Fishing the Lollipop Float

With the floods of 2007 ravaging the Don valley, right from its source in the hills above Sheffield down to its lower reaches below Doncaster, one would expect a visit to its banks just a couple of months later, to reveal a much changed landscape full of mud debris, and bulldozers. Frankly, this couldn’t be further from the truth, as when Garbolino Ossett ace Mick Lodge invited me to shoot a feature on him fishing the lollipop, we found a river that looked as if the flood had never taken place.

Although the pub at the end of the lane leading up to the river was shut for refurbishment as the water came up to the beams of the roof, the rest of he river looked in fine form.

Mick decided to fish a peg around halfway along the match length, which was still a fair old walk of around 35 pegs. “I practised on this peg last weekend, and managed around 18lb of roach, perch and skimmers, and I’m optimistic of a similar weight today he said.
While Mick was setting up, we were shocked to see a grass snake swim past, another tribute to how quickly and well the river has recovered from the flooding. Mick began his match by mixing his groundbait. “I always like to get this done first, to give my groundbait time to soak up the water fully. His mix consisted of one bag of Secret, ½ a bag of Lake, ½ a bag of Brown Crumb, and ½ a bag of Leam. He mixed this up with a large Sam Wildsmith groundbait whisk, into a fairly damp consitency, before leaving it to stand while setting up the rest of his gear.

He adjusted the legs and footplate on his Milo tackle box to fit the contours of the river bed, and so give himself a level and comfortable fishing station around three metres from the bank, just before where the river starts to shelve off. “It is important that you set up your gear as near to the shelf as you can without putting yourself in danger, as this will allow you reach further across the river, and also often make it easier to ship out.” He said.

After he had done his he set up five top sixes for his G10 pole, and set about plumbing up the depth to try and find somewhere suitable to fish. “Im trying to get out into the flow, as on rivers that flow slowly anyway, it often pays to get out into the fastest water that you can, as onviously it carries more oxygen, and also more food” he said.

In order to achieve this, Mick opted to fish at 14.5 metres, where he found around 16 feet of water. “The bottom is pretty level out their, making it ideal for letting the float run through. This is what you are looking for, as you can then fish at any number of points in your swim with the same rig” Mick added.

No Need To Go Light!

Contrary to what I expected, Mick’s tackle wasn’t particularly light, with him opting to fish an 0.14 Garboline mainline and a six elastic. “There is no point fishing light lines which are prone to tangling up when doing this method, as the fish aren’t that line shy, and with the venue being as deep as it is, most of the mainline gets nowhere near the fish anyway. I try to fish a light hooklenght however, as this is the bit that the fish see, today I am going to start with an 0.10 and see how the session progresses, if I’m catching really well I may step up.

In terms of hooks, Mick opted for a size 18 Colmic 957 which carries a microbarb, though if the river had been carrying more colour, he says he would have stepped up to a 16.

His shotting was very simple, his One Gram flat float taking a 0.5 gram Olivette, and eight number eight droppers around one foot below this, leading down to the ten inch hooklength, all of which was laid on the deck.

Another interesting feature of Mick’s rig was an AAA backshot which he had on the three feet of line between his pole tip and float. He coloured this in bright yellow, so it is visible while fishing. “I feel the major advantage of using a backshot is that improves presentation and rig control. You can lower the backshot down in the water to reduce the amount of bristle, and also lift it up to give you more bristle. It also helps line control between pole tip and float, as the amount of line on the surface of the water is greatly reduced.” He told us.

The river is a bit deeper than your average commercial!Mick set up two flat float rigs and one normal rig with a two gram standard pole float on, which he hoped to use to demonstrate the advantages of using the flat float above a conventional one. Another top kit he had set up included simply 15 feet of line attached to a link swivel. “That is for if I need to use my bait dropper, as it allows me to feed without messingabout with my rig and running the risk of damaging my hooklength” he said.

