The Art of Stick Float Fishing.

Firstly let me say I’m no expert when it comes to the art of stick float fishing (unlike many of the Trent anglers of old). But its something I really love to do whenever I can. The wind and river conditions have to be just right for it to be productive, but sometimes I simply do it when all is against me and a waggler would be a better choice!

King of the stick float, Ivan Marks from Nottingham.


On super bright sunny days I find a black tip stick float stands out better than almost any other colour. It seems to help the eyes rest on the float, rather than search for it. Stick float fishing is all about finesse, fine lines and small hooks. Designed to catch fish downstream of you in shallow water, up to six feet mostly. It’s not unusual to find stick float experts fishing with 2lb main line and 1.5lb hook links. Hooks size 16s and lower. I compromise however and fish with a 3.4lb main line, and hook links of 2.10lb. It doesn’t seem to make that much difference to me and my catches, but the experts would disagree, saying its far to heavy for the ultra light presentation required of this method?

Now that’s a match-mans approach, but the layman may wish to fish for bigger fish like chub and barbel on the stick, and this does require a different approach. I find my set up with an upped hook-link to (4lb and 5lb)  main line allows me not only to catch small fish like Dace and Roach, but chub and the barbel that the Trent produces in numbers these days. In the older days of the Trent fishing the Barbel just did not appear in catches, now they dominate it, hence the ultra light tackle was more than suitable then.

The traditional way of Stick Float fishing was to use hemp and caster or hemp and tares for the mass of Roach/Dace the river use to hold. These fish have come back but are much harder to catch due to the cleaner river the Trent is now. (More about this in another article). This is still the go-to method, but now it catches big Chub and Barbel for those that know how to go about tackling it, feeding is a vital part of the puzzle.

I’m learning this as I go along, at times I’m successful, so I can only tell you how I go about it. On arrival I put about 3-5 handfuls of hemp in along with 2 of caster. Then I set up, tackle is a Drennan 14′ Power float rod, 4.4lb line and 3.2lb hook link, size 16 forged hook. Once I’m settled I start to feed and continue until I leave, during this time I may only feed 10 grains of hemp and 3 caters, or 30 grains and a dozen caster it will depend on what I’m catching and how the fish respond. If I can give you an example of one good day I had in September 2017.

Big Chub also fall for laid on tactics, this on weighed 5.5oz.


I’d been feeding cautiously for about 2 hours (as mentioned above) taking a few Roach, Dace, and little Chub. My float was a wide topped stick taking 8 number 4 shot, 4.4lb hook link. Swim was about 7-8 foot deep steady flow coming up slightly towards the end of my run of 30 yards. Around 4pm I hooked a Barbel of just over 11lb on double caster fished just on depth. It run towards the middle of the river and stopped, but steady pressure moved it into my back and after maybe four minutes it was landed in my Gardner barbel net. I baited a little more next run down but had to wait another ten minutes before another Barbel of 8lb followed by another of 9lb came along. All on trotted caster, I did change the hook-link and hook after the first fish, just for safety.

As it was getting towards dark now I picked up my other rod, a 15′ Daiwa loaded with 6lb mainline and 5.5lb bottom. I then laid on with the same 8 number 4 shot stick float but with the shot replaced by a 4 gram olivette. I was fishing only one rod length below me so when the next fish took the triple caster, the rod was off the rest with me hanging on for grim death. Sadly after a great fight the fish was lost, and the hook returned neatly flattened out. After this it was too dark to see a float, so I packed up and headed home. Feeding is the key, prolonged and regular every trot down the swim, its not a lazy mans method.

True Stick men like the great ‘Ivan Marks’ from Nottingham suggested in his book a lot of his success was down to fishing very small hooks, and light lines. In those days as I’ve mention the barbel were just not there. I’ve just watched a great clip form another true great angler John Allerton. Its worth looking on You-Tube to find these rare clips.

Once this amazing hot weather declines a bit, I’ll be fishing again, see you on the bank.






Author: Fishermanrichard.

Retired and fishing as much as I can.

One thought on “The Art of Stick Float Fishing.”

  1. Evening Richard,

    Found your blog via Maggotdrowners. Firstly thank you for posting your method for stick float fishing the Trent.
    I found it very informative and detailed, perfect for a river novice like myself. I bought a Cadence 14Ft rod, a Daiwa 3012 reel and a range of Pete Warren stick floats earlier this year and still haven’t managed to get on the Trent ! No excuses really (other than heavy workload in June and holiday first week in July ) as I only live in Melton Mowbray so the Trent at Newarke / Gunthorpe is only 30 minutes drive away. I will get there.


    Kevin (Scribe on MD)


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