In any branch of angling, flexibility is a great boon. In carp fishing, sticking blindly with the leger can sometimes lose you good fish. Big carp specialist Chris Ball runs through the advantages of using the float.
At a guess, of all the methods which catch carp, float fishing is very much the least practised. It has never been fashionable, nor has it been given a fair trial by many modern day carpmen. All too often it’s discarded as a waste of time, only capable of catching small fish.
It’s now time to take off your blinkers and face up to the truth. There are situations that cry out for the float, which is, after all, the most effective form of bite indication so far devised. True, it can be of great use when the target is small carp, but used properly, it’s a technique that most big carp anglers would do well to master.
Where and when
Obviously, if you’re fishing a water where the carp are only ever caught behind a gravel bar over 100m (110yd) out from the bank, a float is not going to be much use to you. However, there are many waters where the carp patrol close to the margins, providing excellent opportunities for catching them close in. That’s when the superior bite detection of a float scores.
In some cases, anglers actually cast much farther than they need – a bit of stealth would show the fish feeding under the rod tip. This is the key – you can’t stomp up and down the bank, setting up a bivvy and so on and expect to catch carp in the margins. The quiet approach is essential.
Observe the water carefully. Even if the depth close to the bank is greater than visibility allows, carp often swim in the top 60cm (2ft), disappearing only when they sense food – or an angler. Watch for tell-tale clouds of colour in the water as the carp root around for food.
Other fish can produce the same effect, especially tench, but more often than perhaps you realise, it is carp that are responsible. Sometimes the observation can be quite accidental. You may be fishing at range, but if you have remained quiet for a few hours, the carp may not notice you as they patrol round the edges of the bank.
Don’t ignore these fish. Make a note of where you see them and take some float fishing gear with you next time you plan to fish the same swim. If you bait up the area where you saw the carp before, this holds the fish, so you can present the bait to them. Catching a fish you have fooled by stealth is one of the greatest pleasures in fishing.
Carp float fishing gear
What you need
If you’ve read this far, you’re convinced that it might be worth at least giving it a try, so what tackle do you need? A rod of around 10-llft (3-3.4m), with a test curve of l-2lb (0.45-0.9kg) and a nice easy action is essential. You are generally fishing close to the bank – a fast taper or heavy duty model does not have the necessary flexibilty to absorb the sudden lunges of a fleeing carp at short range. This also means you don’t need a carbon fibre rod. Glass-fibre and split cane are just as good. Reel choice is fairly wide. A reliable fixed-spool reel does the job – and there are plenty available. A centrepin also performs admirably, keeping you in direct contact with the fish, and giving you fingertip control over the amount of pressure you put on the fish.
Lines and hooks are mainly a question of common sense and bait size. However, it is important to use balanced tackle. Don’t team a small, fine wire hook with 10lb (4.5kg) line, and size 2 hooks (or bigger) don’t go with 4lb (1.8kg) b.s.
For smaller carp, 4-6lb (1.8-2.7kg) line straight through to a size 8-10 hook is ideal. For bigger specimens, line strength needs to be 8-12lb (3.6-5.4kg). Use one of the specialist supple materials for your hook-length, through to a hook size which depends on the fish and the bait.
Whatever tackle you use, look for solid reliability and strength, fishing in the margins soon finds out any weak points in your terminal tackle!
Floats are often a personal choice, but whether you use peacock quill or clear plastic waggler-type floats, they should not be too large — you’ve no need for a 3SSG float.
Baits and rigs
Of the many baits available, two stand out as consistent performers – sweetcorn and boilies. For smaller carp particularly, sweetcorn is a great fish catcher, though its attraction for other species means you might end up with a mixed bag. Straight from the tin, it is a convenient and reasonably cheap bait to use.
Boilies catch carp of all sizes. They are a versatile bait too, since you can buy or make them any size from 10-20mm or bigger. Sweet, fruity flavours and fishy ones are very successful. You don’t need to make your own, either. Shelf life boilies have the definite advantage that you can keep them in your tackle box until you need them.
One bait you should not ignore when you can see your quarry in shallow water is breadflake. Its use is in no way limited to other, smaller species, and it can be deadly, as well as very cheap.
If your target is mostly the small fish shoaling in shallow water, fish the lift method with your float attached top and bottom and sweetcorn on the hook. All the shot needs to be 7.5-10cm (3-4in) from the hook with the float set at the exact depth. Fished in this way it is a highly sensitive method of bite detection.
For bigger carp, it’s best to present a boilie on a hair rig with a supple hooklength such as Dacron or a multistrand. These fish are usually very wary of line -just touching it as it hangs from the float can spook them. To combat this, and the potential problem of line bites, set the float considerably overdepth and draw it well clear of the bait. Used well, these techniques help you catch more fish close in. You might also find the excitement of float fishing addictive. between them and the rod, and they don’t hold the rod still in windy weather. 2. Wide heads with one notch are useful for fishing the tip. The notch stops the line getting trapped, so you can adjust the tension on the swingtip or quivertip without moving the rod. It also holds the rod still so you can spot shy bites. This type of head is also useful for float fishing in extremely windy weather when the rod can be blown off a head with no notch.