What’s my choice for floatants by Davy Wotton
Before the now days of silicone based products way back generally the product used for fly floatant was paraffine oil, one of which was well known as Sunshine oil. Later products also incorporated the use of bees wax which did improve things to some extent. I did have in my collection at one time a small bottle of dry fly oil that was in fact whale oil. circa late 1800s. I still have the bottle.
Then a well known UK angler by the name of Richard Walker developed a product using a combination of carbon tetrachloride and bees wax. ( Permafloat ) which in my opinion is even by today’s standards the best ever for a fly floatant, a similar product can also be produced by using lighter fluid and wax. The downside of tetrachloride is it’s a dangerous chemical, considered be one of the worst in so far as causing humans to suffer issues of cancer.
The consideration so far as what’s the best floatant to use should be solely based on the type of fly you are using, all be it there are a few other considerations that should be taken into account primarily this.. the act of false casting will shed much of the excess water from the fly, that said if the fly has become water logged and the materials on that fly are well soaked then odds are false casting will not improve the situation the fly may still sink even after floatant has been added again.
The second consideration is that many some floatants will not provide stream side a good float for the main reason that the chemicals used will not evaporate fast enough and leave a dry residue to provide for a dry fly, but they may also be the best for reasons that l will explain.
The fact that you are using a agent to float your fly is not as simple as that.
So lets look at the issues here.
Traditional dry flies used a hackle to float the fly and in some cases the body material used would also enhance this. In this case you should not use a float agent that adds weight such as silicone based prodcuts, and more to the point destroys the elements of translucence in the hackle and body material and or causes discoloration to the fly, and cause the hackles to clog as by these issues are very much a integral value to that fly and how a fish sees it.
In my opinion the best out there is the Harline product called Water shed, no silicone product can be compared to it.
That said if you want the best floatability it can offer then you should apply it to your flies well before you use them, if you tie flies do so before you put them in your fly box.
The above product is as good for flies that use delicate materials such as CDC.
In the case of silicone based products they will like it or not leave residue that is not always desirable and often as not will create a oil slick around the fly, a certain fish put off at least until it has dispersed.
Another consideration is how viscous is the silicone, those that are more viscous as opposed to those that are more paste like work well for smaller caddis type flies, hoppers, ants, crickets and so on, and those that incorporate deer and synthetic wings. Aquel is a good product that contains viscous silicone providing you do not use it in excess.
Those that are more paste like best used for larger hair wings flies and those using foam bodies, here the elements of translucency as not so much a issue.
Personally l dislike desiccants, for the main reason they discolor the fly real bad and tend to clog. Aquel is also a good product for application to yarn indicators.
Now we come to the use of float agents for your fly line or leader. I know l have preached this one many times in the past and l will do it again.
No matter how much you spend on a dry line eventually the factory finish will wear off and the line will begin to sink.
How often do you clean your fly line ??
A dry line that sits in the surface and slowly sinks is a big issue for many reasons. It will inhibit easy mends as the sunk line will exaggerate drag issues, will make it way more difficult to control your drift in a orderly fashion and that’s a fact. The sunk tip may well also spook fish.
Also it will not allow for a clean lift off for the back cast, you should be able to lift the line off the water surface and not through it with little or none surface disturbance which is again a no no as often as not this disturbance will put fish down, more so when you are wade fishing and covering the same water unlike boat drift fishing.
Viscous silicone products will generally not suit for the above purpose for any reasonable period of time. Therefore one should look for paste type products.
In my book nothing will beat Mucilin for that purpose it’s a old British product produced by Thames fishing tackle. There are two container colors, red and green.
Red is more used for dressing silk lines but can also be used for modern lines and leader.
It is also one of the best products to float larger flies that are tied with foam and deer hair.
The Complete Fly Fisher.
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