There was no problem there, I enjoy short, sharp sessions, giving it all you've got, but I had got a bit fed up with carting all the gear around. For some daft reason, in the past I'd taken nearly the same tackle with me for a couple of hours in the evening, that I would have done for a week in France. It was affecting my mobility to the extent that on some occasions, I had not moved swims when I should have done. A rethink was on the cards, if I was to make the most of the short sessions.
As it happened, before I'd made any sort of decision on what approach to take, fate played its hand. One evening I dropped in at the lake, just for a look around, to see if anything was moving. Behind the islands, on the shallows was my old mate Terry, sat float fishing sweetcorn. He'd caught six small carp and was having a lot of fun. True, he'd not had a big one, but he had every chance, as from behind the reeds, we could see the odd twenty or large double, gliding in and feeding, along with shoals of small carp. As we talked his float dipped and he struck into another, which promptly tore across the shallows, sending out a huge bow wave. The carp wasn't big but it provided tremendous sport, and this on Terry's rather crude, heavy carp rod and ten pound line. He asked if I fancied a chuck, which I readily accepted. He had started something off, in fact from the moment the float dipped for the first time, he couldn't get the rod off me. It was exciting stuff, spotting fish and dropping a handful of corn in front of them, then gently casting the float tackle, so that the bait fluttered down enticingly amongst the free baits.
I left that evening with new enthusiasm, refreshed, ready to have a summer, slightly different to what I'd done for years.
As many of the carp were small, I wanted tackle that would provide good sport with these fish, yet still have the power to subdue any big fellas that I got attached too. I am in the enviable position of pretty much getting blanks built to order, and was quickly on the phone to Simon Chilcott of Century, outlining what I wanted. A rod with a fast tip, for casting lines up to 8lbs B.S., yet with a forgiving middle and butt section. The test curve to be anything from 1 1/4 to 1 1/2lbs. I basically wanted a sensitive float rod, but one capable of casting quite heavy lines, i.e., 5 -8 lb B.S. up to thirty yards. Within a week, three different blanks had been supplied, and Stuart Barry was busy building them up with stand off match rings.
I was in a hurry to put them through their paces and the vanish had hardly had time to dry before I was off, making my way across the Lincolnshire Wolds, to the lake. Behind the islands, the water was a seething cauldron of bubbling fish, however Mick another syndicate member had beaten me to the spot. We yarned for a few minutes, during which time Mick's swingers were going up and down like yoyo's from line bites. I told him that I would have liked to have fished the area, to which Mick said no problem, move in along side.
Out directly in front of me was a small island, packed with trees, their branches trailing onto the surface of the bay. To my left, in the corner of the bay itself was a large raft of floating scum which stretched out some five yards or so, towards the island. It was a beautiful, humid, early summer evening, and the light was perfect for spotting fish. In this area, the water is very shallow, going from around two feet to a maximum of four feet depth. Every few minutes a shoal of about a dozen fish, emerged from under the scum, and made their way out, past the island, through a channel to my right, and out into the main lake. Half way between myself and the island was a small clear sand patch. I waited until no fish were present, then baited the sand with three pouches full of corn. Over casting the mark, I gently drew back the float until the hookbait, drifted down onto the sand. The hookbait being two grains of sweetcorn, on a size 10 Perfection rig hook.
Maybe five minutes passed before a carp emerged from the scum. It was a big common, a very big common. Following it were perhaps twenty smaller ones. On seeing the corn, the big fish went straight down and started feeding, as did the smaller ones. A huge patch of tiny, seething bubbles, hissed to the surface, covering an area the size of a table top. The float lifted and I immediately struck, straight into a tree behind me! I was a bit too quick on the draw with that one. No matter, after five very enjoyable minutes, extracting my tackle from the branches, once more I pulled the tackle back over the still bubbling area.
The float didn't get time to settle, as the corn was taken on the drop. The float heading sideways towards the safety of branches, trailing from the island, into the bay. I heaved the light rod over, and the carp was pressured out into open water. It was only a single figure carp, but it gave a terrific fight on the light tackle. During the next three hours, I went on to catch twenty more. These were fish which had been bred in the lake, ones that had never felt a hook, and all were in superb condition. There were commons, mirrors, linears even a fully scaled. It was one of the most enjoyable evenings fishing that I'd had in years.
Over the following week, I was at the lake practically every evening. Trying different hooklengths and baits, and generally trying to master the method. Some years before I'd taken a few nice fish on the float, when the carp were really going hard on hemp and maggots, but at that time, I never thought that I'd got really to grips with the method, and was sure that I'd missed lots of takes, because the set up wasn't sensitive enough. Back then, I'd never known really, what was the right time to strike. Was it when the float first lifted, when it was completely flat on the surface, or should I wait until it actually ran away across the surface, slowly submerging? Fact was I tried striking in all those instances and had still managed to miss more than I'd hooked. This time I was going to get it right.
