Flyfishing with a float - It's possible to fish a fly without a flyrod. You just need a bobber, a bubble, a float, a bombarda, a sbirolino, a buldo or whatever you want to call it... and a spinning rod. - Global FlyFisher

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Flyfishing with a float


Published Aug 28th 2011

It's possible to fish a fly without a flyrod. You just need a bobber, a bubble, a float, a bombarda, a sbirolino, a buldo or whatever you want to call it... and a spinning rod.

By

Float fishing

A lot of Danes fish the fly in a special way. They use a spinning rod and a special float to cast out a fly. This rig has the advantage of making you able to fish with a fly, but to do so without having to learn to cast with a flyrod - or even buy one. Many coastal fly fishers also prefer the method over the fly rod if the wind makes casting a fly hard or even impossible.
The method is generally considered the most efficient method for fishing for coastal sea trout. A bubble float fisher will generally outfish both fly and spin fishers.
The method is also useful for many other kinds of fishing, and even dry flies can be fished in a stream using a bobber, and may even be easier to control than a fly on a fly line because of the lack of drag in the line.
The stream fishing with floats isn't that uncommon, and in the southern part of Europe, especially in Spain, the use of a float and a team of Gallo de Leon flies has a long history as it can be seen in Tomás Gil's book La mosca ahogada.

Few items


Flyfishing... or?
I have at times dived into the discussion whether this is flyfishing or not. I won't do that here. It's fishing with a fly, and that's what matters, because the fly can be the only effective way to catch fish sometimes, and for coastal fishing as it's performed here in the Baltic, it's a very useful fishing method - flyfishing or not.
I use the bubble float from time to time myself, and I tend to agree with its most avid proselytes: it is a very efficient way to fish. Definitely more efficient than fishing with a lure, and actually more efficient than flyfishing with a fly rod. But not nearly as much fun...

Buldos

Types of floats
The ones of us who fished bobbers or floats as kids will remember the typical white and red Styrofoam contraptions that was used together with a bit of lead.
Today's floats for fly fishing are very far from these ancient constructions.
Most are designed as casting floats needing no extra casting weight, but actually casting very well by themselves.
There are two basic types:
1) The hollow egg-formed bubble- or buldo-type.
2) The solid elongated bombarda- or sbirolino-type.

Bubble
The bubble (AKA buldo or bubble float) is available in many shapes and sizes, but the Bonnand type, which is usually egg-shaped and has tube going through it is generally preferred by coastal anglers. There are ball-shaped ones too, floats with eyes in each end and other types, but the egg-shaped one that can be filled with water is a commonly used type.
You fill the float with to get the right casting weight and can have a light and floating float or a heavier and almost neutral or even slowly sinking one by adjusting the amount of water. The size of the float decides the maximum casting weight.

Bombardas

Bombarda
In the last decade or so, the egg-shaped floats have been replaced by more modern, elongated floats in different densities with long guiding pins added for better direction control in the cast. These are also known as Sbirolinas in some countries or just referred to as casting floats.
You buy these floats in the density and casting weight you want. You can get them from floating to sinking and in many different weights.

Both types are available in many colors as well as translucent. My experience tells me that the color matters little, and I have fished with bright yellow floats as well as translucent ones, and sensed no difference.

Loose float
The float has to be of the type where the line runs through a tube in the center. This allows it to slide up the line when the fish takes the fly. The fish won't feel the weight of the float, and the float won't keep the fish from running.
The only problem with this rig, is in the landing phase, where the bubble above the leader will mean, that the fish will be landed with all the leader out of the top eye. This is only a really big problem when your leaders get longer than your rod or some 3 meters or 9-10 feet.
Many Danish fishers use leaders up to 5 meters when fishing bubble floats and a friend of mine used to use a complicated construction with monofilament line, a piece of intermediate fly line and a thin leader with split shot in front of the bubble. He caught a lot of fish by the way. Personally I have always limited my leader length to a rod length.
An advantage of the bubble method is that you can fish large and heavy flies on long and thin leaders. Flies as the Fair Fly and the Full Metal Jacket can be a pest to cast on a light fly rod. They work very well with a casting float.

