The Floats Page

I'm not obesessed, just very very interested. There's going to be all sorts here; notes of making, fiddling, rescuing and a gallery of the favourites. I mostly stick with quill floats, making half a dozen at a go while 'at my desk'. It's something to occupy the hands and as a result I have dozens of unused floats. The more adventurous turn fine floats from balsa and cork, but I'm a bit too lazy to organise that and I'm not much of a river fisher. While I'm the first to admit a good float will have an ascetic quality, I could care about inlaid feathers, materials that don't actually work in use OAOak apples might be a good example. I made a couple of perch floats with oak-apples and they looked fine, but fished like dogs. The near spherical profile caused them to bounce about like a jolly-boat in a light swell. Pity. A much longer stem under the water might have stabilised them, but I've since moved on. I have recently seen some nice little bobbers made with acorns in their cups that I really want to try making as they look terrific...I just hope they 'work'.  and gloss finishes that will withstand a blast of no.6 shot from a 12-bore. If I have guiding principles they are that (1) the float must 'work', a vague property that can result in two floats made apparently 'the same' being rapidly seperated into the categories of 'user' and 'spare' and (2) the notion that if I were to 'release a float into the wild' that someone finding it five years later would still be able to use it and (3) not having to worry about a float being 'released inot the wild'.

I don't consider floats "art". Some float-makers, who are trained artists, incorporate artworks onto their floats and very very fine they look. However, the craft required for making nice floats is for the most part, pretty basic if satisfying work. It's worth reading the "Floatmaker's Manual" by Bill Watson as nearly everything you need to know is in there. Don't be put off by notions of great and mystical skill being required to turn out fine floats. Those of us who can make a decent float have simply done it a lot and refined our methods as we went along. Just have a go.

Feel free to plagiarise from this page if you do it for fun or for charity, good luck. If you sell the floats on FleaBay or anywhere else for profit, then a plague on your house and the houses of all your descendants and may the fleas of a thousand camels infest your hairy parts for all eternity. gitI concede by providing some free advice I've made it possible for some to profit, but it's really not at my expense...  Those who beg or prise help out of others and then proceed to operate a business without so much as an acknowledgement are pretty low types. There is a further line to tread here - if 'some chap' shows his latest home-made floats on a forum as a private individual, I'd be the last to be disparaging, as that's just good manners. However, if you are in business selling floats, then one is free to make any justified criticism, that's called 'feedback' and is part of being 'in business'. It is anachronistic that one can be in business selling "traditional fishing tackle" and expect to be free from any criticism as a matter of course. ffsSo for example, I consider varnished feathers in a working float to be quite pointless. Not (quite) as mad as paying someone else £5 for a highly varnished and 'no.6 shot-proof' porcupine quill though.

Anyhoo...

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Fishing Floats  Favourite Floats.

What makes a favourite float? It's hard to pin down, and can be something that just looks right, works right or is associated with some great angling event or memory. All of these things can be mutually exclusive. A favourite float might be rubbish in its primary function (mine aren't, naturally), but once fluked an unlikely result. Or vice versa.

Anyhoo. Here is a gallery of mine to date. These are all on my list for no good reason, but I've recorded the reason anyway...

small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up...(and return to the top of the page) small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and wait for it... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and wait for it... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and wait for it... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and wait for it... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and wait for it... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and one more time... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...got it?

Fishing Floats  Float-Making Tools.

You'll need;

I can make more than half of the floats in my collection using just those things. Optional and very useful are:

A decent wodge of expanded polythene packing foam is handy, there's half a wooden ruler rammed through the foam so I can bulldog-clip it to a handy shelf. There is a selection of handy holes in the top, floats for the insertion of, simple paper-clip hooks around the edge for dangling part painted floats on.

Some folk like scarlet, but I'm addicted to fluorescent orange, green, scarlet and pink. Matt colours work better for tips in use - glossed colours reflect all light rather too well, instead of the colour you want to be able to see and fluorescent paints are deigned to absorb and re-emit light, glossed varnish cuts down the absorption - so for best effectiveness, don't varnish over the tips.

If you prefer to varnish over the tips, feel free - they look nice like that - I opt for better visibility in the water. For me asthetics are in the fitness for function and so a glossed float-tip actually looks ugly.

Not so very common carpI am content to wait. I am well used to it...(and back to the top of the page) Not so very common carpa very subtil fish Not so very common carpWatch for magpies on your path. Throw salt over your left shoulder. Walk around ladders. Not so very common carpif you will Fish for a Carp, you must put on a very large measure of patience Not so very common carpI am content to wait. I am well used to it.

Fishing Floats  Float-Making Materials.

Quills are good, from almost any feathers one can find jack...but have a care, it's illegal to own, even by finding, a heron feather for example... . And porcupines' pqThat's porcupines' quills, not actual porcupines. That'd be silly. . Other float making materials are available of course, but if they're not mentioned here it's because I've not yet bothered to either (1) use them or (2) bothered to write it down.

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Fishing Floats Porcupine Quills. These can be obtained (legally) on internet auction sites and boot-sales and the like. Don't pay more than £1 a quill ever. Anything under 6" is unlikely to be of any real use for making a float and even old painted floats are generally very easy to clean up and repaint.

The shape varies quite a bit and I've got a couple which are 'natural' insert tips as well as a lot of variations on that theme, plus colour banding variations. They are tough and dense. Cutting them needs to be done with a knife-edged jewellers file as using a knife tends to split them. They can be glued with cyanoacrylate glue, which sets like concrete on this kind of material. Even on quills with split ends, blobs of 'super-glue' will, in a few minutes, allow you to saw the top off flush. With care it is possible to remove one end or the other and using a pin-vice with a small drill bit, open a hole up to insert pieces of cane. More on that down the page.

Fishing Floats Crow Quills. There's a lot of talk about using crow quills for floats - the only quills that make useful floats are the true wing primaries from a crow - those from a jackdaw or rook look inviting, but once de-barbed and cut down are almost always too small to be useful. Hint: "One rook is a crow, lots of crows are rooks."

