Spare the stem, spoil the float!

This has become a very topical theme over the past decade, with some float manufacturers now starting to pay greater attention to their pole float ranges by offering the same body/bristle with a choice of carbon or wire stem. If you look at the latest range of Rive floats, developed by Alan Scotthorne, you'll see what I mean... and it's not just them! Sensas now group floats in their catalogue by stems and bristles, along with Garbolino's new DS range and the Tamas Walter Series 1 & 2.

I'm very aware that this could be one of these topics which go beyond simply choosing the float itself, so will probably generate debate amongst those anglers who have strong opinions on the subject. While float choice remains a personal thing, it's nevertheless a reflection of an anglers overall approach and technique… in short, you cannot separate float choice from any aspect of pole fishing. If this were not the case, then why should world-class anglers have such strong and opposite views? When I asked two top internationals, from different backgrounds, I got two completely separate yet logical views on the subject.

For instance, why has Steve Gardener almost exclusively switched over to carbon stems while Alain Dewimille still carries only wire-stemmed floats in his box? I understand Alain's heart lies with his nothern French canals, the spiritual home of the wire-stemmed float while Steve fishes the much more diverse mixed-fisheries of southern England, where the carbon stem is better suited to the many big fish present. But this debate goes beyond regionalisation, for both are experienced throughout Europe.

However, before we make too many assumptions, I should point out that the issue of carbon versus wire stems is not just about fishing for carp! Several years ago carbon and fibre stem floats were the preserve of the commercial carp angler, who used them for strength, with the exception of some classic patterns like the Colmic Jolly. There was little choice in good quality carbon-stemmed silver fish patterns. Now look at how this has all changed with the emergence of quality made carbon-stemmed floats from eastern Europe, many of which are far from being carp orientated!

Carbon stems have much more to offer European match anglers than was previously believed. The two traditional plus points of wire stems, namely their stability and the fact that they settle much faster in the water may, in fact, not necessarily have the advantage over carbon that we assume. Carbon stemmed floats, weight for weight, are smaller and give a much more natural reading of how the bait falls through the water. Also, in terms of river use, you probably get a straighter follow through of the line to your bulk shot along with a cleaner contact into the fish. These will be just some of the considerations I shall be examining throughout this article.

I freely admit that I'm a wire stem fan, and have been for many years, as most of my stillwater fishing is on waters between 1 and 3 metres deep, targeting mixed bags of silver fish as well as 'proper' carp. Away from specific carp waters, my favourite floats for general use are KC Carpa Chimps or Malman Winter for pellet and meat fishing, while a Sensas Auchy or the Rive Scotthorne 108 are employed for more general silver fish... which all happen to be wire stemmed! I've used these patterns for a long time, so have total confidence in them. I shall be comparing them against some quality carbon stemmed opposition in this test, so I will take a bit of convincing that my personal favourites are not fit for the job!

How they're made and where they 'stem' from!
Most of us look at the characteristics of a float... its body shape, bristle and, of course, its stem... without too much of a thought as to where they came from. Well, with the help of some manufacturers and designers, here is a clearer understanding of how materials and techniques come together to form your 'favourite' float!

Wire stems
Do you remember those very thin and whippy old-style wire stems? These proved to be an absolute nightmare, because they were often too long and thin in relation to the floats body and consequently bent out of shape under the slightest pressure! This wire was also used for piano and guiter strings and came from a generally available material known as spring steel. It was a low alloy steel which had not been over-tempered, allowing it to bend and return to its basic shape... in theory! However, as we all know, while guitar and piano strings/wire have to be kept under strong tension, once you bend a thinner section of a float stem it never returns to its original shape! I can well remember struggling when trying to slip the silicone rubbers on the ultra-fine and springy stems of my beautiful teardrop bloodworm floats, often bending them in the process... they were a real nightmare. They also proved a major headache when better fish came along as they often got 'trashed' in the process!

Things moved on in the 1990’s with floatmakers starting to use thicker and much stiffer steels for stems. These were essentially steels that were being used to make needles, both for the textile and medical industries. This progression to a more robust steel is what's given us the new generation of wire-stemmed floats. As a consequence, these heavier wire stems allow manufacturers to use much shorter lengths... a fact we will look at in more detail shortly.

