Tube Jigging (a name that my father is fond of using) is just about what it sounds like: Using a float tube (or other small watercraft) to slowly work a fly in a “jigging” manner. As you may have already surmised, this is not “pretty” fishing. But…Tube Jigging is a good way to fish all manner of flies deep in stillwater environments. While a jig-style fly (Deep Minnow, Upside-Down Leech, etc.) is a benefit with this technique, Tube Jigging can also be applied to flies like snails and midge pupae.
Beyond having a platform from which to jig, it is necessary to have a sinking or sink-tip line and a short leader. This combination not only helps to get the fly to the proper depth quickly, but also helps in keeping the fly at that depth as it is jigged.
One of the elements that is important to Tube Jigging is getting the fly near the bottom or suspended at a certain level in the water column. As such, you have to cast a long enough line so that when the line is hanging in a steeply descended attitude, it puts the fly just above the bottom or at some other pre-assigned depth. If your objective is the bottom, you should be catching weeds or other structure occasionally as a sign that your depth is about right. If your objective is a certain level of the mid-waters, you should employ a countdown method to be sure that the fly is getting where it needs to be.
Once the line and fly are hanging steeply down from the rod tip, they are jigged up and down. The distance and speed of the jigging action is up to you, but be aware that you need to allow the fly enough to time to sink again after it has been lifted. This is of particular importance when working small, light-weight flies. If the fly being Tube Jigged has little weight, adding shot or putty to the leader can help both the sink-rate and the jigging action.
While Tube Jigging can certainly be done from a stationary platform, a slow drift—resulting from the use of wind, flippers, or oars—allows you to cover more water and more fish. One of my favored tube-jigging tactics is to work the dark waters across the front of a dam face. By paddling a slow up-and-back or slight zig-zag pattern, I can carefully work the deeps where some of the biggest fish in a lake often hang out.
It’s true that Tube Jigging is not the most glamorous method of presenting a fly. But it’s also true that Tube Jigging is effective, especially when the fishing gets tough and you need to ring the dinner bell a few times!