Visiting a tackle shop to buy wagglers can be very confusing as not only are they available in a range of sizes and materials, there are a multitude of different patterns available. We are going to start with the simplest type of waggler which is the straight peacock waggler which as its names implies is just a straight piece of peacock quill with an end eye inserted.
These naturally come in a whole range of lengths and diameters creating the problem as to which float is the best buy. Unfortunately there is no simple answer; it depends on the venue being fished, conditions, and the range being fished.
Starting with size or shot carrying capacity, you will need a float which carries enough shot to easily reach the swim. I stress "easily" as when you get tired the last thing you want is to struggle to cast to your swim. I have seen many anglers start off well from a swim and then lose the fish as they have got tired and can't reach the swim. They are falling short of the feed that they had placed further out when they'd started. As regards thickness, the thinner the float tip, the more sensitive it is and the more easily it will be to pull under. However there are times, like when fishing a flowing river, when we do not want a float that is too easily dragged under by either turbulence or the float dragging the bait across the bottom.
The bottom eye of the waggler is threaded on the line and the float locked in position by the bulk shot placed either side of the eye. I have just one shot above the eye on the line with the bulk of the shot the other side of the eye. This is so that I can, if required move some shot lower down closer to the hook to sink the bait much more quickly. This could be for a number of reasons such as getting the bait down away from small surface feeding fish such as rudd. This is a very common technique that often has to be applied on Cornish waters where rudd can be a nuisance when fishing for larger species. Another reasons for lowering shot might be to combat a surface drift. As a rule, it is best to have as much of your shot locking the float in position as possible. This is to aid casting as it makes a neat compact casting weight that flies through the air.
There are literally thousands of ways of arranging the remaining few shots down the line but I am only going to give you one arrangement in this feature. I know this shotting pattern works in the majority of cases. It is simple yet very effective.
A howitzer type cast is often used when waggler fishing. The float is punched out in an overhead cast at a high angle towards the swim. Once your forefinger has released the line, keep it close to the spool ready to feather the line down, slowing the float down and allowing the shot to overtake the float so that the hook lands in front of the float. In feathering all you need do is to tap the spools lip with your forefinger to slow the speed of the line leaving the spool.
Sinking the line
Any breeze is sufficient to pull your float away from the feed. In still water we solve this problem by casting past the area we want to fish and then push the rod-top under water and retrieve line so that the float surfaces in the area we want to fish. This will sink the line.
Striking a bite
If you are fishing close in, a powerful lift will be sufficient to set your hook but if you are fishing further out, a good sweep to the side is more effective. This is because you are not wasting energy on lifting the line out of the water.
This is a straight peacock waggler that has had a thinner piece of peacock inserted in the top. This means that the float has a fine tip that is better for bite detection yet has a thickish body to increase shot capacity and add strength. These are a very popular stillwater pattern for many species including shy-biting bream. This float can use the same shotting pattern as described for the straight peacock waggler.
Not all inserts are made of peacock and I have seen some horrible floats that have cane inserts. This is a much denser material than peacock quill and, being heavier, alters the balance of the float that in turn, makes it more difficult to cast. I have a series of floats that are exceptionally sensitive; these have fine inserts of small pieces of crow quill. This quill is very light and does not interfere with the balance of the float.
These are basically either straight or insert wagglers with a balsa wood body fitted near the base. This serves to increase the amount of weight that the float can hold which in turn will increase the casting distance that can be obtained. Another advantage of these floats is that, being thicker based and less streamlined, they do not impact so deeply into the water. This can make a big difference in shallow water where floats penetrating too deeply can reach the fish and frighten them. This float is often used as a slider to fish deep water but that will be covered another time as it is a more specialised technique.