The wire stems today, arrive at float producers already cut to the lengths required. This cutting process takes place on large industrial guillotines, so there is always the chance that the cut may not be totally clean. It's therefore worth just feeling the base of the wire stem before you buy the float, to check that there are no sharp and abrasive edges to it. These rough cuts can really damage the line if you slide a float up and down with a silicone trapped over it. You can always double check the stem once home and smooth off any rough areas you've missed, with fine emery paper. This 'smoothing' procedure doesn't happen in most floatmaking operations, as it's simply too time-consuming, because it needs to be done by hand!

Tempering is a heat treatment technique for metals, alloys and glass. With steel, it's done to 'toughen' brittle metal and also allow a certain degree of flex. By playing with various degrees of tempering, steel producers can get the right balance between brittleness and strength for each application. Steel piano wires need to be springy and bendy, because they were designed for stringing various sorts of instruments under tension. The wires we use for float stems, which are essentially drawn for needle manufacture, are much less springy and bendy, but much stronger. It has been this which, in my opinion, has made wire stem floats more popular and user-friendly than the cane stem models used many years ago.

Carbon stems
Today, carbon stems come from the same part of the world as most of the other carbon items used in angling... the Far East. China, in particular, specialises in the production of solid rods of carbon which are made in two ways:
  • carbon and resin is mixed, then pressed and moulded into rods
  •     or
  • the resin and carbon mixture is simply extruded through a machine.
The carbon stems that arrive for float making tend to be in 60cm lengths, which can then be easily cut to size with a desk saw. These rods are also used for many other industrial components such as: Anodes, Electrodes, Heating Elements, Crucibles, Hot Press Dies, Gas Nozzles, Welding Plugs, Stirring Rods, Lubrication Sticks, Bushings & Bearings... all pretty useful stuff!

Carbon is now becoming expensive, so more companies are switching over to the cheaper and slightly more flexible fibreglass stems. While nowhere near as heavy as metal, fibreglass is slightly heavier and less stiff than carbon. One last point worth remembering is that when you look at the technical data on commercially produced carbon rods, there is a slight degree of porosity in them, usually between 6% and 8%. Therefore, to some extent, you can expect the stem to take on a 'fraction' water whilst fishing... a fact little known by anglers!

Fixing the stem
There are two basic ways of inserting a stem into the body.
  1. The most common is drilling into the base of the body, to the required diameter, then fitting the stem separately.
  2. Drilling completely through the body, to the required diameter, then inserting a one-piece stem through it. This then serves as both stem and bristle.
Which is the easier material to use?
This depends on the chosen method of fixing. If it's the more common option, then carbon is by far the better. This is because carbon is naturally lighter than wire, so a much thicker and more stable diameter can be used, making the float body much easier to form. This in turn allows for the stem to be more easily inserted and fixed into the body.

The problem encountered with wire is that because it's heavier, in proportion to carbon, you need to use a much thinner diameter. For instance, if you did not scale down this diameter, you would have severe difficulty in producing floats, under 1 gram, capable of carrying any reasonable amount of shot!!! The very nature of wire means that actually forming the floats' body not only requires greater care during production, but also a much closer grained balsa in order that the fine tapered finish on many models can be achieved. Have you ever tried to upgrade and replace another piece of wire into one of your floats? I have, and it's an absolute nightmare due to this tapering finish at the base of many of them!

The introduction and use of special polyurethane/foam materials by manufacturers such as Jean Luc Dufils and Karoly Kralik, does make drilling finer diameters much easier, as this type of material does not splinter and split like the more traditional balsa.

Weight can matter!
One thing's certain about all float production, wire is heavier than carbon by some amount. You need to use more material and make a bigger body when making wire stem floats. Just try holding a similar wire and carbon stemmed float side-by-side, you can both feel and see the difference in body size. As a rough guide, if you want to make a 4x14 weight float with both carbon and wire stems, you will need to substitute the wire models 4x14 body with a 4x16 body! Put simply, a wire stem float will always require one size up in body weight, in order to compensate for the added weight of the wire stem. By using a wire stem you effectively lose approximately 0.21 grams of shotting capacity, hence the need to up-size the body!

Facts and Fictions!
There's many misunderstandings surrounding all aspects of angling, not least of which concerns float stems. You know the sort of comments that are raised... “I like a wire stem float because the rig fishes much quicker” Well... I would like to shed some light on some of these misunderstandings and try to establish fact from fiction, based on what we found during our test sessions.

