page describes the basic concepts, equipment and techniques used for float
fishing. I have tried to make it as 'user friendly' as possible.
"It was said that a float is one of the few things that is
more pleasing in its disappearance than its appearance! Using a float is one
of the most efficient and sensitive methods for fishing. With a float you
get a real feel for what is going on under water. The slightest knock is
recorded sending your heart racing. "
What is float fishing ?
Float fishing is where
you use a floating indicator to help catch fish. This indicator is called a
float. Floats have a bright tip that allows you to see it easily. The
float is attached to your fishing line. It acts as a visual indicator
between your rod and hook bait. When a fish picks up your hook and swims
away, the float is pulled beneath the water. When you see the float
disappear, you know that you have a fish.
You can use floats
to fish the whole depth of the water. i.e.; From the surface right down to
the bottom. This lets you put your hook bait right where the fish are.
Professional Match fishermen like Bob Nudd are able to keep catching fish,
even when the fish have moved up or down in the water.
Floats come in
different shapes and sizes. Choosing the right float depends on the type of
fishing you want to do. You can use floats on many different types of
venues. i.e. From deep or shallow lakes, to fast or slow rivers.
What are floats ?
The three main types of
- The insert
- The bodied
- The sliding
- The stepped
- The crystal
- The self depth
The stick float:
- The quill float
- The standard
The pole float:
- Pear shaped -
body up pole float
- Pear shaped -
body down pole float
- Cane stem
- Wire stem
- Carbon fiber
varieties ( top quality )
- Lake / still
water pole floats
- River / fast
water pole floats
- The dibber
These three types of floats
are used for different techniques and venues.
The waggler is a float that is attached to the line at the bottom of the
float. Depending on the situation, a waggler can be locked in one spot, or
left free to slide up and down the line. The waggler floats can be used
for almost all forms of fishing. The different varieties can be used from
fast to slow, to deep, to shallow venues. It is by far the most diverse
The stick float
The stick float is designed for river fishing. They are attached length
ways along the line, with the bottom facing the hook end. Two or three
small silicone rubber bands are used to slide over both the line and float,
and are placed at the top and bottom of the float. This holds the float in
place, but allows you to easily adjust the float position along the line.
Stick floats are
fished down stream of where you are river fishing. The stick floats have a
slim design, that allows it to lay down in the current. This lets you
maintain control over the float and more importantly, your hook bait.
The pole float
The pole float is used for float fishing with a pole. A float is
attached to a piece of fishing line, that is attached to the end of the
pole. Pole floats are very small and do not require much weight. This is
because they are physically pushed out by the sheer length of the pole. As
a result, you are able to make your rigs ultra sensitive. Pole floats
range from many shapes and sizes, allowing you to fish most venue types.
How does a float work ?
A float is buoyant
mass. i.e.; this means that it floats in water.
To use a float for
fishing, it needs to be weighed down. This is done by squeezing small
pieces of lead shot onto the fishing line between the float and the hook.
When a fish picks up
the hook bait, the float moves. It is this movement that indicates what is
going on below.
The most common
types of movement are mentioned below:
The rising float
The rising float tip happens when a fish has taken your hook bait and
is either holding the line up, or that the fish is swimming towards you.
When a fish does this, it usually means that the fish has lifted the
bait but has not yet swallowed it. I have found that you shouldn't
strike until the float has disappeared under the water.
The side to side wobble
The slide away
The diving float
The diving float is where the float tip simply dives beneath
the surface of the water. This can be caused by the fish swimming off,
or by the fish picking up the bait and the setting shot. When the shot
has been lifted off the bottom, its weight is added to the total shot
weight. If this extra weight is more than the total buoyancy of the
float, then it will sink. This technique is an excellent way to see if
a fish is playing up your bait.
Diagram 1: The ' slide away' float .
Correctly setting the float up
Floats require a
certain amount of weight to set the float in the water. This is called the
'total shotting capacity'. Various forms of lead split shot are used to
weigh the float down. This shot is pinched onto your fishing line.
table describes each shot size, and their appropriate weight:
SPLIT SHOT CONVERSIONS
6 X AAA
The rule of thumb when attaching shot, is that you should place 2/3
of the total shotting capacity immediately beneath the float. The rest
of the shot can either be spread evenly down the line, or bulked
together. It is important to remember that you should try to place the
remaining shot nearer the hook than the float itself. If you don't, you
might get tangled up when you try to cast.
