Following on from a previous article about float fishing and wondering what goes on down there, this one explores the signs and what to watch for, things that might give us some idea of what's happening without actually seeing...
To become an expert tip watcher you must develop an understanding with what goes on deep beneath the part we cannot see. To watch and wait for the tip’s disappearance is one thing, but to associate each of the float’s different movements with the fish’s movements is to know when the time is right to make the strike. Strike at the wrong moment and you could ruin the chance of that dream capture; for to sit on your hands, find patience and strike at precisely the right time will often result in success. Sometimes the tip doesn’t even need to vanish; the slightest dip or a gentle slide can be enough.
There are often lots of tell-tale signs that will signal to the angler that a fish is near, even feeding on the bait he has introduced, and to differentiate between a fish brushing the line and one that has taken the bait can be the difference between triumph and failure. Having said that, there is no failure to be felt in fishing, for there is always the chance to cast again, maybe next time, but another opportunity will present itself eventually. That’s the beauty of angling, we can see each trip as a new chapter, or string sessions together and call them a campaign or quest, starting were the last one left off.
Bubbles are probably the most delightful thing you can find around your float. The closer they get the faster your heart beats, the size of them can determine what species of fish is causing the disturbance to the lake bed and in a flash they can melt away leaving you wondering where they went, if they’ll come back and looking anxiously for signs of their reappearance, leaving you quite deflated at times. I am led to believe that single large bubbles can signify eels in the area, that numerous large sheets of bubbles are caused by carp, slightly smaller fizzing is usually down to tench feeding and that the tiny pin pricks you sometimes think you saw can be crucians, although a failure to see the tip actually move in these cases tends to make you wonder if there was really anything there at all. It is quite possible to become so mesmerised by bubbles that you forget that you were watching a float tip and focus on their direction, only to recognise once again the job in hand and realising once again that thumping coming from your chest.
Then there is the gentle swaying from side to side. Carp with line caught around their fins can sometimes cause this, although I usually put it down to roach mistaking the strung out split shot for grains of hemp. These indications are best left as they are very rarely due to fish picking up the hook-bait. In the past I have struck at these pirouettes, which generally ends in a vortex or a sudden mass of bubbles as the fish is spooked. The vortex or tail pattern is another clue that fish are present, usually associated with fishing the margins or shallow water, and these are caused by tails waving, a sure sign that feeding is taking place and to be on your guard for the inevitable, which may or may not happen. You may see items of debris rise from the lake bed; twigs, weed and leaf litter will rise and dance and all this can be very conducive to an increase in perspiration to the palms and forehead.
The area in which you place your float tip also needs some thought and understanding. On your classic pool you’ll often find lily pads, somewhere I always associate with tench and crucians, although you’ll find most species close to or under lily pads. Reed lined margins with a bit of depth will usually be the lair of a carp or two, and overhanging bushes are typical perch territory. Roll up at your favourite pond and you’ll have an idea of where to cast and what you are likely to catch. We can use this to great effect when visiting other waters, perhaps for the first time, using the knowledge we have gained on familiar ground to our advantage when tackling somewhere new. Pads will always be a haven for fish of all types, you can be certain that if perch are present they’ll require a little cover for their ambush, and the carp, although nomadic, will always be prominent within the deeper marginal areas of the lake where a little cavern or shelter helps their confidence. This is called watercraft.
To understand the things above, to become in tune with everything that goes on from the float tip down is to become an expert tip watcher. We cannot see what happens, we don’t really want to see, happy to have a good idea but to let our imagination run wild and conjure up whatever images we wish. It is easy, and quite delightful, to get side-tracked missing the signs and the bites, but it is our decision to concentrate on whatever we like. It helps to have this understanding when it is in our focus to catch a fish, stored somewhere for when we might call upon it. These things are not imperative for enjoying, merely helpful for when we might be inclined to touch something wonderful from another world.