Rapidity of fishing
There seems to be a widespread belief that because a wire stemmed float sits upright in the water quicker than a carbon one, it gives the impression that you are fishing faster. I suppose that at first glance it would seem to be the case. However, I believe there maybe some other governing factors where this is concerned and therefore may not necessarily bear any relation to what's actually happening under the water! Here are some relevant points worth considering:

  • Does the float stem have any bearing on the speed the bulk falls through the water?
    The logical answer is NO! How can something that sits a few inches/centimetres below the surface influence something falling below it? I simply do not accept that a hookbait arrives at the bottom any quicker with a wire stem than it does with a carbon stemmed float.
  • Which stem lets you read bites on the drop better?
    Carbon, because it has a lighter composition and is able to follow the natural drop of the shot/bulk as it falls through the water. This way the bites will show up quicker and the strike will be in more direct contact with the bait.
With a wire stem, the float sits straight in the water so the rest of the falling rig has to travel down from 90° to 180°, bites on the drop may therefore be more difficult to distinquish.
  • Which floats are quicker to fish with once the bulk has settled?
    Here the wire stems have the definite edge. With carbon you often have to just re-lift the float and set it again once the bulk has settled, in order to get the float sitting right. This is because the carbons' lack of weight seems to catch surface tension in variable ways. This never happens with wire stems because the moment your bait hits the bottom, the float is already stabilised and ready to fish properly.

So to sum up:
Carbon stems: Perfect when loose feeding and when you want to be able to follow the descent of a bait and catch on the drop.
Wire stems: More rapid stabilisation of your float.

Alain Dewimille’s opinion:
“Wire stems get the float ready to fish quicker, which is vital when you want to catch fish fast. In fact I often prefer shorter wire stems, with a relatively thicker diameter, to give the weight needed for quicker setting.”

Here again there is a fair degree of misunderstanding about the relative sensitivity of wire. You should therefore not make the mistake of confusing the sensitivity of a wire stem with that of a wire bristle! It's true that a wire bristle is far more sensitive than other materials, but it doesn't follow that a wire stem is! In fact there is a strong argument to suggest that a wire stem may, in fact, prove less sensitive.

I've already mentioned that the body size of a wire float will be larger than that of a carbon stem of equal capacity. Logic should therefore tell you that because carbon stem floats are proportionally smaller than the equivalent size wire models, they will obviously display less mass overall and consequently offer less resistance to a bite.

What is certain is that wire stems are much more stable in wind or surface skim conditions. We have already proved this in a previous article on Float Stability, Parts ONE and TWO. This stability undoubtadely helps gives more positive and cleaner bite indications. Not because the float is necessarily more sensitive, but because of the stable nature of the rig and its presentation. It also depends, to some extent, on the fish you are targeting. For example, if you are after skimmers, the weight of the wire stem can create some resistance when you get lift bites!

Finally, there is the argument that wire stems are, in fact, less sensitive. I certainly believe that any perceived sensitivity there may be in a wire stem, is down more to its stability than any other factor.

Jean Desque’s opinion:
“Wire stems are more sensitive in the smaller 0.3 to 0.4gr sizes, but they are no good for picking up lift bites!”

There's no doubt that in the presence of surface tow or wind, wire stems sit better in the water giving more stable bait presentation. This is certainly true in relatively shallow water, but in very deep water, the size of float and its distance from the bulk tends to cancel out any of the advantages of stability in the stem. I don't want to dwell on this aspect too much as it has been covered in a previous feature. A number of knowledgeable anglers put a small shot at the base of their carbon stem floats if it becomes too windy in order to add more stability to the rig. This may be a somewhat half-cocked solution, but it does help to some degree in stabilising the float during windy conditions.

Darren Cox’s opinion:
“Wire stems do offer superior presentation, especially when it's windy, or when lifting and dropping your rig to entice a bite becomes important. They also cut through any skim and make it easier to hold your rig still.”

Diego da Silva’s opinion:
“I use carbon stems when using heavier floats, say from 1.5 grams upwards, for fishing in deeper lakes as I’ve noticed carbon stems fish better in these deeper venues.”

Control on rivers
Most of us believe that when easing a bait through or holding back hard on a river, that a wire stem gives much greater stability. I certainly have always believed that and my favourite models for this were always wire stemmed, but recently I'm not so sure that this is totally correct, when you take into account the points below:
  • We use carbon stem floats for bolognese fishing, so why don't those same advantages of control work on the pole? I think that if you are running the rig through a swim, there is a degree to which a carbon stem will follow the angle down to your bulk better and give you a cleaner strike.
  • We are now catching more and more big fish on our rivers, like hard fighting barbel and carp. Using wire stems on these fish is asking for trouble as they can easily be bent under strong pressure.
I may be playing devils advocate here, but I think we might be missing a trick or two in float selection for running through. I will be looking closer at patterns like the Colmic Jolly, instead of say a Stream Passante this year and trying others like the Perfect Carbon Yellow for bigger river fish. Changing old habits will come hard, but one advantage of writing articles like this is being forced to challenge things I do myself without thinking, like always picking wire stem floats for river work!

