Although it has taken me the better part of 60 years, I have come to the not-so profound conclusion that fishing is as simple and/or complicated as you wish to make it.
As a kid, I had a lot of fun catching fish, casting or dangling a plastic red and white bobber with a worm on a hook.
Today, I probably own well over three dozen specialized rods, at least the same number of reels, if not more, and enough gear to fill several 12-foot aluminum fishing boats.
Fishing has somehow become a lot more complicated.
A few years ago, my good friend and longtime fishing buddy Cory turned me onto centre pin fishing.
Centre pin reels are usually finely crafted, single-action reels that are free-spooling and hand-controlled. They spin on a single bearing or bushing (depending on the maker), and give a virtually drag-free drift.
The rods are long and ultra light. Presentation is made by floating a fly or bait along on the current of a river or stream. Nothing could be simpler.
Float fishing and centre pin-reels have long been a popular way to fish in Britain and other European countries. In recent years it has become more and more popular among anglers in North America, especially on many rivers and streams here in British Columbia.
While a lot of float-fishing anglers like to use one of today’s modern functional foam floats, others prefer to cast the more traditional, beautifully crafted, magnificently detailed, technically precise ‘European style’ floats which over the years have evolved into what some would call an art form. Even the names given to these wooden floats are colourful and interesting. Wranglers and windbeaters have long, thin antennae with brightly painted tips, or sight-bobs for higher visibility extending from their body, and are used for stillwater fishing. Sliders, which have the bulk of their cigar-shaped form towards the top, are generally used for river and stream fishing. Then there is the terminology given to the techniques of fishing these floats, which does take a little bit of getting used to. There are terms like ‘ledgering,’ which means fishing just off the bottom, ‘shotted,’ meaning weighted and ‘trotted,’ which refers to a float drifted downstream.
While European-style wooden floats were originally designed for bait fishing, it did not take long for North American anglers to recognize their potential for fishing with an artificial fly. Patterns such as chironomids, wooly worms, pumpkinseeds, caddis pupae and/or almost any emerging nymph pattern would work well suspended beneath one of these types of floats. Twitching the float on the surface would easily translate beneath the surface into the kind of movement that would attract a fish to your fly. There is also the obvious advantage for anglers who wish fish waters designated fly fish only, but who are not set up with a fly rod. The combined weight of the float and lead shot is enough to easily cast a fly using a centre pin or even spinning set-up.
One cannot help but be impressed with the quality and craftsmanship of European-style wooden floats. They range in price, from a few dollars to upwards of $25 and more. I have also seen vintage wooden floats go for a pretty penny at auction on the Internet. And, just as there are well-recognized custom fly tiers, there are also well recognized and respected float makers who build hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind floats that are highly sought after by collectors.
I have become as much of a collector as a user when it comes to wooden floats and have managed to amass a fair number in a short time. I have a variety of different types of wooden floats that I use with my two centre pin setups. Sometimes, however, I also like to just hold and admire them.
When I am standing on a stream bank, casting my centre pin and watching one of my little wooden floats bobbing along on the surface of the water, I cannot help but think to myself, what could be simpler and more straight forward than fishing with a wooden float and a reel that has no gears or drag system. It’s absolute simplicity – just you and the fish.