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Porcupine Floats?!

Since the trade routes into Africa brought products from around the globe, old-time tackle companies in the 1700s or 1800s fashioned some bite indicators out of everything that wasn't tied down. A popular imported material for companies making floats was the porcupine quill out of Africa. 

 

These quills are thick and tapered to points. With very little preparation and the connection of a wire eye to the base, anglers can have a very durable, arrow-like fishing float.  These floats made it over to the Colonies with the French and were used all the way up to modern times. They can still be found on hooks hanging in tackle stores on a more limited basis.

 

Porcupine quills have some features that make them excellent floats for anglers as well as couple of traits that will make them less effective at times than some other floats.  While the difference might be subtle, it can make all the difference in times when the bite is either subtle or a lift-style bite. This is especially true in cold water, when the angler needs every advantage they can possibly find to see the bite more clearly.

 

Out of all available floats, this float grades out as a very good choice for fishing for many reasons, but in function falls just shy of being the all-around best float. Floats are much like golf clubs in that situations might call for a certain float to counteract current, wind, depth or to better indicate bites in situations when the fish are taking the bait and not moving, lift biting or especially in the cold when metabolism is at its slowest.

 

The two faults in this float are easily seen. The first is that they are not completely straight and the curves result in a non-straight path through the air and probably most important of all in the water. A float that doesn't slip downward (or upward) in a straight line increases resistance to the fish's feeding process. Any friction or reduced speed in the water is a bad thing.

 

A lessor problem comes in casting where a curved item will not fly as straight through the air. This will cut down on casting distance as well as accuracy.

 

For all the minor defects this very natural, sustainable bite indicator does have, it is an amazing gift to us and a very good choice to fish with. The positives of the porcupine quill surpass the negatives. Straighter porcupine quills offer the angler unsurpassed durability Unlike plastic floats which will warp in high heat, the quill is temperature resistant and is tough as nails. Much like the horn on a rhinoceros, the quill consists of a sort of hair-like structure which makes it ultra-durable.  You can cast this off concrete bridges, trees, docks and it will take a beating where a plastic float would crack.

 

Because the material which makes up the quills is dense, it does not float as much as some other materials. To most anglers, this aspect of the quill will not be noticed. But if you were to take the same size float in other materials and compare the split shot needed to sink the quill, you would see that the porcupine quill is one of the least buoyant of all the floats. While this might save you a few cents on using fewer split shot to sink it- this also means you sacrifice some speed in the pop of its lift. 

 

To sum up some  of the great things about the African Porcupine Quill:

1. Durable - they are very strong and this is a good value for the purchase price

2. Long, tall & Thin - these cast pretty well (although most Porcupine Quills are slightly off center or have a bend) they cast above average and better than the majority of bobbers.

3. Thin tip creates a good bite indicator.

4. Long Tall and thin which makes their resistance in the water less than many floats off the shelf

5. Did I mention durable?!

 

This is a good choice and I would grade it at a C+ or slightly better. Extra points for being heritage fishing equipment and a great conversation piece push this to a B-. Off center bobbers just aren't the best for casting and they buoyancy trait of these floats are reasons why this would not be my go-to. That said, I would pick this many times over vs. the rest of the field and would fish competitions with this float without losing too much sleep - it's good and more people should fish it!!

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Comment by loester ray armstrong on February 16, 2013 at 9:06am

where can  i buy some quills like the ones shown above liftfixro1@aol.com , I make a special flooat out of them called a cast a quill to be used with a spinning rod,cane pole, flyrod. they dont disturb a brem bed

Comment by Johnny wilkins on August 11, 2011 at 1:24pm

Christine-

Float on the side is good - if you are not watching it much : )

If you add enough shot to sink it - you will see more bites. BUT- that said, I agree with everything else - and, can I get an Amen!?

Cane pole is the most deadly contraption known to fishing man- bar none! Well, that is of course unless you are fishing a carbon-fiber-wrapped extended cane pole with an elastic shock-absorber elastic in the tip - and then THAT is the most deadliest version of the cane pole known to man.

The pole is deadlier than the rod & reel - no matter the shape in the majority of waters on the planet.

I will be traveling to Italy coming up to fish the cane pole! Thanks for dropping a note on the quill post. I will have tons of cane pole action to write about from Italy...

 

Johnny

Comment by Lord of the Fly , Rods on August 11, 2011 at 9:41am
Well Christine, Good to hear from you, are you stringing your quill upside down for a reason ? ,  next think Flyrod, " a cane pole with adjustable line", and finally get us some good pics of your catch.      LOFR
Comment by Christine Arnold on August 11, 2011 at 9:21am
Men and Boys and their toys.  I like a plain ole two dollar cane pole (Ok inflation has brought them up a bit).  LOFR..hold onto your pants, I strung my quill upside down and let it float flat on the water!  I got more bites on that cane pole than I did on my fancy pink rod n reel a few weeks ago.  Sometimes I put the split shot on sometimes I just let the bait float around like my grandpa used to.  I watched several boys come over with their fancy rigs and never got a bite.  Only one came over with a bunch of crickets.  He was an impressive young lad.  I told him he was the first young-un I've seen in quite a few years that would use crickets.
Comment by Lord of the Fly , Rods on March 30, 2011 at 9:03pm
Down south bluegill like structure, they like to hang around every tree and under every log.Moms's by the stump , she been there since autumn, the snakeier the better, I fish  old oxbows by rivers that you can only get to by boat,it's mother nature at her best.
Comment by Johnny wilkins on March 30, 2011 at 8:27pm

I like your water!!! Amazing. Note that I fish with a 42 foot pole and you fish in 42 poles...

That is some cover - wow!

Comment by Lord of the Fly , Rods on March 30, 2011 at 8:24pm
Ok , I see , and thats cool how the pole nests inside of it's self , and If  i had lots of open water this tecnique would be fun ,that pole is longer than my frog gig,but like I said I get into close combat, But I'm ok with whatever work and your having fun with is ok by me. Here is a photo of some of the stuff I get into.
Comment by Johnny wilkins on March 30, 2011 at 6:53pm

Same way as how you get to Carnagie Hall... practice.

 

The 42-foot pole fits in this fishmobile - it can fit in the Volkswagen:

 

 

The pole comes apart in 4.5 - foot (approx.) long pieces and the parts store inside of each other.

 

 

Here is my son bringing in his first fish on the pole. I set him up on some little 2.5 - 3 lb. carpie beasts and let him try to land them. It was out-of-control fishing fun.

 

Comment by Lord of the Fly , Rods on March 30, 2011 at 5:00pm
How do you get a 42 ft pole to the fishing hole in a Volkswagon?
Comment by Johnny wilkins on March 30, 2011 at 4:22pm
By the way- I next-to-never use drag... I feel a blog post coming on...

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