Alain Dewimille’s opinion:
“I think on rivers you should fish with a thicker bristle but keep a wire stem. Carbon stems let you run through without holding back at all, but I am not convinced of their advantages when pole fishing.”

Diego da Silva’s opinion:
“To understand the advantages of a carbon stem in a flow, I invite you simply try running a bolognese rig through a swim with a wire stemmed float. You will then be quickly convinced of the need for a carbon stem!”

Working a float
It depends on what sort of movements you may be talking about, For making slow sideways adjustments, wire stems are excellent because the weight in the float makes it much easier to control the float and smooth out any jerkiness in the movement. However, for lifting and dropping the rig, carbon stems are better as they allowing resistance free movement. Many top anglers have now moved over to carbon stems on waters where skimmers are the main target and you need to work a bait to get bites.

Fishability (tangles, etc)

Short lines:
Carbon stems are less prone to tangles when you are going to be catching a lot of fish on a very short line, whereas the wire stem floats will eventually get caught up. This is because the weight of the stem causes the rig to bounce around as it's shipped out, or when you strike and miss a bite. The problem with a short line is that once they wrap round the rigs they usually become trashed!

Long lining:
Carbon stems are also better when using a long line and fishing to hand. Again, the lightness of the carbon stem is less prone to tangling on the cast swing, or more importantly, when swinging in. There's something risky about the weight of the wire stem wrapping itself around a longer line while in the air. It feels like there's a second bulk of weight flying around!

On this point there seems to be general agreement amongst all the top anglers... wire is fine under normal conditions, but the more you use very short or very long lines, the more you should switch to carbon.

Steve Gardener's opinion:
“I use nearly all carbon stems these days. They’re simply easier to fish with as they don’t bend and you don’t get them wrapping around the pole tip!”

This has always been the big plus in favour of the carbon stem. Many anglers only use these when carp fishing, assuming that wire stems bend easier and are therefore more fragile. I think perhaps this assumption maybe open to question... let me explain. KC Carpa have sold a lot of floats in the UK over the last decade. These are quality floats designed by top UK commercial anglers and made in Hungary. Their biggest selling float by far is a model called the Carpa Chimp, which was designed by Steve Ringer for fishing up in the water, or on the deck, for carp and F1's... and this float has…. A WIRE STEM!

Here are a few things that have struck me regarding this issue:
  • When a big fish is on the line and you are playing it in open water, how can a metal stem actually bend? If a fish is simply pulling out elastic, there is nothing in that action alone that can reasonably damage or bend it!
  • When using wire stem floats for carp, you should always use four good strong silicones to keep the line nice and straight through the float during the fight. Having the top silicone fairly close to the base of the float also helps to keep the wire stem straight.
  • When using wire stems for big fish it's better to use a softer elastics like a hollow, which allows the fish to run more. With stronger elastics, such as some solid varieties, the fish can pull harder and thrash around under the pole tip because of the extra pressure that the solid generates. It's where this rougher treatment comes in that carbon stems cope best.
The point I'm really trying to get over is that it's not the actual traction of the fish as it swims through water that smashes up wire stem floats, it's when you subject the float to undue rough treatment. For instance, when you pull a struggling fish through bankside vegetation, or have it lunging directly under the pole tip with the float constantly being smashed against the water surface. Further damage to floats can be caused by fish jumping about in a landing net, particularly if your fishing shallow. When targeting big weights of fish, only carbon or fibreglass stems can cope with the sort of abuse anglers, not the fish, give them!

Darren Cox’s opinion
“I do like to use wire stems for carp when presentation is critical, especially when I am only looking for a small number of fish. I also like to use wire stems for F1/Carassio’s when I need to keep a tight line between float and pole tip, a wire promotes this.”

What’s in THEIR tackle box?
I asked all the anglers who helped with this article to state what percentage of their floats, in their current tackle box, were wire or carbon stemmed. Here are the results:

Darren Cox
"Most of my carp floats are carbon stems (70%), but the majority of my 'silvers' rigs are wire (75%)."