I imagine raven feathers are good, if I get hold of some I'll let you know.

Fishing Floats Goose Quills. Another off-touted favourite. They come in a lot of different sizes from large to very large and do make for a nice material but are substantial, often 5-7mm in diameter at the thick (root) end and with a pronounced curve - I don't mind a slight curve. A big primary will make floats you can trot a stream with, but I prefer to cut those down to 4-8" and make margin floats out of them. Quite greasy, need cleaning before varnishing or painting.

Small ones make terrific 2/3/4 BB floats, are very buoyant and also make reasonable light trotting floats, like sticks. Wing primaries are huge - you can make loafer type floats out of these or even honking honkSee what I did there?  great stret-peggers or even dead-bait floats.

Fishing Floats Seagull Quills. These are not often considered, but if you live near the sea it's easy to collect copious amounts in a very short time. They can be up to 12" in length, are slender (compared with goose quills) and quite straight. I like them. Mine.

Fishing Floats Pheasant Quills. Cock-bird tail feathers can be wonderfully long and straight, I've made a couple of floats 12" long (just because I could). While they make nice floats and are some of my favourites, the tip (root) end is short compared with others - it's not so much of a problem for painting, although it does restrict the coloured area a bit, but the slenderness of the rest of the quill means, that often a pheasant quill which is nicely cocked to the eye with (say) a 'BB', will often support another without quite sinking.

It is said that inverted pheasant quills make really sensitive antennae floats - maybe so - but firstly the thin end is flimsy and any paint will always be cracking off if left rattling about and secondly, I've yet to make an inverted quill which fished well - while conceding that 'might just be me', after a few tries with goose and pheasant quills, I've not made any more.

Fishing Floats Pigeon Quills. The wing primaries and longest tail feathers can be used to make a neat and tiny margin float, but that's about it. 6/0 thread only...

Fishing Floats Other Quills. I've made the odd float out of buzzard and peacock quills, but theres nothing to really commend the former over (say) seagull and I find the latter the most overrated float making material.

If you want to use peacock quill go right ahead of course - the simplest way to colour the stuff I've found is to rub down with '000' grade emery and then colour the quill with a 'sharpie' of any colour that suits and then varnish, using thinned varnish first, as described elsewhere. Like other quills, cyranoacrylate glues work very well with this stuff.

Fishing Floats Cane. 3mm diameter cane is easy to find, mostly disguised as 'bamboo skewers' in supermarkets. This is good for stems and tips. For finer tips, bamboo cocktail sticks in 2mm diameters and less can also be found in cooking shops and supermarkets and can hardly be got cheaper.

For very fine antennae's 1.2mm cane (obtained via on-line auction sites) is about the right thickness for sensible use. I tried bamboo toothpicks I got from a local Chinese supermarket and while they are cheap, the cross-section was not even or round so they are only used for mixing glue now.

4mm cane is useful for float tips, especially for river floats, where the the need for visiblity trumps 'super sensitivity'.

Fishing Floats Carbon-Fibre and Glass-Fibre Stems. For light floats with a long stem under the water this is hard to beat. Glass is heavier and will give you better stability if that matters to you. I made some long stemmed lift floats with carbon stems and loaded them with solder wire - glass might well have saved me that job. You can buy this stuff on a well know internet auction site.

Fishing Floats Balsa Wood.

Fishing Floats Cork. I've made very few cork floats - I've always used champagne corks for the quality and have done quite well by mounting them on a long Allen key (with the short bit cut off) and then put it in a drill and shape using a 'surform' initially and sandpaper when they're almost done. The hex section of the Allen key keeps the cork form revolving on its spindle when being shaped.

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Fishing Floats  How to Make Quill Floats.

Firstly, cut off the bits you don't need. Generally once the quill diameter gets to about 1½-2mm it's too thin to work or to have any strength. I use the Opinel No.7 for this and cut straight through the quill by placing it on a board and 'rolling' the knife through the quill in one go, in order to get a square-cut end.

Snip off the barbs as close as possible to the quill body using very sharp scissors, while holding the feather over a bin in order to reduce the possibility of domestic strife. Then using the Opinel No.7, scrape off as much of the barbs as possible. It is possible to 'shave' 95% of the material off smooth. Rotating the quill a little this way and that helps and there is something of a knack to be picked up in doing this fast and well. If using something like the Opinel No.7 with its carbon-steel edge, it can help to hone the edge a little over to one side of true. Practise is important. I recommend not using your 'best ever found quill' for your first attempt.

Then scrape the top layer of the root end away, this is especially greasy on goose quills, and if required tidy up the tip, which can be a little ragged. Give the quill a polish with the '000' paper to remove the shine on the shiny outside spine of the quill and a quick stroke or two down the remains of the barbs. I'd suggest not going too bonkers here - varnishing the remains of any tiny stubs then sanding them off is a good a way as any to get a mirror finish if it matters to you woaI don't subscribe to the idea of floats being works of art - unless you are a proper artist and have drawn an actual work-of-art on the side - the whole shiny varnish-it-to-within-a-mil-of-its-plimsol-line and 'inlaid feather schtick' leaves me faintly bemused. .

Then clean the quill with washing-up liquid using an old or cheap toothbrush to completely degrease it. Rinse well, pat dry with kitchen towel and dry on radiator overnight. That may seem extreme, but paint is only as good as the key to the surface of the first coat - feather quills are greasy, shiny and hardly absorbent - take care over this bit and everything will turn out fine.

If the tip is to be painted, give the quill a coat of thinned yacht varnish, about 60/40 using white spirit. Hint: keep a few old milk carton caps, transfer varnish into them with a brush, seal the lid back on the tin and store upside down. Then put in white spirit using a drinking straw until the mix is about right, it's not critical - the idea is that the thinnned varnish keys to the surface better and get into all the nooks and crannies as well. The reason for using bottle top caps for small amounts is that long term, white spirit in yacht varnish changes the composition somewhat and it eventually sets to a kind of gel, going through a long and expensive 'lumpy stage'.

