In this article I look at the benefits of float fishing over the more common feeder/leger fishing for Barbel. I believe many people fish with a feeder or leger purely because they either don’t know how to fish a float or they’re just lazy. Whilst I may have indeed given the impression over these articles that I exclusively fish for Barbel with a feeder, this is not always the case. I fish with whatever catches me Barbel. When I have a clear gravel run that oozes fish and I am able to run my float through inch by inch this is my preferred method.

Over the last 4 years of testing I have done various experiments regarding how a bait sits on the bottom, how effective it looks and most importantly how Barbel find it. The answer lay in feeding, it seems surreal that a Barbel would pick up a fake piece of corn suspended if there was no offerings around it, if scent was so important and eyesight was so bad how do they interpret what’s edible and what’s not and how would they find it? For the most part, Barbel behaviour is full of contradictions. During testing my only explanation is that Barbel often pick up any old rubbish and discard this through their gills and thinking about it is the only way they can inspect something. Barbel often pick up plastic and fake [enter item of fake bait here] to me and through my experiments I only have one real answer to give you and that’s Barbel inspect everything and anything, because they can’t see that well they distinguish pellets and smelly baits easily but will often pick up plastics too and have no real way of knowing what it is without mouthing it first. This is why feeding is so important and getting the right balance because they’re pigs.

Barbel are renowned for their gill feeding (which I believe the Carp are too), often picking up gravel and sand and dispose of anything inedible through their gills, the unique way in which they do this suggests to me that it makes up for other Barbel’s inadequacies like eyesight. I explained this in Part 1 regarding us, humans that if a man/women is blind they can often hear ten times better than what we can. The way in which Barbel feed makes them eat and eat because of the competitive nature of these fish, and mouth anything that’s there on the bed of a river or even in front of them, as this would be the only way in my opinion that Barbel would distinguish food to non food items if no scent was involved. Maybe their sight isn’t that bad as we think, who knows?

It’s a complex issue and one I may elaborate on further in the future but these tests and the way they feed, searching the bottom scouring for food and hoovering up pellets and hemp made me think about how a bait is best presented to them. Whether that is float or feeder, I believe I have come closer to finding the answers to make me catch whenever and whatever conditions I am faced with in general. Providing of course Barbel are in the swim. If you have read Part 2 then you will realise that a lot of my methods are generally ‘different‘ should we say, than the conventional way of tying rigs or mounting bait. Although the pop up started from that DVD I have found it invaluable to my fishing and one I believe, changed the way I have fished for Barbel since on a feeder or leger.

Float fishing is different entirely however, yes we are presenting a bait naturally skipping along the bottom on a stick float, and yes we hold it back some times to make that bait ‘flutter’ and it induces takes. We know all this so what’s wrong with this approach? Well the surface current whizzes our float along the river, much faster in fact than the bottom flow. The surface current whizzes our float along, much faster than the bottom flow.

It’s simple really!

What if we hold back the float in the current? Now your thinking hook and float are travelling at the same speed. Wrong!

This is the mistake made by most novice and inexperienced stick float fishermen. A mistake which ruins their presentation and does not get their bait acting naturally and ultimately ends up in them fishless, then they sequentially go back to tiddler bashing in the margins.

They’ve forgotten the line between float and hook.

Think what’s happening beneath the surface. The float is slowed down, the baited hook is down in the slow water at the bottom, but the current still rips at the line between them, causing the line to bow between float and baited hook. Thus causing the hook to lift off the bottom, into the stronger flow above. That’s not what we want at all.

There is ways of addressing these problems with stick floats and of course it catches Barbel and many other species too. I have found however a float presentation that catches more or puts more Barbel in your net and ultimately offers you the kind of presentation you need when Barbel fishing, even in the strongest of flows and the best thing of all you don’t have to keep casting out to do it.

Then came the Cralusso ‘Surf’!

