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Beginners Float Fishing

Updated on June 20, 2013

Float Fishing Basics

Choosing the right float to fish with is critical for success, pick one that is heavy enough for the job in hand. Providing you shot the float properly, even a small fish will have no problem pulling it under. A big float is easier to cast and easier to control. If you go too light, you may have trouble with both.

Remember, also, that floats come in many different shapes. Broadly speaking, bodied floats -those that aren't straight - are more buoyant and are designed for river fishing. Straight floats - like wagglers - are more suited to lakes or very slow-moving rivers.

A float is primarily used to signal a bite from a fish, so it needs to be visible. Most of my floats have red tips because they really do stand out. But remember, floats also are useful for suspending baits at different levels in the water. You don't always want a bait on the bottom and if you want to fish in mid-water or above, you simply have to use a float to suspend it. Floats are beautiful things and you'll enjoy watching them. They're even more beautiful when they disappear under the surface.

Floats in Running Water

Which float to use? Common river floats are Avons, which have a good thick body and are perfect for trolling quick water at longish distances. Most river fishing, though, is done with stick floats, which are attached to the line at the top and the bottom. They give perfect control in slower water over shorter distances. With Avons and sticks, you've enough choices of floats to cover virtually any water condition.


Attaching shot to the float is very Important. You need to put enough shot on the line so that the float cocks and only the tip shows above the surface. When you're stick-float fishing, the shot is spread pretty evenly from the float down to the hook. When you are using an Avon, you can group the shot midway between float and hook. This lets the float ride well in the current.

Long Trotting

This is one of the nicest ways to use a float on the river. It's an ideal way of exploring long stretches because you can let the lure amble down with the current a good 260ft. or more. This allows you to get near wary fish in very clear water. You need a long rod for this type of fishing - a modern, light, 10ft.+ rod is ideal. Mostly, you will be using lines between 5lb. and 6lb., breaking strain for fish like roach, chub, grayling and more. When you are long trolling, it's important to 'mend' the line. That means keeping direct contact from the rod to the float and not allowing great loops of line to develop on the current. If you don't mend the line, the float will get pushed off course and the bait will behave unnaturally.

Long-Trotting Technique

Control the float thoughtfully and guide it towards snags and fish-holding features. Mold the float back - that simply means stopping the line so that the float can't travel and the bait tends to lift up in the water. This is often a critical moment, so expect a bite. If you're fishing at long range, you'll really have to put some beef into the strike because you've got to pick up a lot of line and set the hook.

Stick-Float Fishing

This is a more intimate and is better for slower swimmers, which are often quite deep. When you're stick-float fishing, baiting is vital. It often pays to feed small amounts of maggots, casters or hemp at virtually every cast. Make sure you put in this loose feed well upstream so it settles in the area of the river you're actually fishing.

Like long trotting, when you're stick-float fishing, it's important to keep the line direct from the rod tip to the float and to maintain constant control. Hold the float back, so that the bait rises up from the bottom - an action fish can't resist.

Lake Float Fishing

Wagglers are the most commonly used freshwater floats. They are long and slim and sometimes transparent, so that fish don't see them as easily in shallow, clear water. Wagglers are attached to the line at the bottom end only. These floats are ideal for slow moving rivers and also lakes. You can fish your bait as it falls through the water simply by pushing the shot up towards the float.

If you're having trouble keeping your float in one position, it often pays to put a small shot around 6-12" up the line from the float. This sinks the line underneath the surface and makes the float easier to control.


Let's say you've baited up the water with loose feed, maggots, sweetcorn and the like and/or ground bait. It's a good idea to cast the float 40 or 50 ft. from the bank and then reel it in to the baited area. This is because it sometimes disturbs feeding fish if you cast the float directly in over their heads.

The Bite

Different kinds of fish bite in different ways. For example, carp bites often take a long time to really develop. The float will often twitch, tremor, rise up in the water, sometimes fall flat and then finally shoot away under.

When you're fishing a waggler on a lake, look for signs of feeding fish. Bubbles rising to the surface are the most common. With carp and bream, the bubbles are large and somewhat sporadic. Look, too, for colored water - a sure sign that fish are down there feeding.

River Float Fishing

Float Fishing Video

Above is a nice long video that will help you with float fishing on rivers.


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