It is as well to be very very sure the lid is on tight before storing a tin of varnish up-side down...

Stick the quill(s) in the piece of foam to dry for 24 hours - I stick the thin end in, I don't worry much about the bit stuck in the foam, as an eye will be whipped onto that bit and then varnished over. When the varnish is dry, sandpaper lightly to remove any last barbs. Give it a second coat of varnish, but this time up end it and varnish the bottom end down, leaving the root end of the quill stuck in the foam.

Make an eye by winding a piece of 8lb/14lb/20lb Alisticum or brass picture wire around a thick needle or drill shank - soemthing about the same diameter of the quill it's disitned for. I have an old baiting needle which I took the barb off, and as the shank tapers it is ideal for this. I found it bobbing on the windward side of Jubilee Lake in about 1990, and have never used it, except for this purpose. See picture for the rings.

Make the ring's legs around 12mm and 15mm - this difference in leg length eases the whipping task. With brass wire, squeezing the end of the 'legs' flat, perhaps even using a nail-board to taper this right off is a good idea, with alasticum, which is steel, use a pair of wire cutters to ensure the bevelled cut is parallel to the quill surface and de-burr is a tad with a nail-board. These last two things seem a bit obsessive, but they save whipping an eye almost on and then having the thread cut by the wire, especially with 'A' grade thread or finer.

The next bit is tricky. Hold the ring on the end of the float - I hold in my right hand. I ensure that I grip the end of the thread (A grade, black), as well, and then wind a loose spiral to the eyed end, and then whip back up the float keeping the turns tight, but not over tight. If you crush the quill under the whipping it's ruined really. There's a knack to this and practise makes etc.

Take the left hand around the float, keeping the float still. When I've got about halfway down the eye, I pinch the whipping with my left hand and use the scissors to trim the end near to the whipping. Swap the grip back and continue the whipping about 2-3mm past the end of the longest leg of the eye. Now you have two choices - make a nice spiral up the float to the 'iffy bit' iffyThis join between the quill and the barbs is tradationally 'weak' but I find it anything but, as a joint between two materials of different construction it's really rather well engineered. , where the hard quill meets the start of the barbs and whip over this to reinforce it, or finish the whipping there.

I swap the right hand to the bottom of the float (whipping end) and spiral the thread up to this weak point and then whip over it with close turns and whip finish by whipping in a loop or the same thread (a different colour helps) for six turns and pulling the end back through. 2lb mono is very good for this 'pull through', but 'Fireline' in 8lb is better as it's got a flattish cross-section and doesn't break so easily...

Adjust the spirals to suit, even them up if you like. Ok. Release breath. Thinned varnish from the eye downwards it should soak into the whippings and don't worry too much about varnishing the eye shut, you can soon open it up again. 24 hours, and one more coat or varnish for luck. Twenty-four hours back on the radiator.

As for colours and patterns, personally I find that dark colours look best on a light quill, dark green, garnet, black. I've put all sort of spirals on quills and again, while it's completely subjective, I prefer to intersperse six-turn blocks with wide or narrow spiralled sections. no reason, but I like the look of them. I never bother with measuring spacing (but feel free if you have the time and inclination) and tidy up the lay afterwards with a piece of plastic card.

There. Already looking nice. Now for the tip. A tip for the tip is to have a different brush for each colour - this keeps thing nice. The tiniest amount of black (or any colour) in the white/orange/yellow will spoil it.

  • Painted Tips
  • Decide how long you want the coloured bit overall (orange plus white). When I started out on this 'hobby' I painted much bigger tips on the floats than now, no idea why. I feel that smaller is better looking and quills are so buoyant that you seldom need over an inch out of the water, except possible porcupine quills. I've got floats out of boot sales with 2" tips, but my advice is to go for smaller that you think you need.

    Apply a coat of white matt to the tip (I use a humbrol modelling matt white, but any would do, tester pots of the latest 'really really white' from local DIY store for example)) and ensure you get the little hollow in the end. Dry upside down on paperclip hooks, stuck in the same foam chunk wedged on the end of a book shelf, newspaper under. The key to a straight edge is to hold the brush still and turn the float. Honest.

    If the paint is dripping off, remove the drips with the brush, but if it's dripping there's too much paint. 24 hours. Repeat the white coat. 24 hours...

    For small quills I leave about 5mm white and for large 10mm. Not that it matters, they're for pleasure after all. I hold the brush steady and rotate the float to put a line where I want it. Then holding the float, tip down, brush a coat of orange over the white. Dry upside down. These tip colours are easily contaminated, so you can end up with streaks and blobs of odd colours in the mix - this is why the separate brushes.

    OK your floats will now look like this (well more or less). Now, with the thinnest brush (a size XX rigger), run a ring of black around the joint between the orange and white and the start of the white. Steady hand required. Practise is good, but real quills are not very round which doesn't help...the best tip I can give you here, is be quick and keep both hand supported by something solid, like the edge of a desk. I don't do this...being a philistine, I add my black edging to colour bands using a black 'sharpie', this does a fine job.

    This is the last stage. I give the whole thing another 48 hours on the radiator, and 48 in the lean-to to get some open-air curing and some UV on them, then I stick them in the box.

    Longwinded eh? Each stage in this process is really quite quick. In 20 minutes (at most) an evening, you can turn out a 20 or so nice floats in a week and saddo that I am there are always four or five floats hanging about my desk in various stage of construction. Even with big lily patches, that'll make enough small quills for a seasons' carp fishing.

    'BB'it's lead free, honest...(and back to the top of the page) 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p 'BB'it's lead free, honest 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p 'BB'it's lead free, honest 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p 'BB'it's lead free, honest 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p 'BB'it's lead free, honest 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p 'BB'it's lead free, honest 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p 'BB'it's lead free, honest 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p 'BB'it's lead free, honest 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p 'BB'it's lead free, honest 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p

    Fishing Floats  A Note on Tip Colours.

