In this modern day and age, the flyfisher is not only a hallmark of space-age technology when it comes to his rods, reels and lines. Flytying has also entered the 21st Century with a host of synthetic materials that lend themselves perfectly to flytying. The array of chemicals available to the flyfisher today is quite baffling and they have also had a incredible impact on flyfishing as we are floating flies today that wouldnít have been nearly as effective and good fishingflies 50 years ago. In short, our flies float for longer through the use of modern chemicals. So in the following Iíll cover the basics of the ďfloatation-chemicalsĒ used by and offered to the flyfisherman today, without pretending to know them all, but covering the ones Iíve tried myself.
Floatants lend any dryfly better floatation. Mind you, floatants donít make flies float. Floatants are water-repellants, so they prevent the fly from soaking up water. Floatants come in different viscosities and textures and some are really good, others are crap. In the following, Iíve gone over the ones I use and the ones Iíve found useless.
For example Shimazaki Dryshake or Loon Blue Ribbon Super Dry Powder. Attach the fly to the leader, put it in the bottle and shake. They fly gets coated with a thin layer of powder that is easily blown off and leaves the fly water repellent. This type of floatant is really effective. It can save a completely knackered fly by drying it. So thatís basically good, especially if the fly is the last one of itís kind in the box. On the negative side, by dunking your fly in this stuff, the whole fly will float, which is quite a nuisance if itís an emerger where you want the abdomen to penetrate the meniscus. Also, you will end up treating the last inch or so of leader. Putting the fly in the bottle not attached to a leader, it will simply sink to the bottom and youíll have to resort to forceps to retrieve it. I do carry a bottle of Dryshake in my pack, and although rarely used, itís saved me more than one occasion.
A watery substance, usually silicone-based, that you can spray on your dryfly. This is a type of floatant I donít recommend to anyone as itís a bit like fine marksmanship with a shotgun. That is, again, if youíre using an emerger, you donít have the option of only treating say hackle and thorax. In fact, you donít even have the option of keeping the stuff off your leader, which will also float and look like an anchor-rope on the surface, reflecting light and putting off the fish. So, steer clear of this stuff. If you want to impregnate the entire fly, spray is a fine option, but do it before attaching it to the leader, preferably at home allowing the fly to dry as well. And even then, there are better alternatives for this as well.
Another and better way of impregnating the entire fly is using something called Silicone Mucillin. This comes in a kind of hourglass-type bottle, where you place the fly in the top-chamber, screw on the lid turn the bottle upside-down, flooding the chamber and fly with floatant. Allow to soak for a few minutes and empty the chamber and remove the fly. Allow the fly to dry out completely before use. This treatment is extremely effective and will make your fly TOTALLY water-repellent. I use this treatment on a Swedish fly called Rackelhanen and my Goddard Poly-Sedge. It actually allows me to pull the imitation under and being completely water repellent, it catches so many tiny air-bubbles that they pop back up on the surface when tension is released Ė great fish-fooling tactic. Notice again, that you donít have the choice of impregnating specific parts of the fly.
Watershed is another watery substance. Itís as good for treating the entire fly as Silicone Mucillin, but as it comes in a small bottle with a small nozzle, itís actually possible to treat specific parts of the fly. I only use this in the vice, so to speak. For example, I tie a dryfly with polyyarn wings and a hackle of spun Hareís Ear dubbing. In the vice, I apply a small drop of Watershed to the thorax and wings and this makes keeps the fly from soaking for much longer than usual Ė this stuff I highly recommend.
There are several makers, Gerhke, Loon, Loop, Vison, Scientific Anglers and so on. And they all work pretty much the same. Iíve tried most of them and found little difference. Loon MIGHT have an edge, as they claim having added ďscent-masking pheromonesĒ to their ďAquelĒ. I have a bottle that I use, but I havenít noticed any difference from my Gerhkeís Gink in terms of better fish-fooling or better floatation for that matter. The great advantage to these gel-types is the thicker viscocity. This means that you can squeeze out a small dollop and apply this to say just hackle and tail on a parachute. Should you wish to apply to the entire fly, youíll most likely discover the major drawback of the gel-types, and that is if you apply too much, they leave an oil-slick on the surface. Now that might be good if you were trying to imitate the Wild Turkey, but to my knowledge, mayflies rarely leak motoroil.
Another thing Iíve learned in the past, fishing in the cold periods of early spring and late autumn, is that the gel can become so thick from the cold that itís hard to get out from the bottle. The solution is to carry the bottle upside-down in a caddy.
On the other hand, in the summer it can get really runny making it difficult to use the right dosage as it will run out too easily. Then I simply use the harder type of gels, that come a small contatiner with a lid on. Stuff like Vision Floatpaste or Loon Payette Floatant (BTW, both are great for keeping monofilament shootinglines afloat too). Take off the lid and you can always get your finger in there and apply with precision. And they never go runny. They do go quite hard in the cold, though Ė canít have everything :-).
Thanx for reading,