Catching fish on a stick float is one of the most thrilling forms of river fishing, with roach, dace, chub and barbel the main target species.
There are numerous types of stick float on the market made from different materials and with different-shaped sight tips.
However, all are designed to be attached ‘top and bottom’ with silicone rubber and are ‘trotted’ through the swim in the current. Unlike wagglers, stick floats don’t have a bottom eye.
The art of stick float fishing is to run the float down the swim at a natural pace to make the hookbait mimic a free offering and fool the fish into grabbing it.
Shotting patterns vary, depending on the depth of the swim and pace of the current but, generally, a ‘shirt button’ style will suffice. This means the shot are simply strung out at regular intervals between the bottom of the float and the hook - like the buttons on a shirt.
ANATOMY OF A STICK FLOAT...
BODY: This is the thickest part of the float which always tapers away from top to bottom, giving the float a streamlined profile. Buoyant balsa has always been the main choice of body material, though cork and modern, man-made polystyrene is also used.
STEM: The bottom of the float is made from a variety of sturdy materials to add strength (see pic below left), with the most popular being aluminium (1), lignum - a heavy tropical wood (2), cane (3) or nylon/plastic.
Cane stems are perfect for delicate presentation when ‘on the drop’ fishing. Aluminium stems are for fast, turbulent water, heavy lignum wood adds casting weight to the float and nylon/plastic is a cheap all round stem choice.
SHOULDER: Shouldered Top stick floats have a bullet-shaped sight tip and a pronounced ‘shoulder’ below it - in profile it’s like a human’s head and shoulder. This shoulder enables the float to be held back in the current without it riding up in the water. ‘Holding back’ simply means making the float travel through the swim at a slower pace than the current would take it.
SIGHT TOP: This is the part of the float that protrudes above the water. Dome-shaped tops are extra buoyant and highly visible when trotted long distances. Shouldered tops are for holding back (see above) and rounded or tapered sight tips are for spotting delicate bites from shy-biting species like roach and dace.
AVONS/CHUBBERS: Although not technically stick floats, these short, stubby, highly buoyant designs are fished the same way. Made of balsa or hollow plastic they are perfect for shallow, pacey rivers because they can carry a lot of big split shot to keep the hookbait down, yet don’t get dragged under the water so much when the bait trips bottom.