Peacock quills are the ‘Jack of all trades’ of floatmaking and are used in pieces. An average peacock quill can be used to make anything from two to six floats, all for a few pence. To make a very versatile float all you need is a length of peacock as straight as possible and around 48in in length, a piece of welding rod or thin cane—depending upon whether you want the float partially selfcocking or not—a used ballpoint refill, a razor blade, pliers, waterproof glue and emery paper.
The first job is to clean up the quill, rubbing down with emery paper or fine ‘wet and dry’ sandpaper. You will see the quill is thicker at one end; after cleaning, carefully insert the piece of cane or welding rod into this thick end —use welding rod if you want the float loaded or partially selfcocking—so that the quill and cane are as straight as possible. Then separate the cane and quill again, add glue and then place them back into position. The cane or rod should protrude from the quill about fin.
The next job is to cut the ballpoint refill into small pieces about an inch long. Slide a suitable piece on to the cane or rod and again glue it in position, leaving a quarter inch of the tubing protruding beyond the cane at the bottom. When the glue has set, heat this bottom ‘overhang’ and then tightly squeeze it with either pliers or a pair of forceps to flatten it, so making a tab. When the plastic has cooled and hardened, all that remains to do is to make a hole in the centre of the tab with a fine piece of wire or a needle and then to trim the tab with the razor blade.
Finished off with a lick of paint, this simple float is very useful on stillwaters such as ponds or canals. The dimensions of the float as described can be varied to give you a range of floats.
The cane or welding rod at the bottom is essential in making the float as it gives at least one part which can be handled without damage. The ballpoint tubing, too, makes a very tough base, not liable to corrode as wire does. Simply pass the line through it and it can either be locked on with shot or used as a simple slider. The base can also be loaded with lead wire if required.
The versatility of these floats can be increased by using a set of float corks. Ream out the holes iri the corks carefully—a round file is suitable for this— so that they just fit over the peacock and can be pushed down to the base of the quill. When this is done, the simple float is transformed into a bodied waggler or a small zoomer for occasions when extra distance is required.
A little extra effort, to mark the bodies of your homemade floats with the amount of shotting they will take, is well worth the trouble. It saves a lot of time on the bank. Once more the tough base is useful here in avoiding damage to the quill when pushing on the weights.
The peacock quill float just described is fine for stillwaters, such as canals, but for fishing big rivers with delicate baits such as wasp grub or bread flake, a better float can be made from a combination of goose quill and balsa wood. To make it, first cut off the top inch or so of a goose quill—this is not quite as simple as it sounds for it is surprisingly tough and care is needed to make sure it is cut straight. Then obtain a 4in length of fin balsa wood, and taper it from one end to the other with the thick end just rubbed gently with rough sandpaper to give it a round ‘shoulder’ instead of a rough edge. When it is roughly shaped, give a smooth finish with ‘wet and dry’, and finally, glue the goose quill to the top of the ‘shoulder’. Before tapering the balsa, however, drill a small hole into the future base— the thin end—insert a small piece of cane, about 1 in long, and glue it in place. For strength the cane should be inserted as far into the balsa as it protrudes outside—like this it provides a strong place to which the line can be attached without damage. Balsa is so soft it can easily be drilled using any sharp pointed object carefully worked round; but if you want to save yourself trouble you can buy balsa which has already been drilled.
Fished double rubber—that is, attached to the line at top and bottom with elastic bands—this goose quill is a superb float for such fish as chub and barbel. It gives better buoyancy at the tip than a straight balsa because, as the goose quill head is hollow, you are virtually fishing with an air bubble. One point which must be emphasized when using it, however, is that it should only be cast underhand or sidearm. Cast a float like this overarm and you are inviting tangles.
The float should take between two and three swan shot: basically use a No 4 right under the float to stop it sliding down, the bulk twothirds up the line— bearing in mind this is a float to be fished in water not much deeper than, say, 7ft—and perhaps an AAA halfway between hook and bulk shot.
Another general point worth watch ing when making any kind of big antenna float—waggler, zoomer, missile or whatever you like to call them— is to make sure to put the hard cane used for the base right through the cork or balsa body and up into the material, such as peacock, used for the antenna. This gives the float vital strength.
Big floats are under tremendous stress both during casting and when striking. If they do not have cane stiffening through the middle of the body, they are prone to snap. Not only does this ruin the float—it also means you have wasted a lot of time and effort.