Dave Magalhaes is one of the best floater fishing anglers around and he reveals how he goes about fishing for carp off the top.
Nowadays I am not blessed with much time. It can be as little as an afternoon or an evenings fishing. In the colder months this can be really tough but now it’s lovely and warm, it’s possible to get a bend in the rod with just a few hours at your mercy.
One of the best ways of doing this is floater fishing. Despite it being so well known, you very rarely see anglers doing it. I find it a little strange because it has to be one of my favourite ways of angling.
You will notice that the carp will spend the vast majority of their time high in the water. They love the warmth and with the summer sun they can bask for hours on end. It really can be pointless sat there behind three well-positioned rods with the best bait and rigs going, if the fish are not feeding on the bottom. The best time to catch them off the bottom at this time of year is during the early hours of the morning. The rest of the time can be ineffective, so what are the fish doing?
I would put money on them being up in the water, unless the conditions really do lend themselves to fishing on the bottom. Low pressure, strong winds and rain will push the fish down for sure.
I have a set of gear that is purposely set for floater fishing. I can arrive at the lake and if it feels good for it, I can just grab the gear and go looking. Like any form of fishing, you have to find them first to stand any chance of catching them.
A decent set of polarised sunglasses will allow you to see beneath the surface layers, which will often reveal the carp’s whereabouts. Once I have found them, I take my time and think about what I am going to do next.
Polarised glasses make all the difference.
If there are enough fish knocking about, then I will drop the gear down and begin to feed the swim. It is so important to feed them for a while before you actually fish for them. You can always nick a bite straightaway, but once you do this there is a good chance that you will spook the rest of the fish.
Feed the swim first, little and often until you get more and more fish feeding. The more carp that get involved, the greater the chances are of even more fish joining in. Once you have a pack of ravenous carp feeding, it is game on and you can catch them for hours without spooking them.
With the floaters themselves, I always add an oil to them for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it gives them added attraction and, secondly, it leaves a nice flat spot around the baits. This will enable you to see what is going in even if there is a slight ripple on the water. The Cap-Oil is a spicy salmon oil and is perfect for floater fishing. It smells lovely and will flatten the surface off instantly. I give the mixers a nice coating of it, which is enough to achieve what I am looking for.
Plenty of attraction and the all-important flat spot
Depending on the range it is that you are fishing, there are a number of ways that you can introduce the bait. My first port of call would be the catapult; the second would be the Spomb. I would only use the latter if the fish were at range and I had no other option.
The catapult is a quick and easy way of baiting and I find it best to put the baits out in a mesh PVA bag. Firstly, it goes out a lot further than they would if they went out on their own. Secondly, it creates a tight cluster of baits, which will prevent spreading the mixers all over the swim.
Keep feeding to give the carp confidence.
The last thing you want is fish separating and feeding in small packs all out in front of you. I prefer them to be as tightly compacted together as I can to create that competitive feeding.
Once I have the fish feeding, I already have the rod ready to go. I use a soft rod too, which serves a couple of purposes. Firstly, when you are casting regularly and walking round the lake with gear, you want something that is comfortable to use. The second purpose is that the action of the tip will allow me to punch out light controllers a long way. The soft tip will help propel the controller much further than a stiffer rod would. Lastly, it bends like mad and it is great fun playing them on light gear, of course.
A nice soft rod will help punch the controller and give you a lot of fun.
In regard to floats, I use the lightest one that I can get away with. I carry a nice selection with me, just to cope with any scenario that I am faced with. I prefer the lighter ones because they are less visual and cause hardly any disturbance when they land in the lake.
With regard to the hook-link section, I prefer a longer one of around six to eight feet. I will shorten it if I am fishing more of a runs water, but if the fish are tricky to catch I want the float as far away from the hook bait as I can. I remember on Road Lake how cagey they were and I had to use the longest hook link I could get away with. It all depends on the lake that you are fishing and the way the carp are feeding.
The hook link and hook itself are small and light but extremely strong. I have used the combination of an 8lb 15oz line and size 10 Barbel hook for years and they don’t let me down. If the lake is very weedy, I will up the strength of both, but if it’s that bad I wouldn’t risk just fishing for the sake of it and losing everyone I hooked.
The hook bait is important and I have always hair rigged my bait on. It sits nice on the hook and it will last for a lot longer than banding a pellet on would. I use a trimmed down Krill pop-up. They smell fishy, are ultra-durable and match the colour of the freebies too. I can make cast after cast with these and they won’t fall of the hair. If you are banding pellets on, you will be forever changing them and could risk missing an opportunity of a bite.
So, the scene is set, you are ready to cast out and there are fish feeding confidently in front of you. The first thing to do is feed them some more. Make sure there is a steady trickle of bait going in to keep the fish competing. The moment you see a few mixers out there and the fish taking less, the greater the chance of them drifting off.
Once I have them taking confidently, I cast my controller 20 yards past the feeding fish. If the wind is blowing into me, I will gently draw the float back to, say, 10 yards behind them and let the float drift over naturally. If it is not, I will gently tease the float back, keeping the rod in the air and the line off the water.
If a fish comes into contact with your line while you bring it back, you will see a huge eruption and it will most likely put the other fish on edge too. Once the float is in position, I rest the rod down and make a couple more PVA bags, keeping my eye on my bait.
Meshed bags of mixers keep your baiting tight.
It can be good to sit on your hands at this point. Unless I am fishing for a couple of big fish and can see everything, I will let the fish hook themselves. The times I have struck out of one’s mouth and then spooked the rest have been too many, so I prefer to be patient. It can be infuriating at times, but stick with it and the fish will eventually make the mistake.
When you do hook one, try bringing your rod tip down and try and get the fish away from the area as quickly as possible. If it starts trashing around on the surface, it will almost definitely spook the others. If you are fishing a high-stocked water and you have fed it right, it most likely won’t do, but just bear it in mind.
If there is quite a bit of cloud cover, the wind is not that warm, and the fish are not visually loitering on the surface, I would consider fishing zig rigs. There are times where you will get the fish feeding on the top and working the controller float can be a nightmare for a number of reasons. The wind might be dragging it out of position really quickly or the birds may be causing you a load of grief.
With the zig, you can fish baits either just below the surface or even set the hook bait slightly overdepth. This will give you one or two anchored baits out there and you won’t be causing much disturbance recasting all the time.
If you are fishing at range, this can be a great way of catching them. Spombing mixers out over the zigs will put your hook baits into a position where the fish have perhaps hardly ever, if ever, been caught off the top from there before.
If you have to feed a lot for both the carp and the bird life, then make sure you take more floaters than you think you will need. If you think you need 5kg, take 10. They won’t go off or be wasted, but if you run out of bait and the fish are having it, you will be kicking yourself, I can assure you.
A stunning mid-double mirror picked off the surface.
Disclaimer - At the time this feature was written, Dave was sponsored by Sticky.