    I've concluded after considerable bu**ering about that there are only a few colour schemes worth bothering with (at least for my eyes).

    1. Flouro orange contrasted with flouro yellow (looks naff, very very visible)
    2. Flouro orange contrasted with matt white
    3. Flouro green contrasted with white.
    4. Flouro pink.
    5. Flouro blue if you can find some

    For "regular" tips;

    For bird quills a fluorescent pink tip (translucent) takes a lot of beating, whichever direction the light is coming from. I find this the best all round colour/tip for visibility and use them more and more.

    A solid orange tip with a single yellow band of about a quarter of the length of the colour band, about a quarter of the length down from the tip, edged with black.

    A solid green tip with a single white band of about a quarter of the length of the colour band, about a quarter of the length down from the tip, edged with black.

    For antennae, I stripe on about a 1 cm pitch and edge the stripe with a thin black line, which seems to help. Despite what folk say, I've hardly ever found a black tip of any use (but always have a black and red sharpie in my bag). Yellow tips on their own, flouro or not, never seem any better than the colours above. Or at all, ever. Very occasionally, I use a 'sunken' antennae float made with cork balls with a lot of flouro yellow about it, so I can see it when it's just under the water. Other than these two, I've not painted a float tip yellow for years and probably never will.

    The much vaunted scarlet/red colour, which looks lovely on the bank and in the box, seldom is of any use at all. I always have a few about though and if the light is right put them on for the look of them, but they very often come off again if the sun goes in. I have noticed the slightest tendency for fluorescent tipped floats to spook carp and in those situations the red seems to work better - it's about the same colour as a ripe haw berry.

    I've been known to fish whole days with two 8mm cork balls on the line, secured with float stops, and I colour one red and one black with the aforementioned indelible pens. This is quite visible at surprisingly long ranges, although there is a tendency for carp to give the balls an experimental suck. bjOnce again I must refer to the Geneva Comedy Convention. Normally at this point the Convention obliges one to say "Oo-err, Missus", ideally while mimicing Frankie Howard. I leave this as an optional exercise for the reader. No tittering. "Titter ye not", in fact...

    I suspect that a light fluorescent blue would be very good indeed most days, but all attempts to use highlighters in this respect have been disappointing...but I don't make one of every colour of every type. Madness lies that way...although it's a little late in the day to notice that.

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    Fishing Floats  Quill Looped Eyes.

    Many of us have seen those old quills where the end of the quill is shaved to a sliver and bent back over to make an eye for the attachment to the line. This looks nice and is oddly satisfying, so this is how you make them.

    Decide where you want the eye and ensure there is an inch of quill past that point. Using a very sharp knife, cut through the quill from the side at an angle of about 45 degrees. Then cut along the spine of the quill to remove the excess, which should leave a long 'tang' of quill. Tidy this up by scraping along the inner flat with the SVSK. Cut the end of the 'tang' to a point and then rub the outside down to a flat taper with a nail board. There.

    Decide what kind of metal fixing you'd like to add. Small swivels are nice, but probably too heavy for small floats and rig-rings are good. You can buy these cheap on ebay and they are fine for this purpose. Put the 'attachment' over the 'tang' and fold the 'tang' back over the quill, around a piece of cane placed against the cut. This ensures a round bend. If you're happy with the overall position and bend etc., put water proof cyanoacrylate on the rear surface, bend the tang over and clamp it flat unit it's set. If you've used you fingers, peel the skin off later.

    Keratin is tough stuff, but I glue a short piece of old dyneema braid around the outside of the 'bend' and then whip over the whole thing as for a metal eye and then put thinned varnish over the whipping, ensure I get inside the 'eye' and the reinforcing braid, then hang it up to dry.

    La Morinais carpa very subtil fish...(and back to the top of the page) La Morinais carpWatch for magpies on your path. Throw salt over your left shoulder. Walk around ladders. La Morinais carpif you will Fish for a Carp, you must put on a very large measure of patience La Morinais carpI am content to wait. I am well used to it. La Morinais carpif you will Fish for a Carp, you must put on a very large measure of patience La Morinais carpI am content to wait. I am well used to it. La Morinais carpI am content to wait. I am well used to it. La Morinais carpa very subtil fish La Morinais carpWatch for magpies on your path. Throw salt over your left shoulder. Walk around ladders. La Morinais carpif you will Fish for a Carp, you must put on a very large measure of patience

    Fishing Floats  Glued-in Wire Float Eyes.

    On cane stems, a 1mm hole bored in the end can be used to set a neat eye. Take one's alasticum wire, wind it twice around the needle of the right thickness and then twist the ends with a pair of pliers until you have about 1cm of tightly twisted wire and a very neat eye indeed. Trim the twisted section of with cutters, apply liberal waterproof cyanoacrylate and put in the hole, so the eye is right against the end of the cane. Allow to dry and then varnish as ever...

    This also works well with brass wire.

    Porcupine antenna and insert floats

    This can be a tad awkward to get right the first time or two. First pick your insert cane. You then need to decide where to cut your porcy quill. I go for the point where the cross section is about 1-1.5mm greater that of the cane. I then cut the quill at this point. I have two methods for doing this without splintering the quill, the first is to use a knife edge jeweller's file and cut around the quill with it until the tip start to come away, or to roll the quill on the bench with the VSSK pressed onto the top surface, until it cut's through. Don't press too hard...

    I then put a drill bit in a pin-vice, which is the same nominal diameters as the cane, for 1mm cane, a 1mm drill...I run that into the body, it can be awkward to get it exactly centred, however when I've got a cm (for 1mm) to 2cm (for 2mm) into the body, I offer up my cane and mark the cane where it enters the quill with a pencil to ensure its all the way in (bear with me).you may have to fettle a bit to get it straight and central.

