I was engaged in a fishery review recently when I came across two friends who were float fishing with bread punch. Seated by an absolutely gorgeous little estate lake in Cheshire, these chaps were happy to catch whatever came next from the swim in front of them. Banter and light hearted chat between them made me realise that fishing isn’t all about big carp, bite alarms, techno-poles, bivvies, overnighters, match weights or bling, it’s about having fun and enjoying it!
I sat with Gary and Paul for almost an hour watching as they caught delightful chubby crucian carp and the odd tench with a method that I bet the majority of anglers, especially carp anglers, rarely use; the waggler. Not dropped exactly on the spot with an expensive pole, but cast out, amongst the lilies, underarm to the general area with a few loose offerings chucked over the top. It brought back treasured memories of when I, and I bet you, started out in this wonderful pastime.
Did you start out with your Dad on a small local pond or river with a ‘perch bobber’? Squeamish the first time you burst a maggot or worm on the point of a hook? Or wrapping on big pieces of breadflake, golden kernels of corn or chunks of luncheon meat? I recall wooden boxes with hundreds of floats in, neatly laid out in colour and size, kept in pristine condition by the old chap who fished off a wicker basket, cigarette clamped to his bottom lip (that never fell out when he spoke to you...) who seemed to fish the same peg every time I or you turned up! I could sit and watch him as he quietly swung a roach to hand each cast which had taken a single maggot ‘on the drop’, or as he lifted the glass fibre rod to ‘mend the line’ in the wind. I always wondered how long he had been there, and how he could catch so much when I was still tangled around the end of my ‘Woolies’ rod, or I had kicked over the bait box full of maggots in my rush to get fishing! Like me, I suppose you saw the first short, exciting flight of many small perch or gudgeon which landed at your feet or in the bushes behind after the float had slipped gently away to be followed by a STRIKE! worthy of setting the hook in a ‘Jaws’ film!...I bet you did......
Seen these before?
After sitting for hours catching tiny fish (and the odd big 10oz’er) I suppose I’ll never forget the first time the float disappeared and I lifted the rod.....but it just bent over; the fish I was going to swing in, took off up the lake with me frantically trying to loosen the clutch or to select backwind, then rapping my fingers as I missed the reel handle! Or the way in which I shouted “Dad, Dad! I can’t stop it! Help!” only to watch him grunt, carry on snoring then fall off his deck chair when he realised it was me shouting, not the Bo Derek he was dreaming about...I once hooked a fish in a junior match; I was fishing a size 20 barbless to 1.5lb bottom and a single maggot on a balmy summer evening. 15 minutes before the ‘all out’, my peacock quill slid away purposely and I lifted into a fish which I played for 45 minutes before the line parted. In that time, I received ‘expert’ advice from umpteen ‘proper’ fishermen and never saw the fish before it got bored with toying with me and decided enough was enough. As the float rig whistled past my ear, the stunned silence of the bystanders was only matched by the ‘unlucky son’ that followed from all of them. I was absolutely gutted that I had lost that fish after so much concentrated effort, and, as I packed up my gear and watched the winner take the £5.00 pot for 1st place, I admit there were tears in my young eyes......
All float anglers have sat and watched the orange tip of a quill as it shifts awkwardly, flinches, lifts slightly or bobs downwards. We’ve all seen the ripples that emanate from around the float....but the float never moves....the bubbles which cloud upwards as hungry tench root about below us in the silty bottom, or the cobalt of the newly hatched dragonfly as it rests for a second on our temporarily provided refuge...and we’ve all wished the float would shoot under leaving it stranded! How many times have you spent ages gazing through dappled water at the float tip, then dropped your eyes to the bankside only to find out that the grass starts to move as though viewed through a child’s kaleidoscope? Why does the float move EVERY time we glance away? Why, when you look back up after a cup of coffee or a bite of sandwich is it NEVER there? And why does it ALWAYS ease its way back up as we frantically scout the surface for it? Why, when a spot has been baited solidly for hours, does the sun always move to a position where I can no longer see the float? The glorious evening light, that splits into millions of sparkling diamonds, blinding us as it shatters on rippled green waters and makes the float impossible to discern?
All these things are to be cherished, enjoyed, but above all remembered; it’s not just a method for youngsters or inexperienced fishermen, but I still think that in these times, its vastly under rated. Stalking big carp with a crystal waggler and a piece of corn on a size 10 is as exciting as hearing the Delkims chuckle away, especially if you see the fish approach and pick up your bait. In times before bolt rigs, float fishing was King; it was either that or swingtip! Gary and Paul reminded me of a valuable lesson; it’s great to catch the biggest, it’s great to have the shiniest kit, BUT; the most important thing is to remember why we started.......and I’m sure that was to have FUN and catch fish!!