Norfolk Fishing Network 2004 - 2021 - Pole Fishing

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The technique that tops all
This page describes pole fishing, the techniques involved and the many varied components needed.
Pole fishing is a highly specialised version of float fishing. A pole is used instead of a rod. The idea of using a pole is based upon early fishing techniques. Many people will remember when people fished with a long supple stick of wood or cane stem. Modern rod materials like Carbon fibre and Fiberglass are now used to make long poles.

Poles provide a level of precision that a rod and reel just can't produce. They allow you to hone your rigs, presentation and skills down to a fine edge. I feel that pole fishing is the 'fly fishing' of 'coarse fishing'. It may seem like an ungainly way to fish, but once you learn how to use one, you'll ask yourself why it wasn't sooner.

There are many varieties of poles available. Poles can be used to fish shallow or fast rivers, to small ponds or large lakes. They come in different lengths, strengths and designs. They can be used to 'bag-up' on small fish like Roach, or to tame the hard fighting Carp. Poles allow you to fish with a great level of precision and sensitivity. It is a very popular technique with match fishermen, and when used in the hands of a professional, can result in a huge weight of fish. It really is something you have to see and try to believe.
Poles are similar to very, very long rod blanks. The length ranges anywhere between 6 to 18 meters. The pole blank is made up of many sections. A section is usually 1 to 1.5 meters long.

A short pole - The colourful markings on each section help the angler put it together

Poles are designed to be put together in different ways. The original poles used telescopic sections. These sections slide together like a telescopic rod or an aerial. The pole butt is the largest section. All other sections sit within it. The sections are extended to become one pole.

The other more popular design is the 'pull-apart' pole. Each separate section is made to slide into the end of the next section. This type of pole can use two different types of section joints. The first is the 'put-over' joint. This is where the section closer to the tip of the pole, is designed to slide into the end of the section behind it. The other type is called the 'put-in' joint. This is where the section closer to the tip of the pole, is designed to slide over the end of the section behind it. The 'put-in' joint seems to have become the most favoured type. I believe that when poles were first being designed, this joint used less materials, and therefore made the pole a bit lighter. Modern techniques and materials allow for the use of either one. I don't think it makes much difference with the range of poles available now.
Pole floats are a designed to be ultra light and sensitive. Since the float rig is literally pushed out by the pole, any excess weight previously used for casting, is no longer needed. This means that the float is only being used as a bite indicator.

Pole floats are recognisable for their small body, slender stem and stream-lined design. The pole float body is located nearer the top of the float. This reduces the weight needed to sink it. The body is usually made from balsa wood. This is because balsa wood is very buoyant, yet still very strong. Balsa wood also allows for many different shapes and designs. The shape and design of a body affects the way the float sits in the water, to the way it responds to a fish taking the hook.

The stem is an important part of a pole float. It needs to be strong yet very light. The main types of materials used for stems are cane, thin gauge wire, fibre glass, plastic and carbon fibre. Each different material has different characteristics.

Cane is the traditional material used to make stems. It is very cheap and natural looking.

Thin gauge wire and spring steel is very strong, but adds quite a bit of weight to the float.

Fibre glass is very strong and light, but isn't very thin.

Plastic is cheap and light, but isn't strong. If the stem bends from a big fish, then the float is usually wrecked.

Carbon fibre is the latest in pole float stem technology. It is extremely strong and light. The material is more expensive than the others, but if you are after quality, then go for floats made with this.

There are many varieties of pole floats. The range of shapes and styles suits all situations.
The term 'body-up' refers to the 'bulge' of the float body being closer to the tip. This is the most common style of pole float. The main advantage of having this, is that the centre of gravity is closer to the float tip. This provides greater stability for the float. This float is suited to most fishing conditions. It works very well in calm water. It also works well to keep the float tip stable under windy conditions.
The term 'body-down' refers to the 'bulge' of the float body being closer to the bottom of the float. This is also referred to as a 'tear drop' shaped float as that is what the body looks like. This float works well in most conditions but is preferred for calm water.
'Shoulder-up' is where the upward 'bulge' of the float body has a distinct 'shoulder'. The body then tapers off nearer the tip. The long thin taper on the body allows you to use different amounts of shot when setting the float up. This type of float works very well on both calm and windy days. If the wind picks up, then just remove a piece of shot, so the float tip can ride higher in the water. If the wind dies and it is calm, then add the shot again so that the tip is lower in the water.
Slim body pole floats are ultra sensitive and are used to catch very small fish like Gudgeon. The body is very thin and doesn't have a lot of buoyancy. These floats don't take a lot of weight to 'set' in the water. As a result, the shot size used is very small, so you can still set the float rig up correctly. Anglers use 'dust' shot for this.

