Stick floats are designed to be attached to the line at both the top & bottom and are used to present a bait to the fish whilst trotting it down a river. The stick float offers great control and is a better option than the waggler in fast flowing or turbulent water. Holding back the float by trapping the line against the rod or reel will cause the bait to rise in the water. This can be used to great effect to steer the bait down the river and over any obstacles such as large rocks. In addition a rising or falling bait will often induce a take from the fish.
Many coarse anglers when float fishing use either a pole or standard 12 / 13 foot match rod with a fixed spool or center pin reel loaded with line of 3-4 Lbs breaking strain. For the majority of coarse fish found across Europe such as Bream, Roach, Rudd and Dace this type of tackle is suitable. Naturally the tackle does need to match the venue and expected fish species, e.g. If fishing the River Ebro in Portugal or River Weser in Germany you may well hook into some good sized Barbel or Chub and hence would need to equip yourself with stronger tackle to cope.
There are very few tackle shops in countries such as Finland that sell fishing line in breaking strains less than 10 Lbs so if visiting on holiday it is worth noting this and checking in advance. In addition it is also very difficult to find local shops that will stock hooks under a size 12 or weights smaller than 1 SSG. This is not because they are not required for coarse fishing in that particular country but simply a reflection of the fact that the majority of angling and hence tackle available in fishing tackle shops is aimed at species such as Pike, Zander, Salmon & Trout.
Coarse Fishing is a term that is strictly speaking used to define fishing for non-game fish (Salmon, Trout, Char, etc). Whilst coarse fishing does include predatory fish such as Pike & Zander, We will cover here fishing for the non-predatory species including Roach, Rudd, Bream & Carp.
Coarse Fishing is very popular in the UK and many central European countries but less so in Scandinavia. This is probably due to the fishing culture differences between countries, whereby many Scandinavian anglers like to eat what they catch and species such as Roach and Rudd don’t make good eating.
Coarse Fish are found through-out Europe with large catches of Roach, Dace & Bream possible from many rivers and lakes in most countries. Whilst normally associated with the warmer climate of central and southern Europe,the Scandinavian waters also hold coarse fish including Chub, Carp and Tench, which are present in many Finnish, Swedish and Norweigan lakes and rivers. Crucian Carp can also be found almost as far north as the Arctic circle region and can provide a welcome addition to the days fishing in this area with some fantastic specimens possible.
Waggler floats come made in many materials, shapes, sizes and colours. They can be used on still and flowing water and are an excellent tool to present a bait accurately in a range of circumstances. Waggler floats can either be straight in design or contain a thicker body at the bottom. Most coarse anglers will have a range of waggler floats in the tackle box with different floats used for different conditions e.g. heavier floats used for fishing at range or floats with different tops (inserts) that can be changed to contrast better to different light or wind conditions. It is also possible to buy waggler floats that are designed to allow a night-light to be inserted which enables fishing during the dark hours.
This catch of Bream and Roach was caught just a couple of hundred km south of the Arctic Circle in the Oulu region of Finland
Catapult with a pouch designed to be fire maggots, corn or other baits further than can be thrown by hand
Bream and Roach can be found in most European lakes, rivers and canals from Portugal in the south to the Scandinavian countries in the north
A feeder fished right can often outscore the float angler with the key being to cast consistently to the same spot all the time. To achieve this accuracy the angler should position his feet in the same place for each cast. Pick a static marker to aim for on the far bank such as a tree, bush, fence post or anything similar. By lining up in the same way each time and casting at the marker you will find after a little practice you can land your cast exactly where you want it to.
To ensure the distance is consistent each time you should clip the line behind the line clip on the spool that is provided on many modern reels. If the reel has no line clip a similar result can be achieved by casting toward the desired spot and then slipping an elastic band on top of the line before reeling back in. Alternatively the line can be marked by using a marker pen or by tying a piece of free line to the main line.
Modern feeder rods come in many forms and it’s possible to buy rods with interchangeable tips that can be used to suit the conditions. For feeder fishing at distance on large lakes or the larger rivers found across Europe, a rod of 11 or 12 foot equipped with an open ended cage feeder packed with bread crumb and free offerings of whatever is used on the hook will catch fish.
Rods, reels and line suitable for waggler fishing can also be used for stick float fishing. A 12 or 13 foot match rod coupled with a fixed spool or center-pin reel is an ideal combintation for many venues. On smaller rivers a shorter rod can be used with a 10 or 11 foot Avon type rod perfect for the job.
Shot weight patterns used with a stick float can vary as with the waggler but on most occasions a simple pattern of shots distributed evenly along the line will suffice.
Feeding the swim little and often by throwing in free bait offerings will help draw fish into the area. The depth that the hook-bait is set below the float will depend on where the fish are lying in the water but typically it is set to trot down so the bait is just above bottom or even catching bottom during the trot.
Trotting a couple of maggots or worms under a well presented stick float will catch many a fish in European rivers with all the coarse and game species likely to be tempted in taking the bait. It should be noted that on some rivers such as those having runs of Salmon and Sea Trout the method may be illegal and this should be checked in advance. In addition be sure to check if the restrictions only apply to certain areas such as rapids as this is also often the case in Scandinavian countries.
Typical Coarse Fishing set up.
