By Zach Lazzari | Photo Courtesty of Mystic customer, Lucien Baranov
With float season approaching on many of our favorite rivers, it’s time to load the fly fishing gear in the raft. But don’t push off until you have everything you need to patch a leak in the backcountry.
There is nothing worse than hearing a loud hissing sound while floating a remote river. Or simply watching a tube fall flat on your raft. Luckily, you can put together a solid repair no matter where you are located.
When you do notice a problem, get to safety immediately. Pull the boat on dry land and unload your gear while locating the leak. Circle it if a pen is handy or mark the damaged area with a piece of tape or anything you can improvise on the spot. If it’s raining, try dragging the raft to a sheltered area where you can work.
Repair Option #1 - Quick Fix
The quick and easy solution for small leaks is Tear-Aid. It’s a miracle tape of sorts that can also patch tents, rain gear and fix many different fabrics. The product comes in two styles specific to the raft material. Type A works on Hypalon and Type B works on vinyl and PVC materials.
When using Tear-Aid to patch a leak, start by cleaning the damaged area with a wet cloth. Let it dry then rough up the area slightly with sandpaper. Clean again with an alcohol pad and wait for everything to dry before applying the patch. Make sure you press it firmly against the material and give the patch a half hour to set before inflating and testing. It’s a good idea to run the tube a little soft to reduce the amount of pressure placed on the repair.
Repair Option #2 - Full Repair
You can do a full raft repair in the field on Hypalon and PVC boats. It will take about half a day in the sun to set and cure the patch. A full day is better if you can spare the time on a multi-day float. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Hypalon or PVC material to patch
- Scissors or knife
- Hypalon or PVC glue
- Clifton Glue (buy the specific type for hypalon or pvc)
- Clifton Glue Accelerator (optional but it helps cure quickly)
- Alcohol swabs or toluene
The patching process is pretty simply but it takes some time. Cut an oval or circular patch around 2x the size of your hole or tear. Trace the patch on the raft if possible. Rough up the area to be patched with sandpaper. Also rough up the patch itself. Do not sand it down to the threads but make sure it has a nice, grippy surface.
Clean the area with alcohol pads or toluene. You aren’t likely to keep a full bottle of toluene handy and alcohol pads are much easier to pack. Let the area sit in the sun to evaporate and dry completely. 10-20 minutes should be adequate.
Add a drop or two of accelerator to the glue and coat both the patch and area to be patched with the glue. Wait a few minutes until the glue is tacky but not dry. Add another layer of glue and wait a few more minutes for it to get tacky. You can repeat a third time if enough glue is available.
Set the patch on the boat. If you have a roller in your kit, roll it out to remove air bubbles and flatten the materials together. If not, take a small river rock and roll it over the patch in all directions to do the same.
Wait for at least a half day in the sun to cure. If you can squeeze 8 or more hours of sunshine to cure, the patch will really set nicely. It might be a good opportunity to camp out for a night or head out hiking while the glue cures.
Inflate, test and get back on the water.
Fly Rod Recommendations
When looking at rods for your float fishing trips this year, check out our flagship M-Series rods in the 10’ 3” 5-weight or 6-weight. The extra length of these rods is a big asset when fishing from a moving boat. On a budget? You can’t go wrong with the Reaper X 9’ 5-weight or 6-weight rods. At just $199, these rods are an incredible value.