If nobody has seen these before here’s what they look like:

These floats are quite remarkable and have changed the way I float fish for Barbel forever, I believe. You can literally work your float down the swim at whatever pace you desire and even stop it dead in a fast flow and will not spoil any presentation between float and hook (no bow). The main reason for using these floats is versatility it has over stick floats, you can do so much more with them than you can of any stick float in your box. I have used the “Cralusso Torpedo” on the pole for big Bream hauls, I have used the “Cralusso Rocket” for big carp and to the relevance of this article had multiple catches of Barbel using rod and line using the “Cralusso Surf”.

These floats really are amazing that do have to be seen to be believed. They range from 3 to 40gr but there are certainly not any rivers in this country worthy of using one that big. I use between 6 and 8gr which suits the majority of flow and depth on the Trent. This way of float fishing for Barbel is unique in this country, the inventor I believe is Hungarian and until recently little or nobody had ever heard of them. These floats can be put where you want, under overhanging trees, close to a margin etc and stay there. I fish this with a fixed olivette of required weight about 2 inches above the bottom along with a BB either side and 1 or 2 droppers (No.6) on the hook length depending on the flow speed. I will also use hook length of 1 to 3ft depending on flow also, 3ft being used in the strongest flow etc. Here’s how the Cralusso float will surf on a river with good flow:

I will feed in the same way as I would when stick float fishing, putting 20 to 30 grains of hemp and pellets every three minutes or so while working my swim every two to three minutes by paying out an inch or two of line, thus working the swim and locating the fish all the time. That’s what I love about this method. The main advantage over the feeder is simply that this float method will locate the fish if the Barbel are unwilling to move from their cover i.e. on hot, sunny and clear days you are able to put the float exactly where you want it, it is also much more sensitive than a feeder. Added to this the way of presentation would have been rarely seen by any Barbel so will not spook on the way it’s presented. What you must have is a constant flow, it’s no good fishing in a ‘crease’ with this float you must have that flow to enable the float to work as it should and that flow should be a walking pace to a swift walking pace, or any pace that’s consistent. I also use my Barbel 12ft 1.75 t/c rod when using these floats (Bit over gunned but they do the job). I am predominantly fishing close in some 15ft from the bank so the use for a longer rod is not necessary, but for longer range fishing I have a 20ft Maver rod. This can literally hold my float out in the middle of the river, even in a flood and it won’t come back in to your own bank like a normal stick float would. I am sure you could find many articles or indeed find out more about the floats if you are interested.

Predominately all my Barbel float work is done via these floats and will be showing you exactly how I fish them and what I catch in Part 5 but for now we’ll move on….

I want to re-emphasize the importance of feeding when float fishing, a lot of mistakes I see anglers making are basic, so basic that it’s hard to believe they catch anything at all. You must feed every three to four minutes or every run through, little and often. Barbel will feed eventually. I see too many anglers dump 15kg of bait out straight away then wonder why they’ve caught nothing, do they think that 15kg will stay on the river bed? I am truly and utterly amazed sometimes by the lack of thought for the fishes welfare sometimes by the minority of anglers. I have been on the tidal Trent many times enjoying my relaxing day, when I turn around to see someone tackling up and getting this massive sack out the car. What they did next was staggering to say the least. They proceeded to dump all of this bait out including 10kg of Boilies and 10kg of Hemp into the river all in at once. One of the blokes came over and asked if I had caught much and then went on to tell me they were there for a few days and he just put 20 Kg of Boilies and Hemp into the river and went on to say he was going to be doing this every day. I told him what that would do to the fish by putting this amount of bait in all at once and he seemed totally ignorant to the fact. Boilies will and do fill Barbel up quicker than say pellets because boilies do not break down as quick and they do take a while to pass through a Barbel’s system (up to 2 or 3 days). Those anglers are spoiling it for the anglers of tomorrow and either they’re oblivious to this fact or they just don’t care, personally I think it’s the former.

