There is something intoxicating about fishing a float on a moving river, and the stick float rules as king of float methods in my book. It looks easy when its done well, but so do most things done by experts. I’m no expert, let’s get that understood, but I do love doing it, and loving something can overcome many of the flaws in ones technique. Fact is, I’ve never seen a really good stick man in action so have nothing to compare. John Dean and John Allerton were experts I’m reliably told, that my River Trent is where they performed their artistry. If only I could have seen them in action, just once.
I’m convinced people like myself don’t really know the ideal conditions REQUIRED for stick float fishing and simply try it when fishing. The water may be too deep, or too fast, but they try it none-the-less. When it fails they revert back to the lead or feeder and never learn the technique well enough to catch fish constantly. Dean and Allerton were both fine tackle anglers, lines of 1lb as hook-links and hooks below size 20s were the normal for them. Both were convinced the fine tackle picked up more bites. Allerton even designed a rod with a spliced tip for those fast biting dace and roach on such light tackle. Dean was the same with his specialist stick floats. Dean was also a good all-round float angler and excelled with the waggler too. I’m told some of his home made wagglers were 18” in length. Ideal for the middle Trent fishing Dean was famous for.
I find the shotting is by far the most difficult thing to get 100% right in any given situation. The two main styles are shirt button and bulk shotting, all dependant on how the fish want the bait. In summer the roach often rise in the water to feed on bait introduced by hand by the angler. In winter the fish are much less inclined to come up in the water, and then a bulked shotting pattern to get the bait down quickly is most often employed. However it’s not always that simple. Some days the fish will rise off the bottom, but only by a foot or two. Other days they want a bait right on the bottom, but moved slower than the normal current speed. The good stick float angler has to discern exactly what the fish want by experimenting with slowing the bait down, often called holding back, or moving shot around on the line to affect a different type of presentation and bait fall rate.
I call this article the forgotten art of stick float fishing because I rarely see anyone fishing a stick float on the Trent anymore. The Trent is dominated by the feeder, both groundbait and maggot with hemp/caster. The feeder for many is a cast and wait method that produces good results, both summer and winter. It’s often called the lazy mans method? Thats a bit harsh, because I know many anglers that work very hard at their feeder fishing. But sadly most don’t and hence the name. Conversely fishing the stick is a very busy method, in fact I’ve had many days I don’t stop for tea, coffee, or even a sandwich. And calls to nature are only completed when I’m absolutely desperate. Time flies by if you’re catching. You become absorbed in the repetition of casting, baiting mending, baiting, striking and reeling in again. All become as one fluid motion if and your in-tune with the technique the ‘Art of Stick Float fishing.’