The Float Rig
What I was looking for really was a float rig that was so positive, that if the float moved, there was a fish on, as easy as that. The problem as I saw it was, that with really light baits, such as single grains of corn, maggots, hemp or tares, even a B.B. shot was heavier than the bait. If they felt this then I figure there was a good chance that the bait would be rejected. I reckoned that was the reason why I'd missed so many when I'd tried float fishing in the past. The more I looked at it, the more some form of variation of the lift float method looked on the cards. Richard Tennant was also instrumental in what finally became, the float rig. Richard had caught quite a few on the float the year before and mentioned that it was well worth trying braid for the hooklength. He wasn't sure if it was down to conditions at the time, when he had used it, but his results had been better than when using monofil straight through. It was certainly different, I'd certainly not read or heard of anglers using braids in a float set up before. I must admit I couldn't see why it should make any difference, but I'm always open to advice, so decided to give it a try.
By pure coincidence the Anglers Mail arrived that day, with a free float attached to the cover. A very light float, with canal dart written down the side, with the instructions 2 size 2. I wasn't sure what size shot they were, other than they were very small. Anyway I decided to use that as well.
The rig I set up comprised of 7lb B.S. Sabreline, as the main line, with an eighteen inch hooklength of 5lb B.S. "The Edge" braid. The hook being a size 10 Perfection Rig Hook. One inch behind the hook bait I used one small shot, which was just enough to sink the float. No other shot was used on the line, the float being left to slide between two stop knots, four inches apart. The float being fished slightly over depth so that the last nine inches or so of the braid, laid on the bottom.
The next session I had there was a cold easterly wind and I struggled to get any takes at all. However the set up worked perfectly and the moment the small shot moved, the float would sit up and fall over. I found that by striking on the rise of the float that every fish was hooked well inside the mouth. The only draw back on that evening was the blustering wind, which with the seven pound mainline I was using , made the almost weightless end tackle difficult to cast more than about fifteen yards. At the time I was still using 4500 Baitrunners, but by later changing to a small Aero, this made casting a lot much easier. I was convinced that I'd got the set up just about right, and all I needed was really good conditions to really put it through its paces and see how effective it really was. These conditions came about five days later. I arrived at the lake earlier than usual at around 4pm. There were literally hundreds of fish moving around on the shallows of the main lake, and behind the islands. I started out by first baiting up an area of silt just off a rush bed that stretched about fifteen yards out into the lake. Into this area I fired around 200 10ml mini boilies, flavoured with Mega Tutti Frutti. There were a few good fish milling around the rushes, and the baiting appeared to scare one or two, so I left the swim to settle down for an hour or so, and moved behind the islands.
There were an incredible amount of fish around, all staying together with fish of a similar size. One minute a shoal of second year fish around the two pound mark would come through, a few minutes later a shoal of five and six pounders. Then there'd be a few doubles and all the time the odd twenty would move in. Staying on sweetcorn I had an all action hour or so taking fish right through the sizes, the largest one being the last before I moved, a nineteen pound common. That went berserk in the confined space behind the islands, and scared everything off for a while. I dually baited up with corn again before moving to the other swim I'd baited previously.
Using the mini boilies, the rig was even more sensitive as no shot what so ever was needed to cock the float. Some fish had already been on the bait, that was evident from bubbles left on the surface. I didn't have long to wait however before two dark shapes glided in and up ended. The float rose and I struck instantly, the clutch screaming as the fish tore off across the shallows. I stopped her just before a dead tree that lies in the water, and from then on was pretty much in control. On the bank she turned out to be a common of twenty two pounds, which pleased me no end. I went on to take an eighteen and a ten pounder from that spot, that evening.
Up until the end of July, when I went off to concentrate on other things, I took a total of 165 carp on the float rod. While its true that the vast majority were small carp, when bigger fish were around, the method was just as effective with them. The most important thing was, that on short sessions, I was always getting action, and a bend in the rod to me is what its all about. If I'd have stuck behind three rods during that period, I most probably would have caught more larger fish, but I don't think I'd have enjoyed those sessions as much. There are only two draw backs to the method. The first being windy, blustery conditions and the second being once the weed gets up and there is a lot of floating scum about, that really does make controlling the float very difficult. Having said that those latter conditions make all methods of fishing difficult.
All types of particles and mini boilies are suitable for this method, and trout pellets are particularly good. Two of our syndicate members, when encountered by a shoal of small fish, swear by bacon rind. They chop a few bits up, about half an inch in length and feed this with corn, fishing the bacon rind over the top. Doing this, they've had up to a dozen carp on one bait!
Many, years ago, I sat behind Chris Yates and watched him float fishing a bean. The float went under and he struck into what we thought was a small carp. On the bank, that fish went thirty eight pounds, and later grew on to be the British record carp. The method works with all sizes of carp, and the set up as shown in the diagram is the most sensitive I know, while still using tackle capable of landing big fish. Give it ago, I'm sure you'll enjoy yourself, I did.