Loon Outdoors makes the most popular paste and gel floatants and has three different varieties to accomplish just what the angler is looking for. They are Aquel, Lochsa, and Royal Gel. I have found that Aquel works best at unpredictable temperatures. Unlike some of the old fashioned floatants that harden in the cold and drizzle in the heat, Aquel stays at a predictable consistency, which is great when it has been sitting in the top of my black boat bag on a 100 degree day in August. Unbelievably, that same consistency remains during that January midge hatch on the Roaring Fork.
Lochsa is similar to Aquel, but is designed to work better on flies made of CDC. Cul de Canard is a delicate material and tends to lose its buoyancy when its tiny fibers are mashed down with a heavier floatant. Small dry flies made with CDC float longer and ride higher with Lochsa.
If you are after every advantage, especially while fishing spent winged dry flies or midges, Royal Gel might be what you are looking for. This floatant adds a subtle shimmer to the wings of your flies and enhances their “clear” appearance. I use it specifically during Trico season on the upper Colorado River, and am convinced that it helps put more fish in the boat.
The main problem with gel floatants is that they don’t help much after the fly is wet. Many anglers and guides rely on some form of dry shake after the first round of gel floatant has worn off. After a couple shakes in the desiccant container, dry flies ride amazingly high, even in rough water. Umpqua Tiemco Dry Shake and Frogs Fanny are the two most popular brands. Be careful when pulling your size 6 Sofa Pillow out of the can, though, as it is not uncommon to lose most of the contents on one fly.
Although these powders absorb and remove water from flies, make sure you squeeze your fly to remove excess water in chamois patch before applying these desiccant powders or you are only sealing in the water with the powder.
The third option is possibly the most interesting. New to fly shop shelves last summer is Umpqua’s Tiemco Shimazaki Dry Shake Spray. The dry shake spray is basically dry shake without the mess and hassle. The application process is quick, easy, and does not mash or deform even the most delicate dry flies. At almost thirty dollars a can, however, this is more of an investment than an afterthought.
These are my favorite floatant choices and they all work very well, but the best advice I can give for keeping your dry flies riding high is to change the way that you fish them. Try to only let them sit in the water while they are being actively presented to fish. Even a few seconds of dragging them against the current beneath the surface can cause them to be waterlogged.
The best way to find the floatant that you like best is to try them all. It is never a bad idea to have a few different options with you while you fish. Make sure to stop by the fly shop in Edwards for all your floatant needs.
Andy “Otter” Smith, Guide and Content Writer