Pre-spring fishing the float-and-fly

G. Sam Piatt - PDT Columnist

With the warmer weather like we had for a spell last week it’s difficult not to think, talk, and write about fishing, which is perhaps the greatest stress reliever ever created by the Creator.

Doubtless God could have made a more quite, calm, innocent recreation than angling, but doubtless God never did.

Look over on the wall there (don’t try to kid me; I know that you clip each one of my columns, frame them, and hang them on the wall) and you’ll see that last Sunday’s column was about jigging the shoreline for bass with a long cane or fiberglass pole and the hook baited with a gob of live nightcrawlers.

Or was it? I was just kidding, of course, with the above narcissistic statement, because I don’t even clip them myself. There’s just too many of them. Multiplying 43 years times 52 weeks a year comes out to 2,276 columns.


Today’s subject involves another pre-spring (spring is still officially nearly a month away) method that will produce bass along the shorelines of lakes and streams. It’s the float-and-fly technique.

I was introduced to float-and-fly while fishing one late-February day with a guide on Dale Hollow Lake. We tied on a one-half ounce fly adorned with duck feathers. About eight feet up the line we attached a small, pear-shaped Styrofoam float with a hole through the center. This distance is adjusted with a split shot attached to the line according to the depth of the water.

To present the lure to the shoreline calls for a light-action to medium-action spinning rod eight feet in length. The light-action reel is loaded with 4- or 6-pound monofilament.

The fly is worked in a herky-jerky motion in close to shore, where bass are feeding on shad or minnows. Smallmouth bass, as well as spotted and largemouth bass, feed on these baitfish, which are weakened and a bit stressed by the cold water. The float-and-fly technique imitates stressed shad.

Water temperatures at week’s end were in the upper 40s on Grayson, Cave Run, Dale Hollow lakes and Lake Cumberland.

We caught four nice smallmouth that day on Dale Hollow, the biggest going 3 pounds.

Casting such a presentation on a rod shorter than 8 feet is nearly impossible.

If the fly doesn’t produce strikes, tie on a 1/32- to 1/48-ounce hair jig under the bobber. A 3-inch sinking jerk bait also produces.

Tackle shops on Dale Hollow Lake, Cave Run Lake and Lake Cumberland Lake will sell you – for under $50 – already rigged rods and reels and the other equipment needed for fishing the float-and-fly, or float-and-jig methods.

The longer rods can also be used for crappie and bluegill.


Charles Anderson Dana also said, in his essay, “Words That Laugh and Cry,” that every word that expects to earn its salt in poetry “should have a head and a pair of legs of its own, to go and find its place, carrying another word, if necessary, on its back.”

He said the most that can be expected of any competent poet who writes regularly, in hopes of being published, “is to serve a general summons and notice of action on the language. If the words won’t do the rest for him, it indicates that he is out of sympathy with his tools … you won’t find feelings in written words unless there were feelings in the man (or woman) who used them.”

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) displayed her knowledge of how words work in the many of her short poems published after her death. One of them is “The Railway Train.”

“I like to see it lap he miles,

And lick the valleys up,

And stop to feed itself at tanks;

And then, prodigious, step

Around a pile of mountains,

And, supercilious, peer

In shanties by the sides of roads;

And then a quarry pare

To fit its sides, and crawl between,

Complaining all the while

In horrid, hooting stanza;

Then chase itself downhill”

One final stanza tells us how “punctual as a star” it pulls into the station.

If you can’t hear the whistle, smell the smoke, and feel the cinders in your hair. Well … I don’t know what to tell you.

G. Sam Piatt

PDT Columnist

Reach G. SAM PIATT at or (606) 932-3619.

Reach G. SAM PIATT at or (606) 932-3619.