Rigging


Rigging
You will need some loose line for the leader. Many anglers fish with braided lines on their spinning rods, but the leader should be normal nylon or floucarbon.
Thread the float onto the casting line. Bomardas go on with the pin towards the rod, while egg-shaped bubbles go on with the thin end of the center tube upwards. You need no plugs or other things to keep the float from moving, because we want it to be able to slide on the line.
Thread a plastic pearl on the line after the float, and tie a small ring or a swivel to the end too keep both from falling off the end. Tie the leader to this ring or swivel. Keep the leader a rod length or a bit longer and tie the fly to this. I use leader material in the 0.20-0.26 millimeter or 1X-2X range.

The tactics
Casting the float with the long leader can be quite tricky. When casting you don't want to hook yourself with a stray fly and when the bubble lands you want the long leader to stretch in front of the bubble.
Both things can be accomplished with the following method: When you retrieve the bubble and lift it off the water in preparation for the next cast, you leave the fly in the water in front of you or to the side where you cast.
Have approx. 0.5-1 meters (2-3 feet) of line out of the top eye to the float. Take the rod slowly the the right (if you're a right hand caster) leaving the fly in or on the water, but increase the speed in order to load the rod. Cast the bubble forwards and upwards with a firm but smooth motion.
The fly will follow the bubble and the leader will lay parallel to the casting line. In order to stretch the leader you brake the casting line by gently pressing your finger against the edge of the spool just before the bubble lands.

Casting


Retreive

Retrieving
Some traditions bid you to retrieve the bubble extremely slowly. Don't necessarily follow that tradition!
Retrieve as with any other kind of active fly fishing: varied and according to the circumstances - and sometimes with great speed. That's one of the advantages of a spinning rod compared to a fly rod.
Some argue that the bubble will scare the fish. My experience is the opposite: the commotion of the bubble is more likely to attract fish, that will then see the fly trailing it.
If you fish a dry fly, a wet fly or nymph in a stream, don't retreive, but make sure that you have contact with the float, but allow the fly to move freely.

Flyfishing for non-flyfishers
Fishing the fly on a float can be a great way of engaging a non-flyfishing spouse or kids in your fishing. It requires less skills than using a fly rod, and can be used by even very green anglers.
So you might want to try bringing a suitable spinning rod and reel, and equipping less skilled anglers with a bubble rig.

You may be in for a surprise!


User comments
From: Graham · ghbell56·at·gmail.com  Link
Submitted May 16th 2014

I am new to fly fishing in fact I am newish to spinning only as a child did I really fish so at 58 its all a leaning curve to me I have good 4 piece rod and spinning reel using 3.8kilo line and I am going trout fishing n the river Wye in the UK so I thank you all for your comments on this page as it has helped me sort out my methods for fishing I will try small lures and then a bubble or two with a flie on the end and as stated I will only use single barbless hooks so not to damage the fish as at the time I am going all fish have to be returned to the river. just one question can I get away with a 5ft leader as my rod is only 6ft so i can see myself triping over the line or even hooking myself instead of the fish.

Graham


From: Pit · alepitrenz·at·yahoo.de  Link
Submitted July 27th 2012

I am an Inlander - some 500 miles off the Baltic Sea. I hate driving so long, catching a cold but no fish for the fish are out of flyfishing distance, or the waves are too high or the wind too strong. I hate to take more then 1 rod with me and I prefer the flyrod. So what to do if the circumstances dont match my needs. I always have a spinningwheel and 2 sbiros in my bag. my flyrod is 3 meters long and it is strong enough to be used with a spinning reel and sbiro. I cant throw it a 100 meters as i can do it with my spinning rod. But 50 meters often save me being without a fish. Maybe some of you will try it. Good luck and tight lines with a fly at the end


GFF staff comment
From: Martin Joergensen · martin·at·globalflyfisher.com  Link
Submitted January 24th 2012

Colin,

It sounds as if you and your sons are about to have a great time together!

Regarding rods my personal preference is a fairly sturdy style when it comes to spin fishing. I have never really been an ultra-light type when it comes to spinning. Light means the fly rod for me, so when I dig out a spinning rod it's to get distance and being able to cast some weight in rough winds and to cover a lot of water - both on distance and in depth.

I favor 9 or 10 foot rods that can cast about 20 grams. I like the rods to be light, but fairly stiff, and also prefer those that break down to three or four pieces. A long rod is nice for the bubble because the length of the rod decides how close you can get a fish on a certain length of leader.