    Put water-proof Loctite on the cane to the pencil mark and quickly insert it into the porcy to the pencil mark. If you hesitate the glue will key and you'll have to figure out what to do next yourself. At this point if you don't like the angle of the cane you can steam it and bend it. Then, assuming you've dried your steam cane on a warm radiator, it's the usual thinned varnish and so on.

    I've got a number of these, the most useful of which have long thin antennae, which make very good lift floats for crucian fishing.

    To do the same for regular quills is kind of easier (easier to make the hole) and kind of harder (as the hole opens up past the very tip, so there's not much support for the cane insert. I've done a couple and they work fine, but I'm not completely mad about them. I plan to make some cane tips that are about 3mm diameter for seagull quill floats. I'll post those when I make them.

    The Lady of the StreamThe Lady of the Stream...(and back to the top of the page) Thymallus ThymallusThymallus Thymallus The Lady of the StreamThe Lady of the Stream Thymallus Thymallusgrayling The Lady of the StreamThe Lady of the Stream Thymallus ThymallusThymallus Thymallus The Lady of the Streamgrayling Thymallus ThymallusThymallus Thymallus

    Fishing Floats  Porcupine Quill Floats with Bird Quill Tips.

    Why? Why not - this give a little more buoyancy to the tip, so handy in a bit of a chop of current as well as allowing you to put a translucent tip on a porcy. And they look nice.

    Pick out your pocry's. Select bird quills that have the length of tip you need and with a diameter that will fit over the quill. I do this by eye and sort out later. Cut off the bird quill top, using a jeweller's knife file, working around the quill until you are through. Pull out the inner bit of the quill tip, which is best accomplished with an old baiting needle. Then offer it to the porcy and see if it slips down to the right point, more or less. At this time, you might take a look at the alignment of the tip, most porcy's have a slight curve and rotating the tip until it looks 'just right' is worth doing. Then with the tip of the porcy, steam the quill tip until it's warm and ease it very gentle a little further up the porcy. Be careful not to split it, the idea here is to use the softened quill and a little pressure to get an exactly round fit on the porcy.

    When this is done, the alignment if right, dry it and where the quill tip reaches on the procy and also mark the orientation. a pencil or fine line indelible pen are fine for this. Then you remove the tip and cut the end of the porcy, leaving enough porcy for a 1cm joint. Put a smear of waterproof superglue on the cut tip of the porcy to seal it, then put more glue on the 1cm section and orientating the tip to the right alignment slip it quickly on to the pencil mark. See why we mark the alignment and distance first now?

    There are two more things to do. The first is to rub the edge of the bird quill tip down a tad - the second is to colour the tip as you like, as you would for an quill float.

    These float behave better in undertow or a slight ripple, but also are better for casting, the light tip tends to 'follow' the heavier body on a long cast, so the big problem with porcys, that they go 'end-over-end' on casting and tangle, goes away. And they look nice. Have I mentioned that?

    'BB'it's lead free, honest...(and back to the top of the page) 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p 'BB'it's lead free, honest 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p 'BB'it's lead free, honest 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p 'BB'it's lead free, honest 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p 'BB'it's lead free, honest 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p 'BB'it's lead free, honest 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p 'BB'it's lead free, honest 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p 'BB'it's lead free, honest 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p 'BB'it's lead free, honest 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p

    Fishing Floats  Some JAA-Made Floats. I'm still building and shaping this page...

    ...but in the meantime below are all the diary entries concerning floats and float-making.

     Fishing Floats2009 1st November 2009. 30 minutes of removing cobwebs by walking on the sea shore at Hamworthy Lido furnishes me with enough seagull quills to make about 40 floats. With this embarrassment of riches I'm planning on dying the quills and steaming them all straight.

     Fishing Floats2010 3rd January 2010. The Porcupine Quill Float.

    For some of us past a certain age, amongst our first set of meagre tackle there were only a few floats, if you were lucky...but how many do you really need? Unencumbered with the today's mandatory profusion of wagglers, puddle chuckers, dibbers and duckers, it's a miracle we caught anything.

    In the olden days I had three (floats). A spectacular black painted 9" antenna, for proper fishing, the big porcupine quill and the small porcupine quill. For two years that was it. The small one was used for almost everything and took about one No 6 shot. The big quill looked fine, but I never cast that far and as for the antennae, well, it was just for looking at and dreaming.

    The small one, battle-scarred, fished with me for years and still is one of the many kept around the place. The top was ORANGE. That's like orange but really loud. Jolly red-tipped quills are the thing for some, but all my early 'porcys' were ORANGE, so I stick with it. Fished 'top-and-bottom' with a float band it caught fish in streams and lakes with equal luck. For perch I fished near the bottom but if I'd a few maggots, then solder wire (liberated from Dad's toolbox) around the quill base made a self-cocker. I'd cast 25 yards (the furthest achievable with my 7' solid glass rod and Intrepid Challenger) at rising rudd in 'White HouseCorrectly 'Llyn Treflesg' created in the late 1930's' lake in AngleseyThe Isle of Anglesey. These impossible jewels, compared with our bog-standard 2oz perch, were never large, but still felt more of a prize. More worthy, almost proper fishing.

    The same float caught my first tench, 1½lbs of stunned tinca, yanked Polaris like, out of the reedy margin of Carnau LakeAnother lake dug from marsh and old history, (the only tench caught that year by anyone in the club). Also my first perch, roach, rudd, eel, brown trout, sea trout, stickleback and flounder. Very possibly my first gudgeon, ruffe and bleak as well, but it's hard to recall.

    This one below in fact, the eye formed with copper wire scrounged from a junction box. The tip was repainted a bit back, but it's retired for now.

    The Porcupine Quill FloatLiterally hundreds of small perch, dozens of roach, rudd and eels plus a few flounders, brown trout and sea-trout

    This was my staple float, but then used a home made sliding 'porcy' to catch my second, third and fourth tench"Should have been twice that number...blasted jolly-boat. in 12' of water with a 9' rod. Then, in 1979 I read 'Stillwater Angling' and may be wrong, but the great man panned them as overrated. So I put them aside and used 'proper floats' for some time. But the old habits of youth have a way of embedding life-long and I kept a few, bought a few. And then I thought, well, "Who cares? I like them".

