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Floatant - Should we use it?

What are the other ESSENTIAL pieces of equipment you carry with you? How do you pack? How do you hold your gear while fishing? Fly boxes? Snips? you tell us.

Floatant - Should we use it?

Postby Daniel @ Tenkara USA » Sat Aug 29, 2009 6:44 pm

So, I'm a 90%+ dry fly fisherman, yet I have never used floatant!

I once bought a bottle, but just never bothered carrying it with me. So I continued to use my dry flies, and as always catching plenty of fish with them - without any floatant! If the fly was a bit water logged, a few false casts would suffice. If wetter, then blowing on it usually helped, or perhaps drying with my shirt always worked fine. And, as a last resort, I could always switch to a fresh fly to let the first dry a bit more. If not, fishing just under surface with a dry fly is also usually effective. I should add, I have a few favorite flies, and tend to favor flies that float well naturally but are sparse - elk-hair caddis and the one-cdc-feather-fly, but those are not the only flies I use.

So, I decided I just didn't need floatant.

As I thought more about it, I realized not using floatant was more than just a practical choice (I didn't need it, so why carry it?). Not carrying floatant was my philosophical approach to fishing: keep it simple (no wonder tenkara appealed so much to me), and "leave no trace behind". No matter how little one may use, and how "harmless" floatant may be seen as, it just doesn't belong there. If it's not water, rocks, or fish, it doesn't belong in my streams. Floatant is also not soluble, which is why it helps a fly float, so it'll not simply dissolve, not sure what usually happens to it, but it can't really be good.

Based on all the ads for floatant I see, and all the exhibitors showing the latest floatant formulas in fly-fishing shows, I wonder, were is the content of ALL THOSE BOTTLES going???

Do you use it? Do you think you need to continue using it? Should we use it?
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Re: Floatant - Should we use it?

Postby narcodog » Sat Aug 29, 2009 7:06 pm

For most of my dry fly fishing I use Frogs Fanny 99% other times I use some paste.
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Re: Floatant - Should we use it?

Postby LMarshall » Sat Aug 29, 2009 7:29 pm

narcodog wrote:For most of my dry fly fishing I use Frogs Fanny 99% other times I use some paste.


I've tried Frogs Fanny, didnt really like it, wayyyyy to messy. The nature of the product seemed to entail a lot of waste, I felt like most of it didn't actually end up on the fly. I didn't like leaving behind a plume of white powder in the air, or dropping a bunch of it in the stream.

I've found that I prefer liquid floatants. I feel like I waste less, and I'm more satisfied with the results. On the other hand, most of the liquid floatant you apply to a fly probably does eventually end up in the stream.

I consider myself a novice fly fisherman, since I only started the spring before last. I still have a lot of exploring to do within this sport, and haven't gotten too set in my ways. Right now I find that floatant is helpful, and makes my fishing a little easier. Although after reading Daniel's philosophy on floatant, it almost feels like cheating!
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Re: Floatant - Should we use it?

Postby Daniel @ Tenkara USA » Sat Aug 29, 2009 11:17 pm

narcodog wrote:For most of my dry fly fishing I use Frogs Fanny 99% other times I use some paste.


Do you feel like using floatant improves your fly-fishing? Have you tried not using it? If so, did you feel like you had a big disadvantage?

LMarshall wrote:Although after reading Daniel's philosophy on floatant, it almost feels like cheating!

I don't know if it would be cheating, though it seems like it could make it a little easier. Just wondered if it's a big handicap not to use it...

Also, my intention here is not at all to preach or say floatant is wrong, but rather to have an advanced discussion to understand the pros/cons and whether it's needed, nice-to-have or dispensable-but-oversold.
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Re: Floatant - Should we use it?

Postby LMarshall » Sun Sep 06, 2009 1:10 pm

The other day I fished a small stream in Southern NH that I hadn't fished before. It turned out to be a real gem. I was having so much fun I never reapplied floatant after an initial application. 3 hours later the same Parachute Adams was still floating and catching fish (this is my new favorite fly!). I had to shake the fly off or blow on it every now and then, and this turned out to be easier and quicker than getting out the floatant and working it into the hackle. In my experience so far, (albeit limited to bushy flies), floatant isn't necessary after all.
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Re: Floatant - Should we use it?

Postby gzacckey » Sat Dec 05, 2009 12:58 am

I use Frog's Fanny. I can't say it necessary since you always fish without it, but it my case it would be a pain to fish without it. I fish a lot of small flies (18 to 26) with little or no hackle. They sink after a few casts or catching a fish. So, I squeeze them in wonder cloth or chamois to get out the water, then apply FF. It only takes me a few seconds since everything is on a lanyard. I would go through a lot of flies if I didn't use floatant. I would definitely need to tie more.

