It was four below zero outside on February 5th, as hardy members of the Loveland Fishing Club
took the plunge for an introductory session on float tubing. Fortunately, the water was pretty warm in Lovelandís Chilson Recreaction Center Pool, tempting anglers weary of digging holes in the ice.
Entry and exit from the water was a bit easier than normal for first-time tubers Ė the pool has a sturdy metal handrail and steps leading into the shallow end. But it was still a promising introduction to one of the Front Rangeís most effective methods of fishing.
Past Club President Tom Miller organized the float tube flotilla, and other club members brought in equipment so newbies could compare and contrast, learning what to avoid as well as what to buy. To meet demand, the Chilson swimming pool float tube trip will be repeated at 1 p.m. Wednesday, February 19th, with a first outing on an actual lake planned sometime after ice-out on Lon Hagler Reservoir.
Float tubes have been around for so long that, like personal computers, most are pretty well designed and functional. The major differences are in quality of materials and weight. If youíre eventually heading to back country lakes Ė like the fishing club come April Ė youíll want something light-weight, that comes with backpacking straps. And in general, while you may find a cheap donut-style tube at a garage sale, itís not a bargain at any price: treacherous to enter and exit, easily blown around in the wind and not as aerodynamic or classy-looking as the pontoon-style float tube.
Donít venture onto the water without a life vest, whistle and some way to re-inflate your tube if it starts leaking air, Miller warns. ďAt some point, if you stay with it long enough, youíre going to start taking on water. Myself, I got my lesson on a hump of rock in the middle of Lake Powell, where a guide had dropped me off in the middle of some great smallmouth fishing.Ē
Youíll also want quality fins and neoprene-insulated waders to cope with Coloradoís cold waters. Also, learning to use an anchor effectively can be key to fishing success in the high wind. And because of that inevitable wind, always decide where youíre exiting a lake as carefully as you decide where to enter.
Entry and exit from your tube in a lake or pond can be tricky at first try. Even if you can begin the sport in a swimming pool, your first lake or pond venture should be surrounded by buddies. They may laugh and take pictures at your first attempt to wade into the water in fins, but they can also stand you up if you fall over.
While some club members swear by their larger pontoon-style boats that can be powered by oars or a trolling motor, ideal for moving water, itís hard to beat an inexpensive little float tube on small Front Range ponds and high mountain lakes. You can find quality fishing in places like Fort Collinsí natural areas, for example, that can be pretty inaccessible to the bank angler Ė and closed to conventional boats.
Front Range float tubing took a serious hit with the September flooding: Watson Lake
adjacent to the Division of Parks and Wildlife hatchery was breached by Big Thompson floods, and four of the five ponds at the Big Thompson State Wildlife Area
are now a memory. The Loveland Fishing Club was all geared up to help with the grand opening three fish-filled ponds at Lovelandís new Riverís Edge Natural Area
, with its new float tube launching areas funded by a Colorado Fishing Is Fun grant. Like Watson, the Big Thompson SWA and Boulder Countyís once-terrific Pella Crossing Natural Area
, the Riverís Edge ponds were breached by a flooding river, heavily damaged and closed until further notice, some forever.
Still, while things are still frozen outside Chilson, look around Colorado. Thereís great water out there, waiting for an early thaw.
The Loveland Fishing Club is a non-competitive organization that meets at the Chilson Senior Center at 2 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month. We also can be found on just about every Friday morning at the Perkinís Restaurant on Lovelandís west side. We fish every month of the year, on ice when we must, and by boat and from the bank. For more information, visit the club website, http://lovelandfishingclub.org; or send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Miller, bottom, and others testing tubes in the comfortingly warm water of Lovelandís Chilson Recreation Center pool. (You might want to ask before you try this yourself.)