DIY FLoats

An earlier article showed how to make simple floats for still and moving water. All have a thick stem, so are not suitable when there is a surface drift caused by currents. Their thick main stems act as sails in the drift, making it impossible to keep the float still without anchoring it with heavy shotting.

The ‘driftbeater’ float is designed to overcome this problem. It has a very thin stem, which is not dragged along by a current and which also makes the float very sensitive.

The driftbeater is made from a four-BB barrel and an 8in piece of split cane. This cane forms both the upper and lower stems. It should be inch in diameter, tapering to nrin at one end. This thin tip presents minimal resistance at the surface.

Do not make the hole in the barrel with the punch described on p. 1228. Instead, use a cycle spoke or similar piece of metal. Gently push the metal into the barrel, revolving it as you go. As usual, make the hole large enough for both stem and glue.

The cane should be glued so that the main stem is 6in long, the lower stem fin long. Lastly, make and fix the casting eye.

If you wish, you can fix a ‘sight-bob’ to the tip of the main stem to make the float more noticeable over long distances. For this, use a piece of balsa about lxnrin.

To fix the bob, simply shape the end of the cane into a point and then push it into the balsa, gently revolv-ing it. Remove it, add Polybond to both cane and balsa, and re-insert.

The sight bob is buoyant. On any Stillwater there is invariably a degree of undertow which causes all five tipped floats to submerge as the bait and bottom shot are dragged along. This inevitably produces false bites which in turn lead to further disturbance as the tackle is continually recast. The sight bob is thicker and considerably more buoyant than the stem of the float, so rides smoothly across the surface and disappears only when a true bite is registered.

My final float is a loaded, step tapered Stillwater model. It casts very well and is both sensitive and stable. It is constructed from two pieces of sarkandas reed – one 3inxin, the other 3inx in – a piece of thin cane 4inxin, a brass rod linx in, and, of course, the casting eye. It does not have a balsa barrel.

The two pieces of reed have spliced joints at each end. So begin by whipping each end with half a dozen turns of nylon thread, secured with quick-drying cellulose varnish. This will prevent the reed splitting.

Why use a driftbeater?

So it isn’t a Stillwater float?

Is it essential to weight a float with brass or steel?

Paint won’t stay put on the sarkandas floats I make and polystyrene bodies bubble when I paint them. Why?

The tip of the float is made from the 4in piece of cane. This is sharpened into a point and then spliced into the gin reed. Place the cane point in the centre of the reed and rotate it while applying a slight forward pressure. When a big enough hole has been made, remove the cane, coat both cane and hole with neat Polybond, and press the cane back into the hole firmly. Leave for an hour or so for the glue to set.

The ‘butt-end’ splice

The two pieces of reed are spliced together using a ‘butt-end’ splice. To iin. Do this, sharpen a small piece of cane – about lin longxin thick – into a point at both ends. When finished, it should be the shape of two cones joined together at their bases.

Now drill and glue one point of the cane into the thicker ({in) reed. After this splice has dried, drill and glue the other point into the thinner piece of reed, so joining the two reeds.

All that remains now is for the brass loading rod and the casting eye to be added. Push half the rod into the end of the sarkandas reed stem and glue it with epoxy resin. Make a casting eye and whip and glue it to the other half of the rod.

The last job, with this as with all the floats described, is painting and finishing. These tasks are important, for not only do they enable the float to be seen easily in different conditions, but many anglers feel better, and so fish better, if they have a professional-looking job.

A professional finish Many people maintain that the only way to paint a float is to use a primer, an undercoat, and then a final topcoat of gloss. But I have found that this adds too much weight to the float – and can even sink smaller ones – and that, other than for the tip, only one kind of paint need be used. By far the best is Humbrol matt black enamel No 33. It dries quickly into a hard, even finish without brush marks.

Do not be tempted to skimp on the cost of brushes. Children’s paint brushes are fine for their purpose, but for floats you need a good-quality artist’s brush about fin wide with fine, stiff hairs. With this, you can apply paint smoothly.

Before painting a balsa float, you need to seal the surface of the balsa.

For this, I use a coat of 5050 Poly-bond and water. Sarkandas reed too, needs some preparation. Because it is slightly greasy, paint tends to crack and peel away from it after a while unless this grease is removed. So rub it down with medium ‘wet-and-dry’ in warm detergent and water before painting.

Painting in stages

Do not try to paint the whole float at once. Instead, paint the bottom three-quarters – that is, up to the fluorescent tip – first, and then, when the rest has dried, paint the tip. It is worth drilling a series of gin holes in a length of board so that the tip of each part-painted float can then be inserted into one of these while the float dries. If floats are left propped up against a wall or box, they invariably fall over.

An even simpler way is to obtain a good sized block of polystyrene. When a section of the float has been painted, just pack the dry part into the block where it will be held in a vice-like grip without damage.

A gentle rub-down

When painting, put on two coats of paint, then, when these are dry, lightly rub down with fine ‘wet-and-dry’. Be sure to use water too when rubbing down, to get a fine smooth finish. Then put on two further coats and give a final, more gentle rub-down before applying the final coat.

When the main body has dried, add the fluorescent tip. With fluorescent paint, it is necessary to use a flat white undercoat – special paints can be bought for this purpose. When the undercoat is dry apply fluorescent paint thickly, evenly, and quickly.

Under no circumstances should the final application to the tip be varnish. Even with clear matt varnish the visibility of the float is considerably reduced, especially during periods of bright sunlight. I have even witnessed occasions when sunlight has reflected directly from the varnished tip and all that could be seen was a flash of light. Bites become difficult to distinguish, particularly lift bites as there is no way of gauging how much float is showing above the surface.