My approach to trotting is very simple. I think that’s why I like it so much! I currently use a Drennan Matchpro Ultralight14 footfloat rod coupled with a Young’s Bob James centrepin. A match made in heaven. Line is usually around 3lbs breaking strain and I prefer to use Drennan Float fish. Floats tend to be of the Avon style and occasionally balsa trotters or stick floats. Weight of the float varies depending on flow conditions. As a general rule of thumb I go for one with a 3-4AAA rating. If the flow is fairly heavy then I will step up to a 6 or 7AAA. These are fixed top and bottom with float rubbers. One thing worth mentioning at this stage is make sure that the float rubbers are a tight fit, otherwise your float will move on the strike and gradually work its way down towards the hook. You will forever be readjusting the depth, which can be very annoying.
Once you have selected your float and fixed it to the mainline, tie on your chosen hook. I usually fish straight through. In other words, I do not tie on an additional hook length or ready-made hook to nylon. This is entirely up to you and obviously conditions may dictate otherwise on occasions. I like to use a palomar knot which I find extremely reliable. I use Drennan or Kamasan hooks in sizes 14 – 18. If I’m using larger baits, then Korda wide gape and the Gamakatsu G-Point specialist wide gape are very good. Hook choice obviously depends on the bait you intend using. I like to trot with 2 or 3 maggots so go for a size 14 – 18. If I’m missing bites I’ll change to maybe a single maggot on an 18 to see what happens. If you do experience missed bites don’t be afraid to change hook sizes, bait or even line diameter in an effort to connect with the fish.
Once you have tied your hook of choice it’s time to attach your shot. Go for a nice soft shot that you can squeeze on with little effort. This will minimise line damage. You may wish to attach different styles of weights with float rubbers. Dr Mark Everard recommends masonry nails in his excellent book the Complete Book of the Roach. With a bit of lateral thinking you may come up with a great idea of your own. If you do, please let me know! If you are using say a 5AAA Avon, then use BB shots instead. Start 18-24 inches from the hook and attach a line of BB shots in a neat row. This then offers a very neat presentation and causes a lot less disturbance due to the lower resistance on the strike than several large, bulky AAAs. It may well take 7 or 8 to get the float to sit right in the water, with say 1 cm showing above the water level. You want to be able to see the tip in varying light conditions and sometimes up to a distance of 30 -50 yards if long trotting. Then add a small dropper shot about 6 to 10 inches from the hook. Again depending on flow you may wish to use something like a number 8, 6 or 4. In very heavy water I like to put 2 small shot together as a dropper. I think it looks a lot neater than a bb shot. You’re now set to start fishing……well almost.
Finding the Depth.
When fishing in flowing water it is rather difficult to plumb the depth in the conventional way that you would employ on a Stillwater. The best way to check the depth on the river is simply by trial and error. Set your float for say 3 feet. If the floats sweeps downstream unhindered, then deepen the float by moving it up 6 inches. Keep doing this until the float starts to dip under. Once this happens you know that either your dropper shots or bulk shotting are catching on the bottom. You can generally differentiate between the two. If it’s the bulk shot, you tend to see either the float lying flat for a second or two prior to being pulled under or it will appear to be pulled under at an angle which is ahead of the shot. If this is the case you will know how much to shorten the depth setting of the float. If it’s just catching the bottom and dipping slightly, then decrease the depth by half an inch to one inch increments until you are happy that you are fishing with the bait just trailing the bottom of the river bed.
At this stage it is useful to note that this method of fishing will highlight all sorts of contours and depths on your stretch of river, very useful when returning with feeder rods or quiver tip in search of barbel and chub. Another useful trick is to set the float over depth and hold back as the float progresses down the river. If you simply stop the flow of line with your finger the weights on your line will swing upwards in the flow, allowing it to continue down the swim even though it is set over depth. Keep holding back and releasing and try it on several lines down the swim you are fishing. This can sometimes highlight a deeper hole or deeper run. What generally happens is that your float keeps getting pulled under as it is set too deep for the swim. Then suddenly it seems to ride downstream very smoothly and without obstruction. You’ve just found a deeper area. This is invaluable for finding fish, especially in the winter months. If you trot on a regular basis you find yourself doing this as a matter of course.
Controlling the Float.
This is perhaps the most crucial part of the operation and very simple to execute. Once you have cast, simply allow the float to go with the natural flow. You simply achieve this by allowing line to leave the reel. What you must do at all times is to keep the line behind the float and as straight as possible to the rod tip. This will ensure that it travels downstream in a smooth and natural way. With the tip of the rod, correct the line as necessary, using a rotating flick to pull the line straight again. You can control the speed of the float by simply using a finger to slow down the amount of line coming off the spool of your reel. In fact, every so often it is very good idea to stop the line altogether. This will make the bait flutter up in the water, due to the flow, in an enticing manner. This will also help correct the line. Quite often, holding back the float in this fashion is shortly followed by a bite. If you allow the line to snake down the river and get ahead of the float, it will pull the float off line and across the flow. You won’t get too many bites if this happens as it offers such an unnatural presentation of the bait. This is a very simple procedure and soon becomes a natural action that you really won’t even think about.