There are many different variations of pole floats. The size, colour, shape and tip colour, varies greatly between manufacturers. If you like one style of pole float, then it is possible to buy a whole range of different sizes for that one version. You can even get the same float with different colour tips. Black is great for very bright days, Orange is good for normal light, and yellow is great for low light. You can even buy fluorescent tips. Many pole anglers keep a large range of pre-tied pole float rigs with them. If your line breaks, all you have to do is swing the pole to hand, detach the old rig, then attach the new one. Put some bait back on, swing it out and your fishing again in under 40 seconds ! There are even techniques to improve on that which will be discussed further on.

Wagglers and Dibbers also work particularly well on the pole. The one main advantage that pole floats have above these, is that the float sits straight above the 'rig'. This means that the shortest amount of line is being used. Any line or hook movement is directly relayed to the float tip. Wagglers usually have a slight time delay before registering movement. This is caused by the small amount of slack line in the rig. This delay results in many lost opportunities.

Pole fishing enables you to know exactly what is happening to your 'rig'. If a fish touches the line or takes the bait, then you will see the pole float move. Pole float rigs are very versatile. You can change the time it takes for the float to display movement, to the position it sits in the water. This level of precision is what separates pole fishing from float fishing.

If you find it hard to believe the difference precision makes, get on down to a local 'match fishing' competition and see for yourself. I had fished one venue many times, and caught a respectable amount of fish, but when I saw a professional match fisherman and pole in action, his one daily haul beat all my previous efforts. I was a humbled man that day.
Pole floats are held onto the 'float rig' by two or three pieces of silicone rubber tubing....
The following section describes how poles are used. Don't worry if you find it hard to work out what is going on. I had to learn how to pole fish from coarse fishing magazines. I must admit to being half dazed trying to work out how it was done. Just drop me a line if you need anything clarified.
Poles are big, long and taper to a fine tip. The line of a float rig is tied onto the end of the pole tip. It can also be set up to attach to the end of a piece of elastic, placed inside the pole tip. The elastic is used to assist in fighting fish. The float rigs used, are similar to ones used on a rod and reel. The attached float rig hangs from the pole tip and is literally pushed out over and into the water. The length of line between the float and the pole tip can vary in length for the type of fishing you want to do.

Using elastic in the pole tip allows the fish to fight against something. It also helps to keep a tight line between the fish and pole tip. It can also protect the pole and float rig when the fish surges away. Elastic comes in many strengths. They will be discussed further on.

There is a special way to hold a pole when fishing. You need to use both of your hands. One hand is used out behind you to hold the butt of the pole. The other hand is used to grasp underneath the pole out in front of you. This helps balance the pole. You can slide the pole forwards or backwards to find the point at which the pole is perfectly balanced. This is when you don't have to struggle to hold the weight of the pole with either hand. The pole will end up being held out at an angle in front of you. If you are 'right handed' then you will probably want to use your right hand at the rear, and your left hand out the front. This means that the pole tip will tend to point out to your left. This is reversed if you are 'left handed', and the pole tip will point out to your right. It is important to remember to set up your seat box and equipment to adjust for this. This may also be a consideration when choosing your swim.

Striking and catching fish requires a bit of co-ordination and patience. As with normal float fishing, the float tip will move around or sink when a fish takes your bait. Fish are 'struck' by simply tilting the pole tip up in the air. This is done by pushing down on the pole butt with your rear hand. It is important to remember to not to jerk the pole tip, to lift too quickly, or to lift with a lot of force. All you need to do is to simply set the hook into the fishes mouth. If you use the recommended 'barb-less' or 'fine wire' hooks, then the fish will often do it themselves.