Jean Desque
Wire 70%, carbon 30%.

Alain Dewimille
"With the exception of some bolognese floats, I only have metal stems in my box!"

Diego da Silva
Silver fish 90% metal, carp 100% carbon.

Steve Gardener
Carbon 80%, wire 20% (mostly specialist bleak rigs and similar)

Test conditions

Venue: Harris Lake, Marsh Farm, Surrey
Month: August
Depth: 1.80m
Conditions: Humid and overcast. The lake is very clear and often fishes hard/very hard in these conditions.
Target fish: Roach, rudd, big tench and crucians.

I was joined during my test session by Steve McCrory from KC Carpa and we set up several floats with identical body shapes and bristles, but different stems. Here are the floats we selected:
  • KC Raisor 4x16 (carbon) vs KC Carpa Chimp 4x16 (wire). 
The Chimp is the classic float designed for pellet fishing and delicate presentation. These would be used on our main attack line at 13 metres to look for better quality fish, such as large tench and crucians. The Raisor is its equivalent carbon stem.
  • KC Canal (wire) vs KC Tricky (carbon), both in 4x14 sizes These are two classic diamond shaped canal floats, designed for small baits and delicate presentation. We would be using these floats over groundbait at about 7 metres, looking for more general silver fish.
  • Preston Chianti 4x12 (carbon) vs Malman Winter 4x12 (wire and foam float). These were a couple of short floats for a margin line. Sometimes big fish will come very close in on this lake, but with the water gin clear we could struggle to catch until late into the session.
Steve and I had decided to fish with just one set of kit and take it in turns to fish with all the floats and then assess each. I'd picked this venue intentionally because I knew we would at least catch some fish, even though it was likely to be hard. We would then have the time to look at how each performed and make an assessment of them.

Carbon vs Wire: Body size
It was not until I started photographing these floats side by side that I realised just what a difference in stems made to body size. Steve had brought plenty of KC Carpa floats with him and like many other manufacturers have started to offer the same shape of body with a choice of stems. You could clearly see the difference in body size with both the KC range and the Preston/Malman models.

The difference in size between wire and carbon floats is obviously much more pronounced in the smaller sizes which I've calculated the difference to be around 0.2 of a gram with a normal wire stem. Clearly this will not show up so much with a larger float, like a 3 grammer, whereas a 0.2 gram float will be visibly larger! Just look at the two diamond floats in silhouette shot opposite, to see the difference... and NO I am not cheating... both really are 4x14's!!!

Carbon vs Wire: Fishability
Because the day was oppressively humid, the fishing as expected became be difficult, so presentation was an essential key for success. The wind was coming from the north and slightly behind, just over my right shoulder. This created a nasty surface skim, which got worse the further out you fished. In the margins there was little drift, so carbon and wire floats could be fished quite easily. As it happened, we didn't get much of a response here, just the odd small fish, so I couldn't confirm whether the wire stems would have coped with big fish rushing through the weeds. One thing Steve and I both agreed on, if you use a soft elastic in these circumstances there is a much better chance of any big fish simply swimming off into open water, where it can be controlled much better.

On the 7m line, there was some surface skim and the problem we faced with the carbon stem was that the float would sometimes sit up in this. I would then have to lift it again to set it properly. We were fishing caster over groundbait on this line and I had about 40cm of line between pole tip and float, so there wasn't any issues with wrap-rounds. Both carbon and wire floats performed well at this distance, with the wire settling quicker and the carbon showing the drop bites better, as expected!

On the 13m far line I fished a mixture of chopped prawn and pellet with a short line, looking to simply lift into any bites. The fish we caught at this range were big tench, around 2 kilos plus. However, fishing was difficult and, despite fizzing and feeding fish, we had to keep the bait as still as possible. I'd caught an early tench on the carbon stemmed Raisor, but we wasted a lot of time trying to continue with it. The fish needed a long time to inspect the bait, so they wanted it dead still before actually deciding to take it. With the carbon stemmed float, it caught the skim too easily and you had to continually correct it to maintain position. The wire stemmed Chimp, on the other hand, was totally different as it sat very stable in the skim and we were able to catch the rest of our big fish this float, with prawn or pellet hookbaits.

Even so, as we were fishing with a very short line, about 20cm, the inevitable happened now and again with the float spinning round the pole tip. We didn't set out deliberately to get a warp around and to be fair it did take 3 hours before I achieved it as I shipped out a bit too quickly, a 'classic' accidental wrap around.

