Late November, a damp, dreary morning. Loud and heavy, I knew that booming knock on the front door well and sure enough my mate was stood there clad in coat and boots against the weather when I opened the door. It’s early and he knows I am working so what has brought him across town at this time of the day? I surmise the pale wooden box he is clutching must have something to do with it. We chat for a bit then he thrusts said box across the threshold to me. ‘Here, you take this, I have no use for it’ he says, ‘I was given this by relations but it is full of coarse fishing gear so I thought you might find some of it useful’. I undid both latches and opened the lid a smidgen to reveal a bit of a mess. I could make out a collection of floats, hooks and some line. ‘Certainly some good stuff in here’ I said and with that he turned, waved and marched off down the path in the damp half light. So there I was, slightly bemused, left holding my unexpected gift. Leaving it in the sitting room I returned to the laptop and the first meeting of the day. Work dragged slowly by, a blur of spreadsheets and emails, but finally I was free from the shackles of employment and could investigate further my new acquisition. What would it be, treasure trove or junk!
The box itself, fashioned from plywood and furnished with a carrying handle and two sturdy latches, was in very good condition on the outside. The hinges and latches worked perfectly and apart from being a little dirty there seemed to be no damage. However it was a different story once I opened it up. The slotted foam float holder strips had disintegrated and the floats were lying around in a mess of black dust. I poked about and could see some useful bits and pieces alright. With ubiquitous cup of coffee in hand, I delved further into the nooks and crannies of the box, lifting out two removable compartments to examine the gear and count the floats. Out of the 70 odd in the box only one was instantly discarded, a nice black stick float which had snapped at some point and it was not worth the time and effort to repair it. Do I need another 70 floats? Obviously not but here they were and so I checked them all out. Apart from some which had foam stuck on them the floats were in remarkably good order. Indeed, most appeared to have never seen the water. The age of the contents was hard to gauge but I would hazard a guess at pre-2000 going by the design of the floats and the fact the foam strips had disintegrated.
I sat looking at the box for a while, trying to figure out how it could fit into my already extensive collection of tackle, bearing in mind that I am trying hard to downsize my fishing gear these days. The box was too big and heavy to be of use on the bank but it could usefully store some of the spare tackle I own. That was that, it would be turned into my spare box for coarse fishing bits and bobs. Currently any spare bits are in a clear plastic tub where anything and everything is jumbled together. Now I could be more organised. The anorak in me came to the fore and I proceeded to check and catalog every one of the 70 floats, sorting them into 3 bundles, one each for lake, canal or river fishing. Three pike floats were separated and will be deposited in my deabaiting box later (one, a lovely self cocking slider, has a pin hole that I need to fix first).
A few hooks, swivels and spools of line were next to be examined. I don’t trust old fishing line so the spools will be disposed of for recycling. Hooks on the other hand are always welcome and there was a somewhat eclectic mix to check over. The weird 2/0 bent worm hooks, all the way from the great state of Alabama, might work for soft plastics while some tiny Partridge trebles might be used to make small minnow mounts. Very small Aberdeen’s, much smaller than any I have seen before, may have a use for flatties off a sandy beach or estuary. There is a packet of size 8 long shank fly hooks too. Half-a-dozen excellent steel pike traces will definitely be used in the future so these were immediately transferred to my blue tackle bag. Two bags of small plastic parts remain unidentified (see below) so if any of you lot know what these are for I would be most obliged (I am hazarding a guess they are stops of some kind and are something to do with pole fishing, see pix below). Fly line sinking agent, a torch/compass thingy, some big brass link swivels, starlights, packets of float adapters………… A mixed bag to be sure!
Only one lure was in the box, a nice Tasmanian Devil dressed in blue and silver. Confession time – I have never used a Tazzie before. I’ll chuck this one in my baits box for now where it can live with the pretty blue and gold one I have owned for years but never even tied on the end of my line. I have read these are the ‘go to’ bait for the shad fishermen down south on the Barrow at St. Mullins but they have never been popular over on this side of the country.