Floats can be
fished fixed in one place on your line, or as a sliding float. If the
swim you are fishing is shallower than your rod then you should fish
with a float that is fixed in one place. If the swim is deeper than
your rod, use a sliding float.
methods will help with your casting.
What else do you need ?
There is a lot of
available equipment for all forms of float fishing. This section covers
the other major components needed.
The float rod
The float rod is probably one of the most important components for
float fishing. It can be the difference between catching or loosing
those winning fish in a match. Float rods must have special
characteristics. These are represented in the length and action of the
A typical float
rod should be between eleven to fifteen feet long. This long length
allows you to cast your float out further, control the float better in
strong currents and wind, and strike fish quickly. The optimal length
seems to be thirteen feet, though you should stick with the length that
should also have a medium test curve. The test curve is the weight and
speed that a rod takes for the tip to bend 90 degrees from the rod butt.
The rod you buy
should easily be able to cast out your float rig, have a nice soft tip
so you don't pull the hook out of smaller fish's mouths, and most
importantly, to have ample strength to fight and land any larger fish
The fishing reel
There are three main types of reels that you can use for float
fishing. They are as follows:
The first is the
standard 'open faced' spinning reel, with a front drag. This is the
most commonly used style of reel for float fishing. an example of one
is pictured below.
The second is the 'open faced' spinning reel with rear drag. This
isn't really appropriate for float fishing as the rear drag adds extra
weight to the reel. I have included it as it is my favoured reel for
float fishing for carp.
The third is the
'closed face' spinning reel. This reel is similar to the top mounted
reels used for lure or plug fishing, but is mounted underneath the rod
like any standard reel. Try not to confuse the two.
This reel has
been described by the top british anglers as the best type for float
fishing, as the line is covered inside the reel. This helps prevent
wind snarling up your line. Unfortunately I have never been able to
get my hands on one so I am stuck with my open faced rear drag reel.
( It costs SO much
to import gear to Australia ! )
The fishing line
The fishing line you use is down to two things. Personal preference
and the size fish you intend to catch. There are heaps of lines to
choose from. Fishing line is measured in breaking strain and diameter.
The breaking strain is the point at which the line breaks from the
weight or pressure placed on it. It is always good to check your line
as some manufacturers make it stronger or weaker than advertised.
Lines come in two forms. Normal and pre stretched. Normal line is
thicker in diameter, but has a lot of stretch left in it. Pre
stretched line is a lot thinner, but it has almost no 'give' left in
it. it is important to remember that when you tie knots in the line
that the line strength at the knots, it is sometimes reduced up to
2/3's of the original strength. I have found that you should use
normal line on your reel, and only use pre stretched line for your hook
Always use a lower breaking strain line for your hook lengths than
your main line, so if you get snagged or a fish breaks you off, it will
only go at that weaker line. An added bonus is that the diameter is
lower so the fish are going find it harder to see and feel it on their
Hooks should always be barbless. If the hooks you are using are not
barbless then please get some new hooks or crimp the barb down on your
existing ones. I have found that as long as you keep the line tight
whilst fighting a fish, then you will have no problems landing them.
Barbed hooks can cause terrible damage to fish's mouths. They can also
make removing the hook really difficult. And if worst comes to worst
and your line snaps, the fish won't be able to spit the hook out later
on and may die !
Trust me, your
hook rate will probably increase when you change to them. I know my
catch rate has improved by about 8% ! That is worth it by itself !
How to cast the float
Once you have finished
setting up the float you have to cast it out. The following directions
explain what you have to do. I have also provided an animation of these
steps below :
the line in until the float itself is half way up the rod and the point
where the line comes over the bail arm is directly under the rod.
Grip the rod near the reel seat with the hand you write with. The reel
handle should be facing towards the opposite hand.
Place the other at the butt of your rod handle.
Hook the line coming from the reel under your first finger and press it
under the handle.
Take your other hand and open the bail arm.
Put that hand back to the butt of the rod.
Making sure the line is still held under your finger, gently swing the
rod over the shoulder of the hand that is holding the line. Stop at 10.
