To fish a float effectively you need a long rod. Unlike most other fishing techniques, float fishing requires a lot of slack line between the hook and the angler. The only way to effective manage the slack line and set the hook on a fish is with a long rod. Long rods also offer lots of cushioning to help protect the relatively light leaders that are often necessary when steelheading.
The long rods used for float fishing are, not surprisingly, called float rod. They should have a beautiful parabolic action and not the soft whippy action of a noodle rod. Float rods, generally range from 10’6” for smaller streams to 15’ for big rivers.
When selecting a float rod, decide what purpose it must serve and what action is needed. Shorter float rods, like the Raven® 11’6” Steelheader are more versatile, and can be used for bottom-bouncing and casting spinners, not just running floats. They also help keep the line away from over hanging trees. Longer rods are designed for a specific purpose: to maximize the control of your float. Extra long float rods (15 feet or longer) not only increase float control, but are the best option when drifting floats through deep pools or fishing at extreme range. They hold more line off the water, set the hook harder and make mending the line easier.
The action of the rod is determined by the blank design and taper, as well as the type of graphite used in its construction. Raven® rod blanks are built from premium quality graphite on special-purpose mandrels to deliver the exact action required. Raven® rods are designated as MXG, IM6, IM8, IM9 or RV9.
- MXG: The Matrix range of Raven rods are produced using MXG graphite, a fiberglass re-enforced composite that is both very durable and reasonably economical. It is very similar in action to IM6.
- IM6: This traditional action is ideally suited for lighter setups. Its relatively soft, cushioning action protects small hooks from ripping out and light lines from breaking.
- IM8: This slightly stiffer and crisper action rod offers versatility in what and where you can fish. It remains soft enough to protect light lines, but is powerful enough to handle large floats and fast water. This makes the Raven® IM8 the best all-around series of rods.
- IM9: Its super-stiff, extra-crisp action is ideal for fishing heavier setups with larger hooks and heavier line. It has the power to turn big fish in fast water and delivers extremely fast hook sets, even at long range.
- RV9: Made from a blend of different graphite, it unites the power of the IM9 and the lightness of the IM8 in a very slim blank. It has a very crisp action and lots of power in the lower end. The RV9 is designed to handle the widest range of conditions and deliver the best performance possible.
The next step in rod selection is to decide the appropriate length and number of sections. Float rods are typically available in two or three sections. With fewer sections to handle, traditional two-piece models are convenient to take apart and move around when fully rigged. Three-piece models are easier to store, fit safely in your trunk and are ideal when traveling.
- Short Float Rods (10’6” to 11’6”): Can effectively run shorter drifts and fish to a maximum depth of 8 to 10 feet. They are light and easy to manipulate, making them perfect for use in small streams and in tight spots.
- Medium Float Rods (12’6” to 14’): Good for a wide range of conditions, these rods provide excellent control over most drifts and can comfortably fish to a depth of about 12 feet. They are the standard length for float fishing.
- Long Float Rods (15’ and above): Allow longer drifts and can fish deeper water that is inaccessible with shorter rods. The additional length makes mending (flicking the line upstream to slow the float's progress) the line effortless at almost any range.
Float rods are generally tied with small, high-frame guides. High-frame guides keep the line away from the rod blank, allowing the line to run smoothly and naturally. To ensure ideal performance from the blank, there should be roughly the same number of guides on the rod as its length (13 feet = 13 guides). Guides that are too small tend to ice up quickly in winter, while guides that are too large dampen the action of the blank. Raven® rods feature a custom designed high-frame No.6 tip top guide that helps reduce ice-up in cold weather, but is still light enough to get the most action out of the blank.
It is important to note that when fishing in icy conditions, it is well worth using some water repellent paste on the top few guides and on the first few feet of line above the float. These pastes help slow ice build-up in the guides. Make sure to avoid jamming the line through iced-up guides, as this will lead to breakage; it is best to carefully remove any ice build-up by hand. For hardcore winter steelheaders, try the Raven Winter Edition rods, built with water shedding titanium Recoil guides at the tip, they virtually prevent any ice-up issues.
Once you have selected a rod, you must decide on either a fixed reel seat or sliding rings. A fixed reel seat screws down to hold the reel securely in place and helps add weight to balance the rod. The fixed reel seat may not be in the position to balance all reels effectively however, so test your reel on the rod before purchasing. Sliding rings are a more economical choice and make it easy to position the reel to suit your personal preference. Not as secure as a fixed reel, they are often taped or shrink-tubed in place by anglers, making the reel difficult to remove. An other effective way to secure the rings is with a couple of inch long sections from a bicycle inner tube. The inner tube rings holds tight to both the cork and the rod rings and can be easily removed.
The next step is matching the reel to your rod.