I was nevertheless pleased when it did happened as I'd wanted a picture of it for the article, but was a bit less pleased when I had to break the rig down and put on a new one!

The further out we fished, the more we encountered surface skim and drift. But it was these precise conditions in which the wire stems came into their own. Although the fishing was difficult and the larger fish required a more stable presentation, the Chimp proved a definite advantage over the lighter carbon stemmed Raisor. We could have increased the Raisor's size and fished with a 4x18, which would have had a body the same size as the Chimp's 4x16 body. This would have allowed us to put more weight down on the bulk, but that would have defeated the object of the test. We were, after all, trying to compare equal models against each other... not give one an unfair advantage! Even if we had taken this course I doubt that the extra weight would have helped the carbon model remain still in the skim!

What we did discover was that the carbon models fished just as well as the wires on our two nearer lines, where conditions were much easier. However, once we fished long and the conditions became trickier, the carbon simply did not sit properly in the water. If conditions had been perfect with no surface skim/tow, then I cannot see what advantage the wire stem would have over the carbon. Perhaps we should just look at wires in heavy skims/tows and carbons when conditions are more stable!

Carbon vs Wire: Catchability!
I have already given you a flavour of the fishing on the day. On the long line we caught six big tench, one on the carbon Raisor and five on the wire Chimp. In terms of strength, these fish were powerful and headed for cover on the far bank once hooked. But steady pressure turned the fish back each time and most of the fight ended up in open water. There was no danger of the wire stem bending under this situationas so we took our time and got each fish safely to the net. At no point did any fish take the floats through vegetation, which may have happened if we had pressured them too much. I must point out that the week before in our club match, I'd drawn a swim with a bank of rushes extending quite a long way out. Conditions were hard and I eventually won my section with four big fish, all caught on a wire stem float! However, I'd lost one particular large beast in the rushes and trashed another two floats in the process of landing the others. It's debateable whether I would have got the same bites on a carbon stem, but one thing's for sure, wire stems cannot cope with being dragged through vegetation!

If the wire stem was the days' clear winner on the 13m line, what about our 7 metre one? I'd cupped in a few balls of Sensas 3000 Breme, laced with caster, at the start of the session and noticed fizzing over it after about half an hour. I'd wanted to keep the fish on the deck with the groundbait, which should have worked to the advantage of the wire stem float. However, we encountered a problem as the fish seemed to be disturbing the groundbait, hence the fizzing, but not actually taking the caster. We tried laying on and coming off the bottom, but the story was the same, plenty of fizzing but no fish! Steve started feeding a few casters over it by hand and we swapped over to the KC Tricky. Sure enough, rudd and roach followed as the caster hookbait fell on the drop to the bottom. We continued to cup-in and feed casters by hand to catch more rudd and roach this way. So, with fish feeding off the bottom on this line, it seemed the carbon stemmed Tricky had been the right approach!

An awkward skim at 13 metres meant that the added stability of a wire stemmed float gave better presentation on a day when larger fish proved difficult to catch. By keeping the hookbait static, these fish could take their time inspecting the bait before actually tearing off with it. The carbon stem was far too mobile and was constantly being reset over the feed area, which was not acceptable in these conditions. In contrast, the conditions proved less awkward at 7 metres. In this situation, stem selection was really about where the fish would be. Today, roach and rudd were more confident feeding off the bottom at 7m and Steve's approach of using a carbon stem model gave more flexibility, as the fish moved up off the deck and away from the main feed. Personally, I tend to favour wire stems, but acknowledge that with this approach, a carbon stemmed float gave far more control and results.

What I'd hoped to have achieved with this test is some reaction, by deliberately looking at stem selection and trying to argue against some common held and very biased theories. In particular, as a self-confessed wire-stem follower, I've challenged my own thoughts and opinions about float designs and, as a consequence, will be trying more carbon patterns in future! One thing's for sure, there's a greater selection of floats now being produced with the option of carbon or wire stems and this can't be a bad thing. Like many of you, floats are also a particular passion of mine, but I've tried to be as unbiased as possible in my approach to this subject. Compiling this feature has left me with more questions than answers which will, no doubt, generate more interesting and related topics to write about in the future!

Finally, here is a brief resumé from the article, of the criteria to consider when making any float selection:

I would like to thank Steve McCrory, Jean Luc Dufils, Jean Desque, Steve Gardener, Darren Cox, Diego da Silva and Alain Dewimille for their help and insight with this article.