    I admit that 'porcys' fished 'top-and-bottom' and flayed at the horizon, do tend to tangle. They're not good river floats, except for gentle gudgeon swims, unless you stick a cork around the middle or make a tip with a goose quill and they are not good shot carriers, being quite dense.

    On the upside, they are pleasing to look at and robust and cast well with little shot. And, much, much more to the point, I like them. When I've got fiddling-time, I strip, whip, paint and tinker, no idea why. If you like, you can overcome the downsides with inserts. I've made 'porcys' with toothpick and carbon antennae, carbon stems and a few upside-down ones, as sensitive as any pole float. I've even whipped the tips with bright thread in lieu of paint. OK, I could 'get out more', but really, you can't have too many. Can you?

    The Porcupine Quill Float Insert procupine quills, mostly tooth-picks and cocktail sticks The Porcupine Quill Float The whipped-tipped porcys - an idea, but never fished with The Porcupine Quill Float A bunch of unnecessary floats, my favourite is the one at the bottom.

    And while they're not always the best float for the job, unless they are the worst by some margin, I find myself reaching for one when tackling up...

    So I give you: the porcupine quill float.

    Many fishermens' first float. Many first-time fishermen's only float. The float of day-dreams.

    The Porcupine Quill Float The Glenmorangie float tube. This was given a coat of thinned yacht varnish inside and out, then two 'full-strength' coats outside and one more in. Then a piece of plastic drainpipe was araldited inside which was EXACTLY the right diameter and a circle of cork sheet glued to the inside of the base. There are two green whippings around the top to stop the cardboard expanding there if it ever springs a leak. The top was made from a 5'' cork jar bung, turned to size using an electric drill in a vice. The Porcupine Quill Float New technology, old technology. You can have both. It's not a zero-sum situation.

     Fishing Floats2010 5th September 2010. ...these are the foundlings, the flotsam and the injured. When they're fixed I'll show them again.

    the foundlings we have the technology

     Fishing Floats2010 24th November 2010. The 'adjustabubble'. Picked a couple of these up in the USA, rather liked the idea.

    Adjustabubble The adjustabubble... Adjustabubble ...and how to use it

     Fishing Floats2011 4th May 2011. Darts. I knocked these up for a pal who's eyesight isn't so good. They're literally dart flights glued into a cross-slot in the top of two porcupine quills and a plastic waggler. You can buy float tops to do this, I find out now...they're displayed, by the way, on 'Going Fishing' by Negley Farson.

    DartsDart-flight floats for the hard of fishing

    'Star Wars Day' also.

     Fishing Floats2011 6th October 2011. Translucent Tipped Quills. As mentioned above, an experiment. These, as the name suggests, are quill tips which are coloured and translucent tipThe use of the word 'tip' is not sufficient excuse however, to snigger behind one's hand in open defiance of the Geneva Comedy Convention's strong recommendation to simply raise one eyebrow (either) about a quarter-inch (6.35mm). . Why? The advantage of these is that the tip will 'light' for your disappearing pleasure whether the light is behind you or in front of you POh yes it will... . In short they are more visible in all light conditions. These quills were just cleaned, coloured and varnished then fished using a single rubber on the bottom end.

    The flourescent quillsThe flourescent quills

    So a few notes on the making of such: prepare the quills as above, but before varnishing, apply colour to the tip with a fluorescent marker pen. The technique is to apply colour to a dry quill in even strokes from 'the line' to the tip, turning the quill as you go. Once you've gone right round put it aside to dry. Leave it a day and repeat. It will depend on the pen, but about four coats should do it, each only takes a few seconds. Then put a coat of thinned varnish over the coloured area and allow to dry for 24 hours.

    There is some variation on which pen's colours go with which varnish without running. One must figure that out for oneself, for Rustin's yacht varnish, this section is true, but for others it may vary.

    Translucent quills Here are a few fully made. The top four are porcupine quills with a 'bird-quill' tip. I left the porcupine quill tip inside the 'bird-quill' tip but painted it white first, to see if that reflective surface inside would make them any more visible. Nope. On reflection (sorry), the whole idea of the translucent tip was to allow light from any angle to diffuse and re-radiate, so that the tip was 'lit' with any incident light. Obviously anything blocking that through path would make them less effective. Duh. Translucent quills A selection of half and fully finished quills with translucent tips (with a Cardinal 66x in the middle)

    Give the varnish the faintest of touches with '000' emery. Whip on the eye, any other decorative stuff up the float. My preference is to finished with two closely space 6/0 thread whippings with the last right on the edge of the coloured part, which gives it a nice neat line, then thinned varnish over the whole whipping, especially the eye end (holding by the varnished tip) and hang up to dry. When dry put two-three more coats of colour on, when that's dry one cost of full strength yacht. You can add another if you prefer.

    The flourescent pink was most visible on the water, then flourescent blue, then flourescent orange, then green. Yellow and dark blue tied for 'worst'. The green colour reacted with the varnish and went 'some other colour' that probably has a fancy colour-chart name, but wasn't much use otherwise. The yellow just wasn't very visible. The dark blue (a marker pen) didn't transmit enough light to work at all well.

    It's interesting to recall that in "Still Water AnglingStill relevant in 2011" Richard Walker suggested that the best all-round colour for float-tips was a shade of vivid salmon-pink he mixed up himself.

     Fishing Floats2012 12th February 2012. Funny, never really thought about it but...I've suddenly remembered those widgets that used to live on my key-ring before the interminable flight checks changed my habits, the tiny (and very sharp) Opinel, the small black thing that turns into four screwdrivers, a pair of pliers and a wire cutter, a small blue and oddly bright torch plus a handy little 'pen drive', shaped like a lego brick. That and the silver chain, a wedding present from Mrs JAA, which was for those times, around hazardous voltages, it might be prudent to have the wedding band out of harm's way, that and for occasional batting. It did set off the metal detectors...oh, and today's boot sale yielded these five gems for £1.

    boot sale bargain Just, well, useful stuff. boot sale bargain £1, come on, a bargain.

