What Type of Floatant Should I Be Using?

gear Jan 01, 2019

Are you struggling to keep your fly floating?

There are numerous types of dry fly floatants out there, but when it comes right down to it, they fall into two broad categories: liquids and powders. Sometimes anglers will ask us which is better, but the best answer is BOTH. Like so many things in fly fishing, it all depends on the moment and when you need the floatant.

When you first tie on a fly, it should be dry. Before you use the fly the first time is the time to apply a gel floatant. It doesn't take much and will permeate into the body, giving the fly an excellent waterproof treatment that will lock water out. Just be sure not to use too much, or it can soak the fly similar to getting dunked in the river. A single drop is usually adequate for most dry flies.
If you're successful on the water, you should be hooking some fish. The fly will spend a considerable amount of time underwater if it's in a trout's mouth. It will probably get a bit of fish slime on it as well and will lose all buoyancy. Sometimes people will blow on the fly to dry it out, but this is inadequate. Even more will re-apply the liquid floatant to the fly, but it never floats as well as it did at first. The reason is simple - liquid floatants create a water-resistant barrier on the fly, but now there is water in the feather and fur fibers. Liquid floatant pretty much locks the water in the fly.
The best remedy is to do something to get the moisture out of the fly. You can squeeze it in the sleeve of a cotton T-shirt, but most fishing shirts are made of nylon and don't soak up any water. I like to keep a square of chamois on my fishing lanyard and will squeeze the dry fly tightly with it. Squeezing the fly will remove most of the moisture.
Now is the time for the powder floatants. These are usually either bottles where you can drop the fly attached to the tippet inside, snap the lid shut and shake it up. Others have a cover with a small brush that allows you to apply the floatant to the fly. Either style does about the same thing so feel free to choose either. The powder is silica dust and creates covers the fly with a barrier that repels water. The powder makes the fly float very well. The only drawback is that it often requires re-application, especially if you are fishing in exceptionally rough water.
So make use of both types of floatant to keep your dry fly floating and easy to see under a variety of conditions.

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