Give the float and the hanging line a slight chance to swing away from
Gently swing the rod forward, over the same shoulder in one smooth
Continue to swing the rod out in front of you and let the line go from
under your finger at 2 o'clock, so the float rig can cast out
The float rig should now be flying out over the water. When the float
nears the spot you wish to fish, you will need to slow it down so it
enters the water without a splash.
Quickly tap the rim of the spool with your first finger on the hand
holding on the rod rest. The float will slow down and enter the water
correctly. This is called 'feathering' the float.
the tip of the rod into the water and reel in to sink the line or
position the float where you want it.
The float rig will now sink down through the water and 'set to depth'.
This basically means that you are ready to start catching fish !
All you need to do is wait for a fish.
Diagram 2: Casting the Float .
How to strike a fish
The float has now been
cast out and it is exactly in the spot you wanted it to go... in the water
and not in the trees above you ! :)
The following section
steps you through how to strike a fish... and believe me, any fish you catch
is worth it !
When a fish has
taken your hook bait, the float tip will behave in one of the ways
previously mentioned. The most common way is to have your float tip dive
beneath the water.
When the float moves
and you are confident that is is a fish, you will need to strike to set the
hook. Striking a fish may sound easy, but it is often the thing that can
make or break a day.
The season, the type
of fish and the weather are just some of the factors that dictate how you
should strike a fish. Summer fish are more aggressive and often require a
fast response from you to catch them. Winter fish don't move around a lot
and will only take food if it is put in front of their faces. You can
sometimes have to wait ten seconds before striking them. Don't worry too
much as this is something that you can only really pick up with time.
Besides, it is a damn good reason to go out and practice !
The basic theory
behind striking a fish is to lift the rod in the opposite direction to the
fish. If you are fishing straight out, then lift up. If you are fishing
to the left or right, then strike in the opposite direction. It is
important to also remember that you should only ever need to lift the rod at
a maximum of 90 degrees from the fish. If you are having to wrench your
arm right up and away to hook fish, then you have too much slack in the
I strongly recommend
that you use a float rod. The extra length helps you to quickly pick up
the line between you and the fish. The soft tip helps prevent you
inadvertently pulling the hook out of the mouth.
When float fishing
it is important to wind in any line slack you have between you and the
float. If you have a large bow in the line, it means that you have to pick
up that much more when you go to strike a fish.
If you are fishing
fast water like a river, or fishing into a strong wind, then there are a
few things to help you hook fish:
- When river
fishing, try to keep your rod tip high in the air and your line will
stay out of the water. This helps you maintain control over your
- Soak your
spools of line in dish washing detergent. This will help it to cut
though any surface scum.
- Push the tip of
your rod down deep under the water after casting and reel in the float
till it is in the right spot. Slowly lift the rod tip back out of the
water, and the line will stay down near the bottom.
It shouldn't be long
until you instinctively learn when to strike. I have found that if all
else fails and you aren't sure, then just go ahead and strike. It is
better to have struck, than not to have struck at all !
If you do miss a
fish then you will need to reel in the float to put some more bait on,
because 'as night follows day', the damn fish will have almost certainly
stolen the bait !
Tight lines !
Float fishing - probably the most popular coarse angling
method, used effectively in both running and still water. This sub-section
is to include detailed information on each variation of float fishing
(except pole fishing, which has its own section).
How to rig and fish with a pellet waggler
The pellet waggler is one of the best ways to put together a
huge haul of commercial carp during the warmer months. It's basically a
floatfishing tactic that relies on heavy feeding to bring carp into your
swim and feeding just under the surface where they compete for the
The best bait for this style of fishing is and will always be
sinking pellets of between 4mm and 10mm, depending upon the distance that
they need feeding and although the rig - detailed below - is very very
simple to create, it's the feeding that will make or break a session fishing
the pellet waggler.The key is to feed little and often, any by this we mean
feed around 6-10 pellets every minute. This will create lots of tapping
noises on the surface which will help attract the carp, but it will also
create a constant stream of bait falling through the water.
Once the carp find this falling bait they will start to intercept it and
eventually rswim up higher in the water to get at the pellets before all the
Evenutally they will rise so high in the water that you will
see swirls on the surface as soon as a new batch of pellets hits the
surface.And that's the time to cast out you float and let your pellet
hookbait fall right on the nose of the carp underneath!