    Bargain. (The chain's around my neck, but you knew that, right?)

     Fishing Floats2012 9th March 2012. The Adjustable Celluloid Float. Somebody (not a thousand miles from Wareham Quay) showed me this nice float today.

    The Adjustable Celluloid Float The two halves of the float apart... The Adjustable Celluloid Float ...and put together

    The two halves, one slding inside the other, perhaps allow adjustment, although it's hard to see how this wouldn't move while in use. Maybe the idea was to use a float rubber to hold it at the 'right' size. Another possiblity is that you could put water in to 'set' the float. Or Both. I've no idea what the truth of the matter is, but it's quite neat anyway.

     Fishing Floats2012 8th October 2012. Wareham Quay. Just a trial of some fluted Avons and Berkley Fireline (while the car was fixed), both of which fished nicely but two hours of drowning maggots and soaking bread yielded exactly zero/nil/nada/zip bites, which makes it sound dull, but those two hours sped by...

     Fishing Floats2012 1st December 2012. Some I made earlier...

    Traditional Goose-quill floats Goose-quill floats, nearly traditional... Traditional Goose-quill floats Goose-quill floats, nearly traditional... Traditional Goose-quill floats Goose-quill floats, nearly traditional...
    Traditional Goose-quill floats Goose-quill floats, nearly traditional... Traditional Goose-quill floats Goose-quill floats, nearly traditional...

     Fishing Floats2013 23rd March 2013. Floats.

    I took these pictures on a whim and then forgot about them until 2017...a variety of quills and two oak-apple perch bobbers. The former, made with swivels in the base, ended up gathering dust, until I clipped the swivels off and replaced them with a rig-rings. I habitually use a link-swivel for attaching floats and it seemed like far too much metal work to clip this to another swivel. The oak-apple perch bobbers looked lovely but fished like dogs. The almost round profile allowed them to heel-about like an unballasted ship, so I threw them out in the end...

    Quill floats Quills Quill floats Quills Quill floats Quills

     Fishing Floats2013 9th July 2013. Just stuff...

    Carp rigs for the orthadox angler Carp rigs for the orthadox angler Carp rigs for the orthadox angler Carp rigs for the orthadox angler Carp rigs for the orthadox angler Carp rigs for the orthadox angler

    A few words on the simple carper - I usually set up the rig seen above left:

    Put a mini link swivel on the line between cheap latex float stops, generally 2 above the swivel are enough with 3-4 below and a couple of 'sliders' to protect the knot or anchor a shot on the line.

    The braid hook-length is combi-knottedThe JAA magic braid knot... to the mono - the one shown is about 14", I planned to bottom fish that morning. There's a tell tale no.4 and a no.8 midway to the hook to stop the braid being stirred up when the fish is about, which avoids liners and foul hooks. Once you are over 3" on the deck it's best to do this.

    If I'm planning a "very flexible" day, I tie a 1-2" hook-link, which generally works OK for floater fishing as well.

    Two of the float stops are placed against the knot to protect it and if I need any shot for the float I put it between the float stops by the link swivel. I keep short lengths of 14lb and 12lb mono tied to the zip on my coat - I squeeze shot over that to groove it and then can pinch it by hand on my mainline without damaging it.

    This rig can be endlessly varied with no effort at all. You can go from tiny floats (shown) virtually sight bobbing, jam on a cork ball for floater fishing, slip a swan shot on the mini swivel and slide the back stop up the line to light ledger and or even bung on a bubble float for small baits 'off the top'.

    So with a pocket full of shot, a few floats (shown), a few cork balls, some hooks (in your hat), a reel of braid, a small sharp knife and a loaf of bread you're sorted.

    I've been known to skip the mini swivel and put a pair of 8mm cork balls on the line, float stops either side, one red, one black (coloured with indelible markers, red, black and gree, always in the bag), especially if the water I'm planning to fish is shallow.

    P.S. At the end of the day, you push all the bits down to the trace (make the line wet first), nip the line of with about 6" of mono, and next time you go out you can thread the whole lot back onto your main line by knotting the old line once over the reel line. The float stops last a good while then...thrifty me. I'll often put the whole lot onto the reel spool and once you've threaded up by the bank you're ready to fish. I keep the braid and use those bits for shorter hook-links, as the cost of it is simply daylight robbery.

     Fishing Floats2014 February 2014. JAA's fluted Avons

    Take this drawing (which is my design and my copyright, the 'JAA Fluted Avon'), have the sections laser cut from 3mm balsa sheet. Use 'Google' to find someone who'll do the cutting...

    the JAA Flute A brilliant idea by Richard Mace...

    Slot together, glue with PVA, glue in 3mm cane stems and tips...job done. Seal the balsa with cellulose dope before painting. They take a lot of shot compared with the milled beech 'Beglow', so try the smaller two sizes first. The MK II was going to have adjustments to allow for a 4mm tip width, but I've kind of lost interest, as I have score of fluted floats about the place. I'd suggest dipping the tips and making the sight tip 1cm down the fluted body as well. Below are the five sizes I made and a Beglow for comparison plus some before painting shot and some half-made.

    Fluted Avons These are the naked assembled flutes, glued together with stems glued in as well. Fluted Avons A whole bunch of them stuck in foam waiting for their base colour to dry. Fluted Avons The five sizes, all finished, with a Beglow for comparison.
    Fluted Avons The eye whipped on one of the floats. Fluted Avons The whipping up the stem, which serves no actual useful purpose... Fluted Avons Not a great photo, but it's here to show the smallest flute with its copper tube covered lower stem, making it mostly self cocking.