Work and Christmas got in the way of things, as they do. The box was safely stowed away until late in December until I had a bit more free time on my hands. Eventually I pulled it out, gathered together some tools and began to clean up of the interior of the box. Divided into little bays, some partly filled with black foam, it looked a right old state when I started but it slowly began to look a bit better. The big issue was the foam strips which had been used to secure the floats to the inside of the lid and one of the compartments. One other compartment had been filled with foam too and all of these strips had to go. Using a paint scraper I removed the old foam but the sticky backing tape took for ever to peel off. It was so old it just ripped when I tied to pull it. Trust me, this was a mind-numbingly boring job which took me ages. A residue of sticky adhesive from the tape still clung to the wood so I used some alcohol to remove that too. The sticky backed foam obviously was not tacky enough and whoever had previously owned the box stuck the foam strips down with a strong adhesive, so hardened globs of that had to be scraped off with a Stanley blade. Next it was out with the sandpaper and the inside was given a good rub down. I may varnish the box in the future but for now it s fine as it is. I have no intention of using outdoors.
It took me a while but in the end I was happy with the refurbished box. Floats, feeders and a whole panoply of rig bits now reside in the cosy confines of the old wooden box. I know it won’t catch me one more fish but it has been returned to use and I have a neat storage solution for the smaller bits of tackle.
What about all those floats I hear you ask? After sorting through them and giving them a clean up I had to decide what to do with them all. The river floats really are surplus to my requirements. I have a lot of stick floats already and I don’t fish the rivers much these days so I’ll store the river floats away safely for now in the hope I find a use for them at some vague point in the future. Luckily, the biggest percentage of the floats were wagglers which are obviously the mainstay of my coarse angling. All are eminently usable but I am not going to drag another 60 floats out with me each time I go fishing for roach and bream. About a dozen have made the cut and are now in my tackle box, the rest will stay in the newly refurbished wooden box as spares. I’ve mentioned before that I lose or break at least one float on most trips so these wagglers will come in handy over time. One thing is for sure, I will never need to buy another float ever again! And this is before I delve into a well filled box of damaged/broken/worn floats which keep meaning to fix up. There must be another fifty or so unloved old floats residing in that box so that is yet another project for later this winter.
Highlights include a lovely Middy Bomb Waggler, a beast of a float which I will try for tench on a lake I know. The fish tend to hang out near a reed bed about 30 yards out so the weight of the big float will be a big help in reaching them. I know what you are thinking – chuck a feeder at them! The thing is the tench seem to respond much better to the float for some reason there, I can’t explain why, they just do.
At the other end of the scale I now have a few smaller onion’s which will see action on the wee ponds I want to fish next summer. Two of these forgotten lakes in particular stand out as potentially good tench venues. Both are small and weedy and I think the wee onion floats could be just the ticket for places like this. Three lovely grey ‘Olympia’ wagglers (a brand I am unfamiliar with) look to be ideal for the canal fishing I do up in Leitrim. All in all I am delighted with the haul of excellent floats and I will derive huge pleasure using them over the coming years.
My coarse angling is, at best, unsophisticated and I strongly suspect if I just stuck to a medium sized crystal waggler I’d probably catch the same number of fish but I enjoy swapping floats as I see fit in an effort to overcome changing conditions. We can go from flat calm to a howling gale in the space a few minutes here (and everything in between) so I feel being flexible in float selection is part and parcel of the Irish coarse fishing game. My general modus operandi is small, light, inconspicuous floats for the canals here as the water tends to be both shallow and clear, and not spooking fish is my main concern. On the small loughs I use different wagglers depending on how far out I am fishing, the bait, target species and conditions. On the rare occasions I find myself on bigger loughs or when fishing a bigger bait for tench I go for large bodied wagglers which cast further and can support the weight of big gobs of worms. Of course there are all sorts of variations in between these broad groupings but you get the idea. Sliders for deep water, Sticks and Avons for rivers and a host of other oddballs can all make an appearance at times too.
The inveterate tinkerer in me loves spending time on projects like this. While I suppose there is an element of saving money that is not the real driver here. Salvaging items which otherwise might be tossed out as rubbish feels like the right thing to do. The box is now back in use and the odds and ends of tackle sorted out. At the end of the day I am now marginally more organised than before. It doesn’t take much to keep me amused. Being the only coarse fisher in the village does have some advantages!
Later – much, much later in fact. By accident I discovered that the little hard plastic items are in fact leger stops. Not sure if i will use them as they look like they could damage my line but at least I know what the hell they are now!