A lot of people fish the Stick float well, but just as many fish it poorly. I’m going to try to explain exactly what the stick float should be doing, and why, when you’re fishing it. I’ll mention again, I’m no expert, I’m still learning, trying to understand why these floats are so deadly in the right conditions and right hands.
The River Match-man of old had to build a net of fish from any peg, often during times of the day not conducive for fishing. He would know the venue often and if he had a winning peg, that held Bream or Chub say. But if he didn’t draw a top peg, then mostly it was all about scratching. Building a bag of little fish like Roach, Chub, Bleak, Dace, trying to catch quickly on every cast. The Stick float gave them this opportunity and this is why. It allowed very delicate presentation for well-educated fish. Often lines as low as .08 ounce, with size 24s hooks were used. (Nowadays Hi-Tec lines with such low diameters, finer lines can be used with a greater breaking strain.)
“Angling Times Picture showing what and what not to do when using a Stick.”
The Stick Float shotted correctly catches fish at all depths as it falls through the water column. When you hold it back (and you should) it rises and falls enticingly for the fish, exactly like the loose feed. You hold back, let it go, hold back, let it go, all the way down the swim, importantly you’re fishing over depth most of the time. If the swim is 6′ deep you’re fishing at 7′ with the bottom hook-length 10”/16” Un-shotted. It allows wonderful presentation and un-missable bites if you’re keeping a tight line to the float. Most bites come on or after the stop, as the float moved down the swim bit by bit. The trot could be relatively short overall, six or ten yards as the fish moved up-stream to intercept the then revolutionary bait the Caster! The Stick and Caster were a match made in heaven for the Trent Angler of old, as it is still today.
On waters like the Trent you would use 2 pints of Casters typically in a match or pleasure session, loose feeding so the fish are taking them at all levels. The stop and start checking of the float would ensure the bait and float were always in contact with the angler giving good solid bites.
The downside of the Stick was it could only be fished in the best of conditions. A slight up-stream wind, smooth top water, and less than six feet of depth on average. Any rough water, or downstream wind and the Avon float would fish much better, but that’s for another time. Many anglers fish a Stick in conditions were another float would give them a much better chance (myself included) such is the lure of the Stick.
Finally the rods used for this method (Stick float fishing) were also very special to cope with the ultra fine tackle. Anglers with famous names in the day started to endorse such rods, today these antiques sell for good money on E-Bay, Tom Pickering rods are a fine example. However we have some great Stick float rods today made from much better and lighter materials. The Acolyte Ultra and Daiwa Connoisseur range for example allow very fine lines to be used. But whatever you choose it must have a soft tip, but quick action to hit sharp bites at distance.
Old reels (as I mentioned before) like the Abu 501-506-506 are still up to the job, and great fun to use.