Once the fish is hooked, it will try to swim away. Your pole tip will curve towards the fish. If the fish is 'foul hooked', then it is at this stage when the hook hold will most likely let go. If you are catching small fish then they can be swung out of the water, and into your hand. If you are catching big fish like carp, then you can use special techniques to trick the fish and land them.

There are a few different techniques that can be used to land fish on a pole. The most common method is to tire the fish by making it swim around. This should only ever been done up to the point of being able to land it. I find that I average 1 to 2 mins to land a fish. If it is taking forever, consider pulling the hook out to let the fish go.

The following method is used to trick larger fish into swimming toward you and into your landing net. You need to have a long pole to do this. Once you hook the fish, you need to push the pole tip away past the fish, so it is between you and the pole. If you put a bit of pressure on the line, the fish will most likely 'bolt' away from the pressure, and move towards you. Most poles come in 'pull-apart' sections. This means that during the fight you may need to remove or add these sections, so that you can keep the pole tip past the fish.

A variation on this method is to keep the pole tip right above the fish. This will confuse it and make it stay in one place. Most of the time you will find that a combination of all techniques may be needed. Knowing what to do will come with time and experience.

Catching big fish on the pole is very challenging. If you are targeting fish like carp above 15 lbs. then I'd have to recommend sticking with a strong rod and reel. There are now poles that are made to handle carp over 20 lbs., but these are a bit heavy, stiff and need some of the strongest elastics available. Anyone in Canada may be a bit disappointed at hearing this. From what I've heard, the average fish at birth is a specimen !

Pole fishing can be used to catch almost all fish. It is a technique that more often than not lets you optimise any situation. You can 'bag up' when the fish are feeding, and also catch fish when other methods will fail.

The one thing to remember is that it is the preferred method for match fishermen. Whilst most specimen anglers may disagree with me, I strongly believe that match fishing produces the best anglers around the world. A pole in the hands of a good match fisherman, will show you what is really in front of you in the water. How many times have you sat and watched the water in front of you seethe with fish, and wonder if they can be caught ? I'd give 'odds on' that a good match fisherman would have the best chance of doing just that.
If you are using elastic in your pole tip, and the hook hold lets go, then you have to be very careful that the released hook doesn't fly back and hit you in your face. I have only had this happen to me twice, but I was glad to be wearing glasses at the time. Why take the risk and not wear them ? It's a great reason to wear polaroids.
My initial reaction to pole fishing was one of fear and trepidation. I remember the first time I read about pole fishing. The sight of people holding these huge poles over their swims looked like an awkward and potentially dangerous technique to use when compared to using a float rod. I was curious to find out two things. The first was what advantage the pole had above a rod and reel. And secondly, to find out how the hell the things worked !

Unfortunately I couldn't pop down to the local Tackle store and ask for information on what pole fishing was all about. Australia has some great fishing, but we aren't up-to-date on modern European techniques. My father and I had read about how effective this method was, and were determined to give it a go. As luck would have it, an Asian tackle supplier gave our Tackle store some free 6 meter Fibre glass poles. The poor owner didn't know what the hell they were and fortunately sold them to us relatively cheaply.

NB: At this point in time, we didn't realise that importing tackle was viable. As a result we tried our best to improvise.

So here we were, we'd finally got some poles and were keen to give them a go. What we didn't realise was that having the pole, was only one part of the total equipment needed to use the damn thing. Our first attempt at using the pole went quite badly.

There were no floats around to buy so we ended up making some. These first attempts have thankfully been hidden away and will never have the misfortune to enter the water. We decided to stick to using cane kebab sticks and small polystyrene bodies. The end result was admittedly quite shoddy, but they worked.

One small thing that Europeans take for granted is silicone tubing. We had access to nothing that could be used to hold the float against the line. The hours of torment of hunting through fishing and hardware stores on the hunt for the correct diameter tubing drove us mad. It amazed us at the range of diameters available and how we couldn't find one to use ! My father had the fortune of finding one small packet of silicone tubing pieces in various sizes. We thought that we had hit the jackpot. The only problem was that the packet only had enough correct size tubing for three floats ! We eventually tracked down a Melbourne tackle supplier who stocked some coarse fishing gear. By this time I had become quite proficient at making floats.

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