    Below is a Beglow stripped to see how it was made. It's clearly machined out of one piece of wood, probably beech or boxwood. Interesting. Having seen that, I coloured the wood with a green permanent marker and varnished over it. This explains why the float shown takes a scant 2BB while my apparently shorter fluted float takes more like 5BB. Below that is the re-coloured and varnished float.

    Beglow The stem end Beglow The tip end Beglow The whole thing
    BeglowThe stripped, recoloured and varnished Beglow

    If I was doing it again, I'd modify the profile to accept a 4mm tip to improve the visibility and profile the lower body at a shallower angle. I'd also make four sizes only 5mm apart starting with the smallest here and use longer stems to allow for near self-cocking using pieces of copper tubing.

    Opinion is divided on the value of fluted Avon floats; I like them myself and find I can do more with them on a shallow river which has constant variation in depth and flow, than with a round bodied float. The physics of them, the maximised cross sectional area for the volume of the float (a tube presents the smallest cross-section for a given volume), means that the river's flow will exert more force on the float than it would a round float with the same volume of wood of the same length. That can be handy for the case mentioned above and possibly for trotting the far bank where the relative forces of the water (pushing the float downstream) and the line (tending to pull the float away from the far bank towards the angler) are improved in the favour of the direction of the river's flow. Having said that, they do resist a strike more, so for some applications, perhaps not ideal.

     Fishing Floats2014 28th February 2014. Barry's Massive Stret-Peggers .

    Below is the progression of a 'payment', some very big stret-pegging quills made as a quid pro quo (...Clarice) for Barry, who made a spacer for my 'Harlow' 'pin. Thanks Barry.

    Barry's Stret-peggersBarry's Stret-peggers
    The quills (about 10'', goose primaries)...1
    Barry's Stret-peggersBarry's Stret-peggers
    Bottom eyes, tacked on with cyranoacrylate...2
    Barry's Stret-peggersBarry's Stret-peggers
    Tips in progress - flourecent pink over the bare quill.
    You can see pencil marks, but those'll be covered
    with black thread....3
    Barry's Stret-peggersBarry's Stret-peggers
    One of the side-eyes, glued with waterproof
    cyranoacrylate then whipped on....4
    Barry's Stret-peggersBarry's Stret-peggers
    One side-eye whipped on...5
    Barry's Stret-peggersBarry's Stret-peggers
    Almost done...6
    Barry's Stret-peggersBarry's Stret-peggers
    The emphemera of float making...7

    I can't for the life of me find pictures of the finished articles, although I was sure I took some...

     Fishing Floats2016 August 2016. Cork-Ball Bobbers

    I'll pop some pictures of 'the making of' later, but these are all made with 1.5mm cane and 8mm cork balls. Eyes are variously, very thin wire or old hook-length braid. Any whippings are 6/0 thread and nothing neat. The cork balls are bored with a broach then glued to the stem with water-proof cyanoacrylate and I do no more than round of the end of the cane with a nail board and colour the stems and cork roughly with permanent markers before a coat of thinned varnish. They get one more coat of undiluted varnish and the tips are white matt paint with colours over the top.

    I find that for most fishing a 2:1 ratio, stem to tip, gives stability. The smallest of them barely require shot and fished with a 'tell-tail' no. 6 shot are as good for small gudgeon as for margin fishing for carp. The ease with which they can be made allows for experimentation without great commitment or cost as well as a complete lack of concern for losses.

    Cork-ball floats The surfeit of riches that are the cork-ball floats in my float tube. The numbers correspond to the list below.
    1. These are the longest pattern I've made with 2 x 8mm cork balls. They're a shade too long for best all round use and need a little weight on the base of the stem, you can see solder wire on some of them. The pink colour is florescent marker-pen over white paint, varnished over.
    2. These with 3 x 8mm cork balls are modelled on the proportions of a roach float made by Richard Walker. They're very effective.
    3. These with 2 x 8mm cork balls are also modelled on the proportions of a roach float made by Richard Walker, also effective stable floats.
    4. These are the most all-round useful size, being just cocked and set with the mini-swivel I use for float attachment. Note the black-edged white bands on the tip, the most useful colour pattern for visibility I've tried.
    5. These short floats have a striped tip and an eye made with a cut-off swivel and a peice of silicone rubber, all waterproof super-glued. They're designed for crucian fishing at close range and are fished with the top 1-1.5cm out of the water to register lift or sink bites.
    6. As for the previous type, but no eye, just top-and-bottom rubber.
    7. Neither of these marked actually worked well. The weight required to 'cock' them at all, sunk them, whereas any weight which 'cocked' them without sinking, left the float at an angle in the water. These will get cut down to make one of the other patterns. Notice the orange and yellow flouro banding, ridiculously visible. If naff.

     Fishing Floats2016 23rd November 2016. Double quill trotting floats. I decided to make some trotting floats out of two bits of swan quill glued in the middle, as I have some. Here's what I've discovered. The quills fit well together, one inside the other, they are very similar shapes. If you're putting inserts into one end of the other (I used porcupine quill), water-proof cyanoacrylate isn't ideal as it doesn't fill gap well. Araldite would be better. The cyanoacrylate is fine for the two larger sections' joint though. Both of which are whipped over anyway.

    The end result is ascetically pleasing. It's tempting to whip up the whole length, but why cover that up? I might consider filling the quill sections with green dye to stain them and making a tip section, either from porcupine quill or cane.

    Really not so difficult to make though. Cut the quill off just above the 'joint' with a junior hacksaw, then use a very sharp knife to cut them to a 45° angle. For other joints, use a nail board to rub the edges down by running it sideways in a 'draw-file' fashion up over the step in the joint...and at this point, sans varnish or thread, I hid them away to avoid further distractions from my studies...

    hookJust another fish-hook...(and back to the top of the page) hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook It's a space. Accept it and move on. hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook
    hookJust another fish-hook...(and back to the top of the page) hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook It's a space. Accept it and move on. hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook hookJust another fish-hook
    01:53am on 2018-07-16 JAA