1. Alex’s 3-5SSG
Silverback from KC Angling (0208 642 6222). Others are by Drennan,
Middy, Maver Preston, Ultra and Premier
2. You have to use
large SSG shot but thread lengths of GURU 0.3mm micro silicone
tubing on the line and pinch shot on to this
3. The silicone
acts as a buffer and stops the shot pinching directly on the
mainline. This cushions the line and prevents damage
4. Leave half-inch
gap between shot. This makes the float lay on the surface when it
lands, making a larger splash. It flattens on the strike to improve
5. In open water
situations where there are few snags Alex uses 4lb GURU Drag-Line on
his reel and 0.20mm Shimano Silk Shock Antares as his hooklink
6. Now for the
hooklink. Cut off around 15 inches of Antares 0.20mm diameter line
and thread it through a GURU rubber bait band
7. Tie a four-turn
grinner knot to attach the band to the end of the hooklink. Snip off
the tag end of line.
8. This knot allows
the band to hang straight down from the hooklink line, producing a
good angle with the hook when it is attached
9. Thread micro
silicone tubing on to the hooklink. This will help position bait
against the hook at the correct angle for hooking fish
10. Thread the top
end of hooklink through the back of the hook eye. Slide line through
it to pull the bait band up to the bend of the hook
11. Thread the
silicone over the hook point and slide it round the bend on to the
12. The silicone
sleeve holds the line tight to the shank of the hook, keeping the
bait band close to the hook point
13. Thread hooklink
through the back of the hook eye and whip it down the shank. Whip
away from where the hook eye is closed against the shank
14. Whip the line
down the shank, making 10-11 turns of line, then thread the hooklink
through the back of the hook eye again
15. Moisten coils
and pull line tight. This is the knotless knot. Tie Figure of 8 loop
in the hooklink and attach to mainline using a loop-to-loop
16. Get a hard 8mm
Bait-Tech feed pellet and pinch it against the bottom of the bait
17. Still pinching
the band against the bait stretch it beyond the pellet and pull it
over it. The bait is now circled by the band.
18. The band grips
the bait firmly and stops it flying off the rig on the cast. You
should be able to make several casts with the same bait
19. The final rig
is best used in water at least five feet deep with the float set to
fish the top couple of feet. Shorten or increase depth on the day.
The chubber float is ideal for fast flowing
river fishing, often with big baits for sizable chub and barbel. With the
bulk of the shot close to the hook the bait can be presented on or close to
the river bed in fast water. Don't bother with fine hooklengths in snaggy
swims, fish the main line straight through to the hook. Step up the size of
line if there are barbel feeding in the area. Use big baits such as meat,
worms or large bunches of maggots, the smellier baits like cheese paste and
flavoured meats work well in coloured
A very enjoyable method for catching bottom feeding fish such
as carp, tench, bream and crucians. Attach a waggler to the main line using
a float rubber. Place a shot large enough to pull the float under 6 to 8
inches from the hook. Slide the float up or down the line until just the tip
is showing. When a fish takes the bait it will either swim off dragging the
float under or lift the shot of the lake bed causing the float to lift up
higher in the water.
Stick float fishing is only used on flowing
water, specifically at short range. It is a suitable method for all but the
very fastest of flows, the diagram above showing the basics of the usual
set-up. More of the shot can be positioned closer to the hook when fishing
in a fast flowing stretch of river. To avoid tangles on casting it is good
pratice to 'check' the line by slowing the rate gradually to a stop with a
finger as it peels of the reel just before the float hits the water, thus
stringing the rig out in a straight line. As a stick float is attached top
and bottom by float rubbers it is possible to slow the float or even stop it
by holding back on feeding off line. This gives a greater control over the
bait than that achieved by waggler fishing and also keeps the line tight
between rod and float ready for the strike. Line mending may also be
necessary to achieve this tight line and avoid bows.
Fishing a waggler set-up in a river is ideal
for slower, deeper stretches of water or where distance casting is required.
