Anyone who knows me well will attest to these two truths: firstly, I would rather catch a fish on the float than on any other method known to man, and, secondly, I am an inveterate list maker. I enjoy cataloguing subjective lists of my favourite books, films, football matches, records ... you name it, and I'll happily list my top twenty, ten, five or three. With all that in mind, it was only a matter of time before I combined my penchant for list making and my love of floats and float fishing, to bring you my favourite floats list. (Out of respect for, and in deference to, the patience of my long-suffering readers I have restricted the list to just three.)
At number three is my "go to" float. The one that if I were restricted to just a single float to use for all of my angling would be the one I'd unerringly opt for; the straight Norfolk Reed Waggler. (which like all of the floats in my list was made for me by professional floatmaker Ian Lewis from Devon.)
There might be an argument that states that, in view of what I've just said about the position it occupies as primus inter pares in my float box that it should top my list, but while (especially in its flamed version) it is aesthetically attractive it lacks the "wow factor" of some other designs. This is a workaday float, a float for all seasons and one to trust implicitly, but it doesn't quite have the totemic status or panache of the other floats that eclipse it in my top three. Having said that, my three biggest ever perch, including my 2 pound 5 ounce personal best, were all caught using one, so it's a float that I owe "big time."
At number two is a type of float that I only very rarely turn to (I doubt if I've used one more than a dozen times in over 30 years of angling), but its stunning appearance and its inextricable and iconic link with tench fishing propels it into second place. The driftbeater, fished overdepth and overshotted, complete with outsized, buoyant sight bob and a large bait, may only be given the very occasional outing, but is worth a place in any traditional angler's collection for its beauty alone. Sentiment and "good looks" secure second spot for this "most English" of Stillwater floats.
... and so (this is the moment to conjure up in your imagination a dramatic drum roll), to my all time number one float. A float that brings to mind boyhood fishing and traditional angling at its finest, a float that makes up for in appearance what it, arguably, compromises in sensitivity .......... I present to you the ultimate totem float, the perch bob. I have perch bobs of all sizes, from mini 2BB Harcork style replicas right up to creations buoyant and tough enough to support a lively gudgeon livebait and requiring a couple of swan shot to cock them. Prettily coloured, well crafted and a joy to look at, for me the perch bob is the epitome of all that float fishing represents, and every angler should have several in his or her collection. I've even got a handful of them where the body is crafted from an oak gall
Of course, the frustration of a list such as this is the artificial need to reduce to three. My real life float collection numbers several float boxes, and leaving out such standards as the porcupine quill, the cork bodied or the fluted avon, feather body decorated wagglers, quill lifters, goose quills and a host of others doesn't sit comfortably. One float that was desperately unlucky to fail to "make the cut" was Ian's "crucian mini bristle float" (pictured below), which is a great float for presenting small baits to finicky fish close in.
Also, I'm aware of the limitations of my own judgement and the subjectivity of the vagaries that lead to the inclusions and exclusions in any list. My list is just that- it's my list, and yours would likely be different. However, that's a part of the fun of list making. Of this, though, I'm sure: there's no better way to while away a day than by fishing, and no better way of fishing than with a float. The dip, lift, bobbing or disappearing of a brightly varnished orange or red tip exerts an addictive draw that only the angler understands. The late Ted Hughes, one time Poet Laureate, described the experience like this: "I have spent hundreds of hours staring at a float. Not drowsily, very alert. So that the least twitch of the float arrives like an electric shock." Nice words, I wonder if he was a list maker .... ?