Before Mick started, I asked him what he thought the advantages of using a flat float compared to a standard pole float were. “The main advantage is that it allows you to fish a lighter float than you can when using a conventional pole float, a one gram flat float is the equivalent of say, a two gram standard pole float. Obviously, this means that you connect better with fish on the strike, as you have less weight to pull through to make contact with the fish” he told me.

The Session

Mick began his session by cupping in four balls of groundbait laden with chopped worms and casters, before beginning his session with a red maggot on the hook. Lowering his rig in, Mick experimented between inching it rig through his peg, and holding it back directly over his feed. Manipulation of his backshot gave him excellent control over his float, and he could read bites brilliantly by contolling the amount of bristle he had out of the water.Mick displays a pole caught perch

It was a slow start for Mick however, which he tells me is unusual on the method, as very often you catch straight away: “More often than not a session on the flat float starts with you catching perch, which lasts until the roach move in, and then finally the skimmers move in and stay indefinitely. Today, my first fish has been a skimmer around 1lb, with subsequent fish being perch and roach however, which just goes to show that you never know what to expect with this game” He said.

It wasn’t long before Mick was into a steady rhythm however, taking a fish more or less every run through. It was really interesting as it seemed he was getting a different fish every drop in, and never knew what to expect next. After a while, it seemed that the stamp was getting smaller however, and he thought it time to top up. He put another two balls of groundbait laden with worm and caster over the top of the line, and went back over it straight away.

Boat Trouble

He took another skimmer around the 1lb mark and was just about to ship back out when we heard a familiar but unwelcome sound coming down the river- a barge making its way towards us. The large bow waves it created caused waves to lap up the bank, and prompted me to ask Mick what he though it had done to the bait under the water: “To be honest I’m not sure what it does, when you think of the depth of the river I would have thought it unlikely that it effects the bait on the bottom that much at all. That said, it always seems to knock the fish off the feed for a few minutes, and sometimes you have to refeed to regain there interest. I feel the best thing to do when a boat goes through is give it ten minutes to gauge what is happening in your peg, and if no bites are forthcoming, refeed straight away.”

As it happened, the boat going through didn’t effect Mick’s catch rate too badly, and he was into roach and small skimmers almost as soon as the bow waves had cleared. After w a while bites began to tale off, and it seemed as if the pace of the river had increased slightly. Mick decided to try his heavier two gram rig to try and improve presentation and see if it had a positive effect on his catch rate. It seemed to work, as he had two skimmers in quick succession after he made the change, but then it went quiet, so Mick decided to refeed again.

As before, this worked and bought him a couple of better fish, before the small stuff returned. In a bid to attract a few of the venues better roach into the swim, Mick decided to start loose feeding, spraying casters ever so slightly upstream of his float. Again it seemed to work, with ten or so better fish coming to the net in fairly quick succession, before it quietend down again. “The thing is with river fish, it can be uncommon to catch a run of fish continuosly, they seem to wise up very quickly to what is happening, and shy off it” Mick said.

After around four hours fishing, Mick decided it was time to pack in, and pulled his net out to reveal well over 20lb’s of prime roach, skimmers and perch. “It just goes to show how effective a method the lollipop can be, and how its not just something that works well on fast flowing rivers, but also works well on slow and deep venues such as this one. I would urge you to get out there and give it a try, it is definitely one of the most enjoyable methods I know, and not particularly difficult to master. Why not give it a go on your next river session?

Mick displays a quality Don skimmer for the camera

1 Comment

  1. Mike Nicholls

    Jan 16, 2011

    I was looking on the web how to set up and fish the lollipop float by chance or just good optimization on your behalf or fishing 4 fun web site, your article on Mick’s four hour fishing trip on the lollipop float covered some of the thing’s i was needing to know if you have any more like this please forward them on.

    If only it had got a diagram of the way you had set the rig up i would of thought it was straight out of the angling times

    very impressed

    Kind Regards
    Mike Nicholls
    Allsorts Angling Club [Peterborough]


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