I have two goals for today: learn how to control my float tube, and practice my casting. Best place to do that is Cady Lake, a small lake near our cabin. It's fly-fishing only, and no motors are allowed. The lake is privately owned, and there's a Bed and Breakfast and fly fishing lodge there. They manage the lake jointly with the state, which means the lake is stocked each year (and the owners stock the lake, too). It's small, has a great shoreline, and good wind protection.
It rained this morning, but we wanted to go fishing anyway. So about noon we headed down the road, and found we had the lake to ourselves. This beginner is glad to not have an audience!
Nice thing about lake fishing in a float tube: it doesn't matter if it rains. With waders and wading boots, a raincoat over, and my Tilley hat, there's nothing exposed to the wet except my hands. The lake water was pretty warm, too... so I didn't get cold.
First thing, dress as a fisherman. It doesn't seem hard, but the logistics have been interesting.
Pull off my jeans (and hope I'm warm enough in my long johns). Sit on the tailgate and pull on my waders, one leg at a time, putting my feet on my shoes. (Make a note: add a small tarp to the fishing gear; we need something to stand on while changing in and out of waders.) Then step into my wading boots, wiggle my toes around to make sure neoprene feet and boots are happy coexisting, then lace up my boots. Then I can pull up my waders and reach behind me for the suspenders, pull them up and over my shoulders, and clip them into place. Then a bit more wiggling to make sure everything fits, and I'm ready for my raincoat. And my Tilley hat.
Each time, it gets easier and more automatic. That's goodness.
This is the second voyage in my float tube. The first was cold and really windy, 18mph windy, and I didn't do well in the wind. So today it's more about figuring out the float tube than fishing. Getting comfortable in the tube will let me relax, and be a better fisherman.
The tube is very cool. I like that it has all these pockets for stowing my gear, and D-rings for attaching lanyards for my fly box, and for my rod lanyard.
The only thing to adjust on a float tube is the seat, and it gave me fits last week during our maiden voyage. So I took time to figure out the best way to adjust it so it gives me good back support. The trick seems to be to shorten the front straps to keep the seat back on top of the seat bottom, then snug up the back straps to hold it in place. Tighten the back straps too much, and the back slips off the seat, which makes the back too low for comfort, puts my weight too far back for balance, and makes it hard to pedal.
In the shallow water of the boat launch, I sat and pulled on my flippers, which is getting easier each time. Then I pushed off and started to pedal, out into the lake, into a mild breeze. Hey, this is feeling pretty good today! No whitecaps, no strong wind. Just a wide open lake, plenty of room to practice, and no one watching me.
Dave already had his line out, and I thought "why not?" I cast out my line, and let it drift as I headed across the lake.
I need figure out how to master this inflated v-wing inflatable that seems to have a mind of its own. I stopped pedaling and let the wind turn my float tube sideways, and figured out what leg to pedal with to get back on track. If I look over my left shoulder, the shift in weight makes the tube turn the same direction. If I need to pedal with one leg to stay on course against the breeze, it works best if I tuck the other leg back against the pontoon. After an hour of experimenting, I started to feel at one with my float tube. It helped that the rain stopped and the wind died. A lot.
Time to fish.
Dave had disappeared behind a small peninsula and was happily fishing. So I headed for the other side, into a nice wind shadow where I could just drift and cast toward the bank, looking for a bite. The sun came out and the clouds drifted away, and I could see the tops of the Olympics. I laid my head back and drifted. This is a wonderful way to explore a lake, silent and slow.
The far shore of the lake has overhanging branches and lots of submerged trees, and I thought I saw the flash of a fish just breaking the surface. So I headed that way, casting my Parachute Adams as I moved along the bank, and thought I got one quick nibble of interest. Then nothing. So I changed to a dun-colored dry, with wings and a hackle, and got a lot more interest. When the trout finally grabbed my fly and ran, I was thrilled!
Thinking back, there's no way I should have landed this fish. Thankfully some sort of autopilot took over, and instinct told me to just let him run with the fly. I had my rod and fly line in one hand, fumbling to get my net free with the other. When I finally got him netted, I held the net under the surface, and Dave called over "How big is he?" In my net with the numbers, 8 plus 5 equals a nice plump 13 inch rainbow. My first wild trout since I was about 17 years old.
I let the fish rest in my net until he started to wiggle. Then I moved the net out of the way, and let him swim off.
Today gave me much-needed confidence in casting, in my float tube, and in my antique fly rod, too. I still want a modern reel and graphite rod, but am content to fish the antiques for now.