The bucket contains ground-bait mixed with corn. Rods are Shimano Beast Master Commercial Feeder and John Wilson Avon Quiver. Reels are Shimano 4000 series
Loaded clear wagglers
Once a swim is selected and ground-bait introduced the waggler float can be cast to the same spot. To keep a waggler float stationary in the same spot on a still water the angler should cast beyond the area they intend to fish. When the float hits the water, immediately sink the rod tip below the water and rapidly retrieve line onto the reel. You will be able to see the line out on the water sink below the surface. As long as you have cast far enough past the mark you intend to fish all this line will submerge. This sinking of the line will prevent surface drift pulling the float out of place.
Underwater currents can also move a waggler float out of position. These currents can be counter-acted by changing weight shotting patterns so that more shot is on the bottom anchoring the float to the same spot.
There are times when fish will feed in the middle or upper layers of water and some fish such as Rudd are surface feeders. These can be fished for using the waggler set to suspend the bait under the surface or by using a weight shotting pattern designed to allow a slow descent of the bait through the water.
Waggler are designed to be attached with the line passing through the eye on the bottom of the float only and held in place at the right depth using non-toxic weights pinched onto the line immediately above and below the float. For bottom feeding fish such as Bream it is essential to fish with the float set at the right depth so the hook bait is held on the bottom or if fishing a slow flowing river is either on or just above bottom.
There are many different weight shotting patterns that can be used when waggler float fishing. The keep it simple concept with the bulk of the shot around the float and lighter shot spread further down the line towards the hook and bait will work for the majority of situations. The amount of weight used will depend on the float and most floats are marked with the weight required on them. The waggler float should be shot with sufficient weight so the tip is just above the surface. This not only helps with bite detection but will also help counteract against any surface drift.
The key to catching large numbers of fish when waggler fishing is to find a swim that will hold fish within a comfortable casting range. Most coarse anglers typically start to build up a swim by introducing tennis ball sized balls of ground-bait laced with free-offerings of the bait that will be used on the hook. By using a consistent little and often feeding method on most occasions you will be able to attract fish without over feeding them and catch all day long if desired.
The amount of ground-bait to be used will vary on the circumstances such as species of fish and expected quantity. If Bream fishing a large venue that holds a large head of Bream and Roach, you would use a heavier ground-baiting method than if targeting a small lake for Rudd or Crucian Carp. Free-offerings of the hook bait can also be introduced on a little and often basis either by throwing by hand or using a catapult designed for the job if a longer range is required.
Chub are common in many European rivers and provide an excellent days sport. They will fall to most baits including maggot, worm, slugs, bread, cheese and small dead or live fish
Open end cage feeders are ideally used with a lightly mixed ground-bait or bread crumb
Stick floats are ideal for faster flowing rivers & turbulent water
Traditional coarse fishing tactics such as float, ledger and feeder fishing work in all European countries. One difference worth noting is that due to lack of angling pressure in some countries such as Finland, there is not the same need to use fine tackle as there would be on a hard fished water in the UK for example. Unless fishing in the city centers or some of the coastline around Helsinki, the fish are very unlikely to have been caught before and hence are not as tackle shy. We have had occasions fishing in the Oulu region of Finland when trying to avoid the Roach in order to target Bream that we have used 7 pieces of sweet corn with a size 8 hook and caught Roach at the rate of one per chuck.
Whilst in some countries such as the UK. Holland and Germany the coarse anglers favorite bait (maggots) are easily obtainable from fishing tackle shops, this is not the case in all countries. Some fishing tackle shops in Scandinavia and Southern Europe sell maggots but it can never be guaranteed that they will be in stock. Due to this the majority of coarse fishing is done using baits such as corn, bread and of course the old favorite worm. The same applies to other coarse fishing essentials such as ground-bait. If it can't be obtained ready mixed and packed, ground-bait can be easily made using a simple mix of bread crumb and corn. This can be spiced up if required by mixing in any ingredients that fish will eat such as biscuit crumb, dog biscuits, fish pellets, etc.
Prior to coarse fishing a new water in a new country it is worth pre-baiting if the opportunity allows. This will depend on the country and water plus how often anglers actually practice coarse fishing in that particular venue. In some cases it may be never or very seldom at most. If possible you should aim to pre-bait for 2-3 days in order to increase the chances of success. Pre-baiting is done using the same or similar ground-bait mix that is used whilst actually fishing. If for example you plan to fish with a particular bait such as corn, you should mix this into the ground-bait used for pre-baiting. Pre-baiting is not always required but if time and knowledge of particular water is limited it will certainly help to draw and hold fish to an area.
The ledger and feeder method offer the advantage that they can be used to cast a bait further and in addition both can be used to anchor a bait to the bottom in one spot, even in the middle of a fast flowing river if required.
The ledger in its simplest form is a weight attached to the line that is designed to hold the bait on the bottom which is then fished in a static manner. The bait can be anything used by the float angler. Ledger weights can be used varying from a couple of small split shot to a few ounces depending on conditions such as distance required or strength of current on a river.
Bite detection when ledgering can be as simple as watching the rod tip for movement but many other options are available such as swing-tips, quiver tips, electronic bite alarms or even the old dough bobbin method still works.
Feeder fishing takes ledgering to another level by adding the possibility to add free food offerings around the hook bait which of course helps attract fish to the area.
Feeders come in various shapes and sizes including closed end feeders designed to hold maggots and large open ended cage feeders designed to be filled with ground-bait with or without the addition of some free food added.
It is also possible to use a combination of both float & ledger and Pike Anglers have been doing this for many years but the method is not commonly seen or used for general coarse fishing.