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How to choose a fishing float

A float is a thing of beauty. No matter how many we have, the temptation to add to the collection is a powerful force in most anglers. Go into any tackle shop and there they are, row upon row of little soldiers proudly standing to attention. Thin ones, short ones, fat ones, they all have their place, but, which one to choose?

To answer that question we need to look at what we want the float to do. The primary function of a float is to suspend the baited hook at the desired depth we wish at whether this is fishing up in the water or on the bottom. It’s other equally important role is to act as a visual indicator that a fish has taken the bait.

Choosing a fishing float

The choice of float is largely dependent on the type of water you wish to fish, although other factors such as wind strength and casting distance also play a part. For example, when fishing a still water such as a lake or canal, a waggler would probably fit the bill.

The waggler is attached to the line using the bottom ring only with a shot pinched on the line either side of the float to hold it in place. This also has the effect of holding the line beneath the surface which reduces the risk of drag, thereby allowing the bait to be presented more naturally. Additional weights can be added as necessary further down the line to set the visible tip of the float as preferred. This is particularly effective when fishing hard on the bottom and in choppy water.

Fishing Float - A selection of loaded Wagglers

The Waggler is one of the most used and multi-purpose floats – it should be part of every anglers tackle box.

Wagglers come in all shapes and sizes

Wagglers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are loaded, which allows the float to cock using less shot on the line and is particularly useful when casting a distance as the float travels ahead of the end tackle decreasing the horror of tangles. Those which are not loaded enable the angler to set the float as desired or indeed have the float laying on its side as in ‘laying on’. This is where the float only cocks when the balancing shot lying on the bottom is lifted by a biting fish, transferring the weight of the shot directly to the float and causing it to cock or sink.

Floats for fishing rivers

Although a favourite on stillwaters, wagglers can also be used to great effect onrivers as long as they are slow flowing. However, when fishing faster water I would suggest a stick float.

Stick floats are attached top and bottom which gives greater control in fast moving water. The bottom half of the float is ususally heavier than the top which increases stability in the flow. As a general rule the lower layers of water in a river flow more slowly than the top layers. This causes the float to drag the hook bait below it giving an unnatural presentation.

To combat this stick floats are designed to be held back without the float being pulled under water, which would happen if attached bottom end only. Holding the stick float back allows the baited hook to travel ahead of the float creating a more natural presentation.

Choose a colour which stands out

The colour of the float is also worthy of consideration as it can be extremely frustrating to cast out and then have to squint because the float is lost against the backdrop of the water.

Float fishing in all its forms is an extremely enjoyable method of catching fish and time spent perfecting the art will certainly add fish to the net and your enjoyment of the sport. Always keep in mind, however, that whichever float you choose it needs to be as unobtrusive as possible and be fit for the job.

Fishing Float

Having a wide selection of floats of different sizes and colours will ensure you can present your bait perfectly and easily see when you get a bite.

Malcolm Parnell
Written by Malcolm Parnell
Malcolm Parnell lives in Warwickshire and has been fishing for as long as he can remember. After first wetting a line in small streams catching sticklebacks and bullheads, he then moved on to the roach and gudgeon found in local canals. He now enjoys all aspects of fishing, no small  part of which is the pleasure of seeing wildlife and the thrill of ‘just being there’.

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