O let me rather on the pleasant Brinke
Of Tyne and Trent possesse some dwelling place
Where I may see my Quill and Corke downe sinke,
With eager bite of Barbill, Bleike or Dace.
Short of dynamite or bow and arrow, there are few methods of fishing that I would be unwilling to try, but none surpass the float in giving me pleasure. Despite the fact that the majority of my biggest fish have fallen to ledger tactics, with my best ever carp, bream, tench and (I'm embarrassed to admit) roach all being caught using variations of the ruthlessly efficient bolt rig, I still elect to floatfish wherever possible.
The float as someone, possibly Sherringham, once observed is "pleasing in appearance and even more pleasing in disappearance", and there are few sights in angling more evocative than that of a red tipped float gently bobbing in the ripples next to a bed of lilly pads. Catching fish on the float also tends to relativise fish weights upwards. The carp that I'm holding in this photograph weighed 12 pounds and- if caught on a bolt rigged boilie would have represented no particular achievement, but the fact that it was taken on a waggler and 4 pound line to 2 pound bottom enormously increases its cache.
These days my penchant is for traditional, handmade floats. There's something appropriate about catching a natural creature using a float made of natural materials, and something pleasing about using floats that Mr Crabtree would have recognised and approved of. The aesthetic allure of a well varnished float made of quill, Norfolk reed or cork, nicely whipped and handsomely varnished, can lead to a seriously addictive collecting habit.
I've just finished putting together a lovely little box of floats to fish for my current favourite adversary, the perch. A few of the floats were older ones from my own floatmaking days, but most were made for me by Ian Lewis, a maker of traditional floats, based in the South-West. He provided the tin box, Norfolk reed wagglers and perch bobs in the picture below. Three of the perch bobs have oak galls for the bodies, and one of them will be given its maiden dunking on this coming Friday's pre-work, pre-breakfast appointment with the canal.
And so to conclude where we started- with poetry. Not this time the words of a 16th Century angling poet, but of the late Ted Hughes, former poet laureate and an angling aficionado, who described float fishing like this:
"your whole being rests lightly on your float, but not drowsily: very alert, so that the least twitch of the float arrives like an electric shock. And you are not only watching the float- you are aware, in a horizonless and slightly mesmerized way ..."