Floater fishing for carp

Float fishing for carp

Float fishing is not often the first chosen method for carp anglers. It seems all to often these days that anglers arrive at a water, set up the usual bolt rigs, chuck them out into the middle of the lake and just sit there and wait for the bites to happen. Float fishing seems to be becoming a forgotten method. I have seen many a time when anglers are sitting waiting for a run, not even looking at the water and carp are moving around in the margins right under their rod tips, completely unnoticed. Younger anglers tend to be taught to ledger from their very first fishing trip, and never taught any other methods. I think this is a shame as there are many other ways to catch carp, and for me a day watching a float can be one of the most enjoyable, even when I blank, which is quite often.

The point - you can fish with very little tackle, it needn't cost the earth and you can catch fish. Sitting in the swim with just a carrier bag to lug around, watching one float and nothing else matters in the world is a far cry from the modern day carp angling scenario. I am not suggesting that we should all go carp fishing with this little tackle, but just sometimes it is nice to revisit those days when you didn't need a fork lift truck to shift your gear from the car to the swim. Float fishing can be fantastic fun. Not only do you need less tackle in the way of indicators, buzz bars, throwing sticks, and all the other paraphernalia we tend to lug around, but it can also be very productive. You are a lot freer to move around, and that means that you can approach a swim without any noise and fuss. Bait can be presented almost silently in front of feeding carp and you can sit and watch the float, able to detect even the slightest movement. More importantly, you are continually watching the water, waiting for a tell tale swirl or the knocking of carp in amongst the reeds or lilies.

So why is it that most modern carp anglers don't bother to float fish? For years it was the main method of all coarse fishing. A float, weights, hook and bait attached directly to it. But anglers wanted to catch bigger fish, namely carp, and they soon wised up to angling pressure. New methods had to be found to outwit them and to tempt the larger carp to take a bait. Eventually, the hair rig was born, and then the bolt rig, a rig attached to a "non-movable" weight causing the carp to hook itself. Carp anglers never looked back, bigger specimens were being caught more regularly and gradually this method became the norm. Now however, the carp have wised up to this method and new rigs are continually being developed in order to keep up. What the carp may not have seen for a long time though is a simple float rig. Like the recent return to favour of monofilament traces, this can out fool some very large carp which have wised up to noisy anglers chucking several ounces of lead at them.

OK, so you want to give it a try. What are you going to need? Well for a start, a fairly light rod. You don't want to be striking a bite at close range with a 2- lb test curve carp rod. At best your end tackle will disappear straight into the tree behind you, at worst you will rip the lips of a fish.

A match rod will handle the smaller carp but anything bigger will have you in difficulties. A reasonable ledgering rod or low test curve carp rod would be better. Reel wise, a smaller bait runner type reel or other good quality reel capable of holding a double figure fish will do the job. Unlike match fishing, although we are using float tackle, we stand a good chance of catching at least a double figure fish and so the line should be upgraded accordingly. Use too light a breaking strain and you will get broken up on the first carp. This is not just inconvenient, but not fair on the fish. Too heavy and you will find it hard to cast and control float tackle especially if it is windy. I would recommend at least an eight-pound line, more if you expect bigger carp into the high double figures or more.


The float is very much up to the individual angler and the weather condition you are dealing with. If it is a calm day and you are fishing close to the bank, then a small waggler or stick float will be perfect. I prefer a waggler attached at the bottom only so that I can sink the line between rod tip and float in case of wind drift. In windy conditions however, or if you need greater casting distance, a float which will take a bit more weight is called for. Again I prefer attaching it bottom only for the same reasons, but this is very much a matter of personal preference.


Weights are next and here I prefer to use a putty type weight so that I can get greater control over the amount I am using. Split shot are fine for smaller fish but do tend to weaken the line slightly and I won't take that risk. I am not going to go into a great amount of detail here about positioning of the weight as it would warrant its own article, but I like to keep the majority of the weight close to the hook so that I know when the bait is just on the bottom. If you are fishing deep water then some weight further up the line will give you greater presentation and control on casting.

Hook size will depend on your quarry and the bait being used, but I don't tend to go any smaller than a size 12 and no larger than a 6. I would also fish lighter in the winter but that again is personal preference.


And so on to bait. Anything that can be used on a bolt rig can be used for float fishing and that includes hair rigged boilies, but for float fishing I like to attach my bait directly to the hook, and provided you are not pestered by smaller species, then maggot, worm, luncheon meat, sweetcorn and all the usual smaller baits will work. The advantage of this type of fishing is that bait can be changed far more easily without causing too much commotion in the swim, so try a few different ones and see what works. If you are fishing close in then loose feeding small amounts of bait can work well, little and often being the rule. Very often this will attract the smaller species to start with, and that will in turn attract the carp.

Also remember that you are travelling light in order to be able to move around, and so you don't want to feed up the swim heavily and then decide to move on after half an hour.

The only other tackle you really must carry with you is a landing net, unhooking mat, maybe a pair of rod rests and a few spare hooks, floats and weights in your pockets. Also, a good pair of sunglasses can be a godsend when you are trying to watch a float in bright conditions, and they will also help you spot any fish moving around near the surface.

Float fishing methods

As for methods, there are to many for an article of this size, but I will explain my favourite, a method known as laying on. It is called this because the bait lays just on the surface. The float is attached bottom only and fished very slightly over depth, so that it will just sit upright when the line is pulled taught between the rod tip and the bottom weight. This causes the line to sink just under the surface , which prevents any surface drag. The rod can then be positioned so that the tip is just under the water's surface so that any wind resistance on the line is eliminated.

Using this method, if a fish moves off with the bait, the float will start to travel along the water's surface and then disappear. If however the fish picks the bait up and doesn't move off, the bottom weight will be lifted off of the bottom, and the float will pop up and lye flat on the surface. Only then when the fish does move off will the float disappear. This can be very exciting and indeed frustrating. Sometimes a float will lift up, not move for a while and then return to its original position without going under at all. You could strike on the lift, but often this results in a missed fish as the fish is just sucking at the bait. Timing the strike just right is imperative and a bit of practice is needed. If the bait does start to move away across the surface, then that is the time to strike, in the opposite direction to that of the float.