Elliott Gray - Floater Fishing
There can be no denying that your general ‘bite alarm carping’ can get a little boring at times. Being sat behind a set of buzzers waiting for it happen isn’t always the most exciting thing in the world.
Floater fishing, however, is always electric. Being such an active way of carp fishing, the hours seem to fly by and in my opinion it doesn’t get much better on the overall enjoyment front.
Most of the time you’ll be stood by the lake, in a t-shirt catching some rays, if not a carp. We all love a bit of sun, being British we have to make the most if it; the carp are no different. It takes very little persuasion for the fish to rise up and start basking – once that sun is out in force they’ll do it on 99% of the lakes you’ll tread foot on. If the carp are on the surface, you’ll soon see them, and that’s going to be the best place to catch them. You can still pick the odd bite up out of the margins and occasionally off the bottom in open water too, but if they’re up in the layers then as a rule that’s where you’ll need to fish for them.
There’s plenty of reasons to try your hand with a floater rod but above all else, it will get you bites that you simply would not have had otherwise. The summer months will often bring extreme heat and the daytime period can seem a waste of time, when in actual fact it isn’t, you just need a little change of tactics. I always carry my floater gear, from the absolute latest of the start of May, and it’s definitely put a few bonus carp on the bank for me. For the working man it’s ideal as a few hours spent after work can be rather fruitful. Carp will take mixers right into dark so don’t worry about missing the afternoon period. If you’ve got the whole day to go at them though, that’s even better.
There’s one thing with floater fishing that other forms of carp fishing seem inferior to and that’s the pure excitement that it entails. There’s nothing better than watching fish, I love it, and when you’re surface fishing they’re right there in front of you almost waving back at you. The great thing about actually watching the fish is that you’re not fishing blind, you know they’re there, you just have to catch them. Edge fishing is the same, it’s very active and there’s rarely a dull moment wondering if there’s any carp in front of you. If you’re on fish then you’ll see them so you’re confident, and confidence breeds both enjoyment and success.
Sometimes the carp will make it easy for you, ghosting around with those shiny black backs breaking the surface, but this isn’t always the case. It’s not just the sunny days that produce the best surface fishing either, as long as it’s warm there’s a chance, but if the sun is less apparent then there’s a good chance the fish will sit a little lower in the water and you’ll need to look for the subtlest of signs. Climbing the trees and owning a pair of polarising sunglasses will help you tenfold – this applies to locating carp in any weather or time of year. As is always the way, you need to get your location right first. The wind can make your sightings hard to come by at times and in this scenario I’ll often deposit a few spods of mixers into different areas of the lake and try to locate them that way, by getting them feeding. If you cover enough ground then you’ll generally get fish taking from beneath the ripple somewhere.
The wind is probably the biggest problem you’ll be faced with when surface fishing, and although it can be used to your advantage, it can completely scupper your plans too. Without doubt the best way to combat the wind is with the use of oil – coating your free offerings in the stuff will work wonders. It always amazes me and I’m not quite sure how it manages to do it but the oil will almost completely flatten the lakes surface in winds of up to around 20mph. If you can keep the feed going in regularly then you’ll be able to make your life a lot easier. Not only will you be able to spot fish passing and eating with less trouble but you’ll also be able to watch your hook bait too, which is important. I like to fish with a cross wind, which ideally, is tucking gently into the bank I’m fishing on. This enables me to spod mixers at range and then let them drift back towards me. A wind off your back is ideal for keeping your line tight once the rig is in position but on the busier lakes there’s always a chance of the fish drifting away from you and into someone else’s water. If there’s no one about then a wind off your back is great but I’ve always found it a little risky due to the busy nature of the lakes I fish.
There are a couple of good things about the wind and one of those is being able to create a drift line of mixers, as spodding on the carps head isn’t always ideal. You can cause the commotion of introducing the bait away from where they’re actually feeding. The other good thing about having a ripple on the surface is that it makes the components of the rig harder for the carp to see. It depends on the venue but on some waters, with trickier carp, the ripple can be the turning point. On others, the carp just seem to love a floater and at times it can seem easy as packs of fish bomb around scoffing down the food. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case and you’ll need to do all you can to disguise your tackle.
