About now is the time to start checking out that winter trotting gear and looking at the collection of floats.

One float that appears in many angler's float armoury is the wire stemmed stick float as it so useful for trotting in fairly turbulent conditions that cause problems for more traditional wood stemmed models. The heavy wire gives the float that extra added stability that is so important in those heavier winter flows.

Although wire stem stick floats are available in most tackle shops, I prefer to make my own so that I have the sizes and finish that I want rather than that dictated by some tackle manufacturer. Making your own gives you that extra sense of satisfaction when you do catch the fish whilst at the same time saving you money.

I am now using water based acrylic paints made by Humbrol and sold in little bottles at just under a pound. These are absolutely ideal for the float maker.

Making the wire stem stick float

1. Place a piece of balsa wood dowel in the drill chuck

2. Turn to required shape or just hand shape the tip. Mine are bulbous with a swan neck. This is so that in use the float can be held hard back without the float rising up too much in the water.

3. The wire that I use is the wire that Virginia uses with her dried flowers.

4. The wire is inserted and glued into the base of the body.

5. The body and wire is then painted black

6. The tip is painted orange

7. Using a sponge the body is mottled with green paint to give a pleasing finish

Fishing the wire stem stick float

It is a sad fact that far fewer new anglers ever spend an apprenticeship learning basic float fishing tactics. Instead they start off carp fishing and never learn the finer details of presenting a bait with a float with the associated tackle handling skills. They lack the tackle control and finesse of a good angler. Yes, they catch big fish but look at their tackle control and you'll soon see what I am talking about. Many are positively clumsy. This is why it is so important to learn to fish floats like this one.

The wire stem stick float is fished attached to your line with float caps at the base of the tip and at the bottom of the wire. Some anglers also use a third float cap positioned at the top of the wire stem where it enters the balsa body. This is good practice as it holds the float more firmly on the line and to some extent stops the float moving when we strike.

There are many different shotting patterns that can be used with all floats. The wire stem stick float is no exception. The purpose of shotting is to cock the float and more importantly, present the bait in a natural way that the fish will take.

Shirt button shotting is when you have all the small shot which are normally numbers 6 or 8 shot evenly spaced down the line. This is excellent when the fish are taking a bait as it drops but as Winter approaches with it's colder weather, fish will tend to be nearer the bottom.

My winter shotting pattern therefore groups the majority of the number 6 shot about two thirds of the way down the line. The colder it gets the further down the line my bulk shot tends to be. The remaining 4 or 5 number 8 shot are evenly spaced between the hook and the bulk shot. A number 8 shot is also placed directly under the float to act as a depth gauge.

The rod, reel and line are determined by the species in the river and the size to which they run. However if I was trotting the Tidal Thames on a flooding tide, I would opt for a 13ft carbon float rod with a hollow tip with a fixed spool reel. This will be loaded with 31b b.s. line to an 18 inch length of 2.5lb b.s. line trace to a size 16 hook and baited with two or three maggots. I would use the shotting pattern already described but with the bulk shot 2ft from the hook. I am fishing a down-tide and the depth will be constantly changing.

After plumbing the depth, I would bait my swim with a bait dropper, introducing two or three pans of maggots. I would trot through fishing about 4 inches over depth and holding back so the float went through at less than the current's speed. This is because the water on the surface is moving much faster than the water on the bottom. We want to present the bait as naturally as possible across the bottom, that means we must hold it back. It is not easy, that is where the skill comes in judging how much to hold back.

You will notice that by match standards my tackle is relatively heavy but we will be catching bream up to 61b in fast flowing water where we will need strong tackle. We could also catch a carp where we will need that extra line strength and balanced tackle.