Whilst the minority seem to be totally ignorant to the fishes welfare there’s another minority of others that just don’t feed at all (this makes up the other quarter). You must keep a steady stream going in and this will bring fish into your swim. I have found that half of the people I have seen or met fish for Barbel or Chub in this way. Then the British way is too blame everyone else but themselves (We all do it if we’re honest with ourselves).

Float fishing for Barbel is very exciting and very rewarding, yet get looked at strangely or so much so that I am getting told by anglers that come over for a chat to get on the feeder. I have proved many of them wrong, many, many times because this method is not like any other way of fishing. I can guarantee it would revolutionise Barbel fishing if more people used it. Barbel are not used to being fished for in this way so never feel that anything is abnormal when taking your bait. Barbel are pressured and are wary sometimes because they’ve been fished for in the same place, in the same way and caught on the same baits for years. This tactic however is so diverse that baits are changed regular (I use meatballs as a change bait) and the method is so different, that it becomes rare that Barbel have seen or even been caught on it before.

Unfortunately we are slow as British anglers, or people for that matter to cotton on to what works in Europe, and where this method originated in Hungary it has accounted for many, many Barbel. So much so that they exclusively use this method for Barbel on their rivers along with the “Torpedo”, and the feeder is seldom used. Maybe because we as people do not like change and we stick to what we are used to and being out our comfort zone is something we don’t feel comfortable with, I am guilty of this myself. When I looked at using these floats I was very sceptical at first that it would actually do the job it stated on the packet but after a while of using and getting used to the method I wondered why I hadn’t done it earlier. They are a very powerful weapon in my armoury when targeting Barbel and when your peg is right and you have the right flow in front of you this is a killer method.

I will normally plumb up via a pole and get the depth spot on then set-up my rod and line respectively, normally placing my loop on my main line to where the bottom is situated and then attach my hook length of the desired length via the loop-to-loop knot and placing a shot at the top of the hook length to stop it wafting around. The method itself sounds pretty complicated but once you get to grips with it then it will change the way you approach these fast flowing river Barbel for sure.

They will work in all manner of depths and all manner of flow/current scenarios. In part 5, I will be showing you how to get the best from these floats and explaining the set-up in more detail. Float fishing in this way has many, many benefits especially from swims that hardly ever see a float. It is also possible to fish on the pole using a “Torpedo” also from cralusso and this can be an exciting method also. I have only used it once for Barbel however so don’t feel at liberty to speak on the benefits but holding it stationary in strong flows certainly has its reasons to be interested in taking the method and approach further in my fishing and one I will maybe write another article on in the near future.

Now a little of what to expect in the next article:

In Part 5 I intend to fish a stretch on the Trent that has been very productive for me over the past few seasons, the fish I am targeting reside there, which are not only the most difficult spots to find but also the most productive. There is also many visitors to this area also, in this I am not saying all the Barbel get together and say “Lets throw a party” I am simply saying this area does bring fish in from other parts of the river because of where the casting area is situated and what features are above and below the surface. It will not be somewhere I will disclose on an open forum and pictures will be cropped to not give too much away. I will not disclose somewhere that has been very prolific for me and have every Tom, Dick and Harry turning up and fishing a spot I have worked damn hard to find, thus making it impossible for me to enjoy any more fishing from. This is one of my favourite areas. These sorts of areas are not common and are very thin on the ground on the Trent so I hope you will understand. The reason why it’s so productive will be explained in Part 5 and here I plan to do all the article stuff during the day and show you the fish I catch and then because I will be night fishing, I will just show you the pics of the fish I caught during the night, if any, lol.

This will be the first segment and Feeder fishing.

The second segment will be at East Bridgford and Float fishing on the Nottingham Anglers book. I will not crop any pictures here as the pegs are pretty much consistent from the weir to the car park I have found. It promises to be an excellent article with lots that you can take from it and put into your own style of fishing and change or refine the way you approach Barbel on a feeder or on a float. As well as this, giving you lots of tips and helpful advice along the way. Look out for “Two Days Barbel fishing with Myself”.
Until then tight lines.