I have used a braided main line a lot over the last few years and I must say that I’m totally converted. At the moment I’m using 24lb Guru Pulse Braid, its only 0.12mm in diameter and it floats too! Braid has no stretch and this enables the resistance of your strike to come into play much quicker – an obvious bonus. Using braid also makes achieving greater distances with smaller floats and longer hook links, much easier. The downside to braid is that it has no element of transparency, like a mono. I will use braid for as long as I can get away with it but if I have to use a mono then it’ll be either Carp Line or Krusier mono in between 8 and 15lb breaking strain. depending on the severity of the weed for example. Krusier mono has a neutral-buoyancy so it tends to float for longer periods of time without being effected by water absorption and sinking, which is great.
My choice of float is generally dictated by the range I’m fishing at, and I use the inline floats for everything. We now make the floats in wider range, spanning from 5g all the way up to 80g, so no matter the range, you’ll have one for the job. I really like the 5g floats for the closer range stuff, where you’re able to effectively watch the hook bait, the carp are far less spooked by the cast and your strike is more immediate, as the weight of the float is taking less of the sting out. The inline floats cast with greater accuracy and I experience far fewer tangles too, so this is why I favour them – they’re also good at hooking the fish for you in the slightly larger sizes should you miss the bite or if you’re fishing at long range and are unable to watch the hook bait – I love them for this. I have caught a lot of fish in the past using the inline floats in a far bigger size than I actually need to, and not striking, instead letting the float do the work for me whilst I concentrate on the feeding. I think of it like using a bigger lead on the bottom.
Hook choice is simple and hasn’t changed for a long time; the size 10 Mixa hook is the perfect shape and size for me, but I will use bigger sizes at times of need. I love the Mixa hooks and use them extensively for both my surface fishing and zig rigging. Once they go in they bury themselves and very rarely do they fall out - the combination of the wide gape and short shank works wonders.
The hook link is a pivotal part of your success and if there’s ever something to break then it’ll be the hook link. This is where your choices are critical. If the lake is weedy then you need to use a hook link of AT LEAST 10lb breaking strain, but a 12 or even 15lb would be ideal depeding on how bad the weed is. This ensures that you can hook and land the fish safely, which is so important. If you can hook fish but not land them then why bother? If there’s no weed about then you can drop as low as 6 or 7lb, but you’ll need to play them carefully. I’ve been using the 8lb Carp Line lately but am a huge fan of the 8lb Krusier mono too - My friend Rob Willingham, a dab hand with the floater rod, recommended I give it a try and from what I’ve experienced, it’s absolutely bomb proof. With the venue I’m fishing containing no weed at all, both lines are perfectly capable of dealing with big fish. The knot strength on both is spot on. The key is to weigh up the situation and then use as high a breaking strain main line and hook link as you can get away with. Only dropping down to lighter gear if you have to and can do so safely.
As far as hook baits go, it’s pretty simple; I using a match the hatch hook bait, so whatever I’m feeding, is what I’ll have on the hook. I cut a small groove in the bait, pop the back off the hook inside and then use super glue to fix it in place. A little addition that I also include is a small piece of coloured foam, which is positioned on top the hook bait, making it much easier for me to watch, yet the carp cannot see it.
The freebies I introduce are always the same sort of thing, a typical dog mixer or floating pellet in 12-15mm size - I quite like to mix a few different types together. I occasionally use the 4mm floating trout pellets too and carp can go absolutely crazy for these little gems, but they can also become very hard to catch on larger hook baits once they’re tuned into eating the baby pellets. I’ve caught using tiny pieces of cork amongst the 4mm pellets, but it always pays to try and keep it as simple as possible. For this reason I’ll use them as a plan B should I fail to get a good response from the larger free offerings. All of my freebies will be coated in oil prior to use and these days I tend to use a 50/50 mix of Hemp Oil and FOS Oil. This way the baits are oozing attraction and flattening off any ripple at the same time. In the past I have had really good reactions to the Rasberry Plume Goo, which gives the baits a huge boost of flavour and a red tinge – a combo that seems to really grab their attention. There’s definitely something special about the Goo at times and I have seen carp go absolutely bonkers for it on many occasions, on both the bottom and on the surface. Don’t be afraid to give it to ‘em either, sometimes you’ll need to introduce a hell of a lot of mixers before you get them feeding, on other days you’ll catch them on singles, just keep feeding until they start having them – 99% of the time, they will in the end.
One last thing, if the lake you’re fishing has a large head of birds then it can be a good idea to feed them off before you start fishing, otherwise they’ll cause you all sorts of problems. When I’m really into my floater fishing I will always carry at least 5kg of mixers for the bird life and will try to get them fed nice and early, which enables me to fish without them pestering me. Make sure you have a rod ready, though, as quite often the fish will start taking alongside the birds!
Make the most of this summer before it’s too late, get that floater rod into action!