I tried false casting, but that doesn't seem to work well on the small flies. It works fine on the bigger flies until I catch a fish, then I treat the fly. I'll use a fly until it falls of the hook.

I also fish a lot of CDC, which limits me to powders or CDC oil. Everything else ruins the natural buoyancy of the CDC. I also prefer not seeing the oil slick from other floatants.

I do wonder about where all that CDC ends up. Probably in those floating debris fields in the ocean. CDC is supposedly safe, but I would still classify it as pollution, just like everything else we lose in the water (fishing line, lead/non-lead sinkers, lost flies, the mud from our boots, ...) I pick up things when I can, to try and balance my account. But there is no doubt that the act of fishing has an impact on any fishery. So, it’s just a matter of drawing the line that you won’t cross over.

If some research is done that shows floatant has significant negative impact on streams, I reevaluate my use of FF or any floatant. I’m always open to change in the face of convincing evidence.
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Re: Floatant - Should we use it?

Postby Daniel @ Tenkara USA » Sun Dec 06, 2009 1:51 pm

I looked around a little bit for evidence to discourage use of floatant, but never found anything meaningful to substantiate it is a pollutant or shouldn't be used. I approach this from a personal standpoint, as you say, I always wonder where all the stuff ends up. And, even though the amounts are minuscule, and I don't think the idea of "what if everyone also did it" would really apply since the waters I fish see very few anglers, I still try to not use it.

It would be pretty helpful if I could see some flies floating for longer. I also agree that sometimes that would indeed be nice (particularly small flies, or with little/no hackle). But, does "being helpful" outweigh my preference not to pollute? Plus, I have been catching plenty of fish when using dries after they get waterlogged. Not my preference to fish them underwater as I prefer to see the fish coming up.

The last thing to sell me on it, is simply not carrying an additional thing...
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Re: Floatant - Should we use it?

Postby rsetina » Sun Dec 06, 2009 7:59 pm

LMarshall wrote:The other day I fished a small stream in Southern NH that I hadn't fished before. It turned out to be a real gem. I was having so much fun I never reapplied floatant after an initial application. 3 hours later the same Parachute Adams was still floating and catching fish (this is my new favorite fly!). I had to shake the fly off or blow on it every now and then, and this turned out to be easier and quicker than getting out the floatant and working it into the hackle. In my experience so far, (albeit limited to bushy flies), floatant isn't necessary after all.


During the Tenkara outing I realized I didn't need it either. I caught just as many flies on a sunken dry fly as I did with it floating. I just used my shirt to dry it off after blowing on it and it floated just fine. I found it faster too.
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Re: Floatant - Should we use it?

Postby Anthony » Wed Dec 09, 2009 11:40 am

I had never though of the "pollution" aspect of floatant before - but I've given some though to it lately. And I had a few thoughts on this:

1. If somebody came up to the stream and emptied a small bottle of petro-chemical, and then walked away you'd probably be more than a little bit shocked. This is essentially what we're doing when using floatant - but over a larger time span. On the other hand I have a hard time believing that the use of floatant poses any real environmental threat when you consider the quantities involved - but as a matter of principal...well everyone can make their own decision on that.

2. Another related issue is the overall carbon-footprint. Consider the energy and resources used to create, bottle, and transport the stuff, and you see a larger environmental impact than at first glance. Again, there is the question of scale - you have to imagine that the resources and energy directed to floatant is pretty small. However - the small things can add up. Again it is more of a personal philosophical question than anything else.

With regard to the practical aspects of using/not using floatant. I have used floatant on and off and have mixed feelings about it. As other folks mentioned - squeezing the fly out on your shirt and blowing on it can help - along with false casting.

If I have room for false casting - I can usually do without floatant, but on small brushy streams, sometimes I just don't have enough room to dry the fly off, with false-casting, and floatant has been helpful. In lieu of floatant, luckily on these types of streams the fish usually aren't too picky though - so I choose a high-floating, buoyant fly, preferably one without dubbing. My favorite fly for this is a small muddler-minnow fished dry. The deer hair is nice and buoyant and the tinsel body doesn't absorb water, so it is easy to dry. I tie these in size 14 and 16 on dry-fly hooks.
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Re: Floatant - Should we use it?

Postby patrickgarner » Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:39 pm

I'm with Daniel on this one. I've dry fly fished throughout the US east coast for almost 25-years & never used floatant. It's always amused me to see guys shaking their flies in some branded white power, or using smear on goo. Have to admit that my decision has not been environmentally driven, but just that I hated to have one more necessary thing to carry. And found that fish were just as eager to bite with my fly in the top inch of river. (And I love the environmental angle--no maker sells floatant as "green.")
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