Getting Started Float Fishing - John Wilson
How to Start Float Fishing
I've travelled all over the world in search of new and varied fishing, but when all is said and done nothing beats the excitement of float fishing. I'm amazed at how often anglers will ignore the use of the float in favour of ledgering, even when the float is the more effective method of the two.
So I've assembled this comprehensive guide to cover a wide range of float fishing techniques used in both still and running water. From the simple yet effective lift method, so deadly when seeking bottom species like tench, bream and especially crucians (even bigger carp if you invest in some larger hooks and stronger line), to trotting in flowing water, slow and fast for dace, roach and chub - even barbel. So follow my advice and the shotting diagrams carefully and you will enjoy catching on the float wherever you fish.
Points to Remember
• When choosing a float don't just be impressed by the bright colours.
• Too much paint and varnish on a float can affect its performance in the water.
• A straight waggler should be just that straight. Inferior peacock quills tend to bend.
• Choose the float for the job. If you want sensitivity then opt for a thin tipped float, such as an antenna, slim waggler, or insert waggler. Trotting a big bait requires a robust float like a balsa or chubber.
• Where possible use a float adaptor as this allows quick changes of float when conditions vary during the session.
Still Water Float Fishing
John's Close-in Rig
To catch species like roach and rudd from small stillwaters, or when the shoal is fairly close into the margins of large lakes and pits I suggest a simple multi-purpose rig incorporating a fine-tipped antenna (such as a stillwater green).
The stability provided by the body allows you to shot the sensitive tip down to the merest dot so that the tiniest bite registers. You must plumb the swim carefully using your plummet so the bait just comes to rest on the bottom once the two shots have settled. A bite can be determined at any time throughout the bait's descent, or once it comes to rest on the bottom. Should the majority of bites happen on the drop because the shoal is situated in the upper water layers (most typical of summer rudd), move the float down and try various levels.
In really deep water, say 10-12 ft or deeper, the layer at which the shoal holds may change at any time, so when bites slow up try different levels until you relocate the main shoal. Remember to cast well beyond the area you are loose feeding, and dip the rod tip beneath the surface while cranking the reel handle a few turns in order to sink the line.
This is a most important procedure for all stillwater float fishing otherwise any slight draw or chop on the surface will drag the rig, and thus the bait, along unnaturally. Best baits for this rig are maggots and casters.
Fishing at Medium to Long Range in Stillwater
For presenting the bait way out in large still waters the float to use is the tipped waggler. It can be shotted to offer the bait on the drop or at any depth from a few feet beneath the surface to hard on the bottom.
See how in my suggested rig (above) the bulk shot required to reach the swim is grouped around the float so that it casts like an arrow, leaving two small shots down the line near the hook. If you plumb the swim carefully so the bait just touches bottom at the end of its fall, bites on the drop will register by the float tip failing to settle in its final position. In really cold water, when roach tench and bream occupy the lower water layers, the bait might need to be nailed to the lake bed to induce a bite. If so, then fish slightly over depth and juggle about with the lower shots, ensuring the bottom one is somewhere between 4 to 8 inches from the hook. Best baits to use are maggots, casters, stewed wheat, sweetcom and brandlings.
If using a single caster or maggot, presentation is most natural on a small hook. So tie a small overhand loop at the end of your reel line and add (loop to loop) a size 18 hook to fine nylon. All other hooks can be tied direct to the reel line using a seven turn, tucked half blood knot.
This method is much easier to do than most anglers realise, and you are certain that your bait is on the bottom where bream, carp and tench tend to spend most time feeding.
• The addition of a minilink of SSG or a bomb gives plenty of casting weight and allows you to fish at greater distance.
• Avoid any locking shot, fixing the waggler at the bottom and with a silicone sleeve.
• Switching a straight waggler for a bodied waggler gives extra stability in windy conditions.
• Whichever waggler you use it should be long so that most of the line can be sunk below the waterline.
The Lift Method
For catching crucian carp, bream, wild and king carp and especially tench, there is no finer float rig for close range fishing in still waters than the 'lift'. Use a small peacock waggler float with all the shotting load pinched on close to the hook and see when a fish stands on its nose and sucks the bait in, how the float tip 'lifts' because the shots have been dislodged. Strike instantly!
Not all bites lift the float. If a fish is moving along the bottom in the opposite direction the float simply sails away.
Best baits are breadflake, a bunch of maggots, lobworm, paste baits, sweetcom etc.
• Fix the waggler at the bottom with a silicone sleeve. Never consider using locking shot, however small.
• The shot that's on the bottom should be two to four inches from the hook. But be prepared to adjust either way if hittable bites do not materialise.
Lift Method at Night
• Night fishing using the lift method is also highly successful. Rig up as normal but insert a luminous element into the tip of your waggler.
• Fix on chemical element with a simple clear plastic sleeve. These last about eight hours, and gradually diminish in strength.
• Alternatively, work out the internal pith of a peacock quill and push in a Chemical Light, glue it there, and then finish it off with a whipping. These last for several years but their range is limited.
• Both types of luminous tip can be purchased from most tackle shops.
• Make sure that most or all of the luminous element is visible above the water so that bites are easier to spot.
One of the best ways to catch dace, roach and chub is with a simple stick float 'trotting' rig. I usually fish mine with a centrepin because the control is so superior to anything else.
• Use an alloy stem stick for ultimate stability in the water.
• Evenly spaced shot allow you to fish at all levels of the water.
• When the stick float runs through unchecked at the speed of the current remember the float is preceding the bait.
• When you hold the stick float gently back the movement of the bait will be quickened.
• Holding back hard makes the bait move in front of the float and it waves up above the bottom in an enticing way.
• The shot nearest the hook should be the smallest - giving perfect presentation and preventing tangles.
• If the float tip takes noticeably longer to settle then strike. It means a fish has intercepted the bait on the drop.
• Don't try and fish the stick float any more than 1.5 rod lengths out from the bank.
• Feed sparingly as this will make sure hungry fish actively search the water for your hookbait.
• Try to run the float through on the same line that you are feeding.
• Use hooks from 14 to 20, with baits like stewed wheat, corn, maggots and casters.
• A centre pin makes trotting much easier.
Although dace, chub and roach are the quickest species to respond to our efforts to catch them, it can also be difficult to work out where in the water they want to feed. More often than not I find this river waggler rig, with the bait dragged overdepth, a successful tactic.
• In calm conditions allow the line to float on the surface. This gives you greater control and more precise striking.
• In windy conditions a flick of the rod tip under the water is advised to sink the line out of trouble.
• For a natural run through of the bait the float must always precede the bait.
• Make sure the waggler has a thick buoyant tip so that it is not constantly pulled under, giving false bites.
Stret Pegging using a Balsa Trotter Float
For all deepish runs close into the bank there is nothing that can beat stret-pegging. It's a brilliant technique for catching barbel, chub, bream and roach.
• Remember to set the rig well overdepth in order to form a bow in the line which helps hold the shot in place on the bottom and allows the float to lie flat.
• Try prebaiting your chosen swim with mashed bread or stewed hempseed to attract fish into the area.
• Your shot should be no more than six inches from the hook.
• Baits can be anything you like. Try flake, worm, meat, cheese, boilie, or trout pellet paste.
• In heavy flows switch to a bomb or link-leger attached via a Drennan ring.
• Cast directly downstream - not against the current.
• Put the rod in two rests with the tip angled upwards so line is held off the surface.
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