String the shot out equally down the line with a small shot close to the
hook so that the hook-bait sinks in a natural manner and is not just carried
along with the flow near the surface. Start off fishing as close as possible
to the river bed without snagging and shorten the rig as necessary if the
target fish are feeding up in the water. Line must be payed off the reel and
kept on the surface so that the float is not held back and pulled under. A
'mending' of the line may be necessary depending upon the flow to stop an
excess of line forming a bow on the surface and reducing the chances of a
hit when striking. A bow in the line can also pull the float of course, hold
it back or pull it under.
Stillwater waggler fishing is very popular and
the set-up shown above, with the bulk of the shot around the float is top of
the list. Place a single dropper shot between 6 and 10 inches from the hook
to assist bite detection. Do not hesitate to alter the location of this shot
and the depth of the rig if bites are hard to hit. A good starting point is
to fish the bait on or just off the bottom. Shortening to find the fish if
necessary - bites are usually harder to hit the higher up in the water you
are fishing. If you are receiving a lot of bites 'on the drop', as the bait
is sinking to its natural position then distributing the shot along the line
will sink the bait quicker, that is if you choose to bypass the fish in the
upper levels of water. Distributing the shot is also useful if the water has
a significant undertow. Use a float with a fine tip for sensitive bite
detection if the weather conditions and tow will allow it.
If you are
fishing with a waggler for bottom feeding fish like
tench it pays to fish over depth. Simply plumb your
depths with a plummet weight until you get the correct
depth. Move your nearest shot to the hook about 6 inches
away from the hook and tighten. Then move your float up
6 inches. This then means that when your float is in the
water the shot nearest the hook is on the bottom and you
have a 6 inch length of line which will lie across the
bottom and this will be out of the way of your float
rig. This will stop you getting false bites from fish
swimming into your line and will more importantly won't
spook the fish.
cover your mainline with fairy liquid to prevent it floating on the top
1 - Fishing "On the Drop".
is where the hook bait is allowed to fall through
the water slowly and a fish takes it on the way
down. The bait can be kept moving by re-casting.
2 - On the Bottom, often called "Laying
With this method the rig is fished over depth, so
that the bait lies on the bottom. You will often
hear anglers saying "I'm laying on 6 inches". This
means the rig is set 6 inches over the depth of the
water, so that 6 inches of line lies on the pool
3 - Fishing Off the Bottom.
Here the bait is presented off the bottom. The
rig can be set so the bait is near the pool bottom,
or up near the top, or anywhere in between.
Bear in mind that when fishing on the bottom, you
should be aware that fish can take your bait whilst
falling through the water. Also when fishing on the
drop I like to leave the bait for a short time when
it reaches the bottom (or what ever depth it is set
to). This gives any fish feeding in that area to
pick the bait up.
Never be afraid to alter the
method being used. For example you might find while
fishing on the bottom as you introduce feed, the
fish may move up in the water as they follow the
bait trail. It's all a case of experience and
thinking about your fishing.
The above drawing shows the basic waggler or float
setup, used for water up to about 4 foot deep.
Notice the following:
- The bulk of the shot or weights are placed
so they lock the float in place on the line.
They are not strung out all over the place, but
are bunched together.
- A small number 8 or 10 shot is placed about
6 to 8 inches away from the hook. This helps to
sink the bait. Depending on the sensitivity of
your float it can also act as a "tell tale". If
a fish picks your bait up and rises up in the
water, it will lift this weight with it. This
will mean that the float rises slightly in the
water, indicating a "lift bite".
The rig is very versatile and can be used to fish
a stationary bait, on or off the bottom and for
fishing "on the drop"
The above rig is ideal for deeper water, the extra
shot getting the bait down quicker. It can also be
used in shallow water, when you don't want to catch
fish "on the drop". For example if small fish are
tacking you bait on it's way down through your swim
and you think the bigger fish are feeding on the
bottom. Then you can change to this rig to get the
bait quickly past the little fish. The extra shot
want to be "bunched" together as shown in the above
drawing, this of coarse doesn't matter if your only
using a single shot.
It all depends on the depth
of the water, but I like to position the extra shot
about 6 inches to a foot above the small shot near
the hook. Again it all depends on conditions so be
prepared to change things around. What I think does
matter is that you position the extra shot closer to
the hook than the float. The drawing below explains
The drawing above shows that during the cast the
line can fold back from the extra shot you have
added. If the hook can reach the float if this
happens, there is a possibility it could tangle.