands-free fishing once you reach your favorite honey hole.
Because you’re seated a bit higher on the water, fishing from a pontoon gives you increased visibility and more casting options. The major trade-off is in cost and portability. A typical pontoon weighs in at over 60 pounds. With the weight and the larger size, you probably won’t backpack anywhere with even the smallest pontoon. Also, expect a larger price tag since pontoons are a bit more on the pricey side.
Best Pontoons for Fly Fishing
Classic Accessories Colorado XTS Fishing Inflatable Pontoon Boat
(with Swivel Seat)
For convenience and portability, this pontoon boat comes with a transport wheel. That means you can easily get it from the truck to the water without having to drag it. It also has a two-position motor mount which gives you the option of adding an electric motor to get you to the fish much faster than you can paddle.
The Colorado XTS can accommodate conditions up to a Class 1 river rating, giving you a wider range of options when it comes to fishing destinations. And with its powder-coated steel tube frame, heavy-duty abrasion-resistant pontoons, PVC bottom and tough nylon top you can fish with peace of mind knowing that this pontoon can stand up to some rough fishing conditions without leaving you stranded.
Outcast Fish Cat Scout Frameless Pontoon Boat
Weighing in at a mere 35 pounds, the Outcast Fish Cat Scout is easy to carry and has an overall design that combines the best features of a float tube and a pontoon boat. The low profile is great for fly fishing open lakes while the pontoons create a more stable craft for fishing stronger currents.
One of the best features is the open floor, which makes it easy for the angler to stand up and fish shallower waters without having to awkwardly climb in and out of the boat. Whether you’re fishing calm water, drifting along a lazy river, or fighting the current of the spring melt, you’ll fall in love with the versatility of this frameless pontoon boat
A good fishing raft comes with plenty of advantages. First, it will keep you up out of the water and mostly dry. Also, you’ll have a higher vantage point which is great for spotting fish in the water and makes for a more forgiving position when it comes to casting your fly rod. From the higher position of a raft, you can be sloppier on your backcast without hitting the water.
A raft is much cheaper than a standard fishing boat yet has many of the same bells and whistles. Plus some extra features a crafty angler (aka ninja) might enjoy. With comfortable seats, lean bars and leg braces for stability while casting, and many fly fishing accessories, a raft can feel like a luxury suite to a backwoods angler. Also, when it comes to safety, a raft is your best option for fishing rocky rivers and whitewater areas.
Best Rafts for Fly Fishing
Intex Seahawk 4-Person Inflatable Boat
If you’re looking for affordability, this raft definitely fits the bill. However, if you want to brave whitewater, you’ll need to look for something else. The Intex Seahawk is made for fishing still lakes and calm rivers.
While you’ll be impressed with the high-quality design and durability, this is a bare basics raft. It will get you comfortably out on the water with inflatable cushions and convenient rod holders. But, you won’t want to stand up to get extra casting distance unless you look forward to a nice swim.
Sea Eagle SE9 Inflatable Motormount Boat
This raft might be the perfect fishing setup. It is lightweight, portable, stable, and designed with fishing in mind. Roomy enough for several people, the Sea Eagle SE9 is recommended for use on up to Class 3 whitewater.
With high-frequency weld seams, safety air chambers, and material that is resistant to both punctures and impact tears. It doesn’t get much safer than this one. The best part is, you can have it inflated in just 15 minutes. With plenty of room for fishing buddies or a ton of gear, you really can’t beat this quality inflatable raft.
As you can see, there are plenty of options for taking your fly fishing out onto the water. Each type of vessel has its own pros and cons. However, one thing they all have in common is their ability to get you out to where the fish are.