I use the spinning rod for the bubble as described above, but also like solid, cast metal lures of the type where the line runs through and attaches to a loose hook. I always fish single hooks on my spinning gear. It makes it so much easier to avoid (and get out of) snags and in my experience they hook just as well and come out a lot easier if you want to release a fish.

When it comes to line I have long ago switched to the braided or fused lines, which in my opinion is one of the best things you can do for your spin fishing. They cast very well, are much stronger than mono and first and foremost have very little stretch, which means that you have much better contact with the fly or lure at the terminal end - even with a lot of line out. Contrary to what you might hear they work fine with stiffer rods.
I use a 0.12 millimeters Berkley Fireline with an impressing breaking strength of about 7 kilos. A monfilament line would have to be twice as thick or more to have the same strength and feels quite thick and clumsy once you have tried the braided or fused lines.

Hope this helps and good luck with the fishing!

Martin


From: Colin - Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted January 24th 2012

Hi Martin
this is another very interesting article and a method I and my sons will be trying this year as we embark on our first attempts at saltwater fly fishing. We will be targeting sea trout and bass so I wonder if you can recommend a length/casting weight of spinning rod to use as well breaking strain of mono for the reel.
thanks and congratulations on a fantastic site


From: Bill Falconer · falconerb·at·yahoo.com  Link
Submitted October 19th 2011

To me it is all fishing regardless of type and every tool has it's place. I have found the use of floats to be an excellent way to introduce people - especially children - to the concepts of dead drift nymphing. Anyone can catch fish on a small wooly bugger or wooly bugger jig under a float. (A jig? GHASTLY...I use them on the long rod, too.)

The best floats I have found for light line fishing are the A-Just-A-Bubble floats made by Rainbow Plastics (Colorado, USA). Depth is instantly adjustable, they come in a variety of sizes, and come in several colors including CLEAR. The clear mini is very effective even in flat water.


From: Andre · idiudemess·at·yahoo.com  Link
Submitted October 13th 2011

I think this calls for another discution : what is flyfishing ? :))))) and then we might say that czech nymphing isnt flyfishing, as buldo fishing isnt flyfishing :)
As a matter of facts, personally I prefer fishing with a fly rod and fly line .... because you may get enough satisfaction in a good cast even without having a fish at the other end of the line :)


From: W. K. Wimpenney · wkwimp·at·yahoo.com  Link
Submitted September 14th 2011

From W. K. Wimp [wkwimp@yahoo.com]

I am 71 today and have fished this way since braided lines, wooden "floats" (some with lead in them) and gut leaders. Fished mostly in Wyoming, but also Pennsylvania, Montana, South Dakota, Victoria and NSW Australia, South Island New Zealand, and a few other places.

With mono and the right size bubble for the situation and for the line, it is known in Wyoming as a license to kill fish. I have used the little water filled bubbles and 4 pound line to real with 2 or 3# leader, and for really large brown, a surf rod, very large bubble (4 oz filled), 8 to 10 # line to real and 4 or 6# leader. Often with 15 foot leaders.

I love the fly rod. I love a spinning spoon. But to catch fish, this is the way, #16 gnat or #2 streamer. Trout, Walleye, Parrot fish, lake trout, pan fish and bass. When in doubt, this is the only way, river or lake,pond or small stream.

Bill


From: Norm - Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted August 31st 2011

a fly, bubble and spinning rod is a winning combination that can catch a lot of fish!

its just another way of fishing


From: atli · atligi·at·gmail.com  Link
Submitted August 30th 2011

Nice article Martin. I actually bought a couple of Bombardas recently; for the kids to be able to use flies, next time I take them out fishing, but as I have never tried this type of rig myself the into was very welcome.
Cheers,
/atli


GFF staff comment
From: Martin Joergensen · martin·at·globalflyfisher.com  Link
Submitted August 29th 2011

Anonymous,

As I said: I'm not going into the discussion. It's fishing with a fly. End of story.

Martin


From: Bernd - Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted August 29th 2011

Hello Martin, you are absolutly right; threre is no need for discussion about this technique because it has definitly absolutly NOTHING to do with flyfishing. Sorry, but only the use of a fly can`t be reason enough to think, this could be flyfishing in any way.



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