Fishing a ‘stick’ on a river is all about float control. With practice and patience you’ll find it one of the most thrilling methods of catching a wide variety of river species.
To successfully fish the various types of stick float you’ll need a crisp-action rod to quickly pick up lots of stretchy line on the strike, but with shock-absorbtion to cushion fragile hooklengths and keep tiny hooks in place.
In the old days, the best stick float rods had a long length of slim, solid glassfibre spliced into the tip. Today, modern technology means most hollow tip carbon match rods will fit the bill.
As long as it is light and balanced enough to be held comfortably for five hours or more, the longer the rod the better. Far Eastern-built rods of 14ft to 17ft are now common and reasonably priced. A longer rod gives greater float control and makes stick float fishing significantly easier.
You can often run the float straight off the end of the rod, almost doing away with the need to ‘mend’ the line – the stick angler’s most important job while fishing.
Mending the line involves eliminating the ‘bow’ or ‘belly’ of line that can form in front or to one side of the float as it trots down the swim. (See picture sequence, below.) This extra line can pull the float out of position, or make it act unnaturally. It also prevents a direct strike when you get a bite.
You must keep a straight, tight line between rod tip and float to trot a stick float successfully. To do this, your reel line must float. A sinking line will drag the float under and you will be unable to strike cleanly.
You can fish a normal fixed spool reel with the bail arm open and use your finger to trap and release line from the spool to allow the float to travel down the swim at the pace of the river. Some anglers favour closed-face reels, which tend to tangle the line less in wind.
On faster rivers the ultimate trotting tool is a centrepin. The power of the current is enough to pull line off a good quality, smooth-running ‘pin. Slight thumb pressure on the edge of the drum can slow the float down, ensuring a tight line between rod tip and float. Correct feeding is also vital. Aim to feed six to a dozen maggots twice during each trot down the swim.
One really handy item of equipment is a bait bib. Big pouches on the front of the bibs can hold a couple of pints of maggots that you can easily and conveniently feed without having to keep bending down to pick up bait.
If you can run a stick float through at the pace of the current, you’ll catch fish but one trick to prompt a bite is to hold the float back hard every now and again. This causes the hookbait to waft enticingly up in the water. And that can lead to a fish grabbing the bait.
'MENDING' THE LINE