“Every nymph needs a pimp”. And every dry fly fisherman needs floatant! Fish Pimp is a Boise, Idaho company that specializes in floatant, strike indicators, and line dressings. They were kind enough to give us some samples of their Fly Sauce liquid floatant, and 2-stage Shake-n-float dry floatant to try out and review. I tried out both floatants on the Gunnison river during our big fishing trip last week (you may have seen a photo or two on our Facebook page). I didn’t feel like I got enough opportunity to really test the floatant on long floats (those browns hit hard during the stone fly hatch!) so after the trip I came home and made up a floatant test rig so I could get a real side-by-side comparison as well.
When it comes to things like line dressing and floatant, convenience is my number one priority. If my fly isn’t floating, I don’t want to spend a lot of time remedying the problem. Time fixing a fly is time that the fly isn’t on the water, so whatever works fastest will be my pick. My typical go-to choice is an old bottle of Gink that I’ve had sitting in my fly vest for the last four years. Now that you know my preferences, let’s get on to the review.
The 2 Stage Shake-n-float is a really cool concept I’d never seen before with dry fly floatants. Floatant won’t help you much if you apply it on top of water, it needs to adhere directly to the fibers of the fly. For that reason, you should apply floatant while your dry fly is, well, dry. That’s a problem for me, because I usually don’t think about applying floatant until I can’t see my fly on the surface of the water anymore because it’s soaked through. That’s where the Shake-n-float really shines. The 2 stage Shake-n-float is a 2-chamber cylinder with a rotating head that allows access to only one chamber at a time. You put your fly in the top, close the lid, twist to “Step 1″ and shake. Drying agent fills the fly chamber and sucks all the water out of your fly. Twist the lid to “Step 2″ and shake, and floatant coats your fly and you’re ready to go!
It’s a nice, compact system, about 1.5x the size of a bottle of liquid floatant. The top chamber would fit a fly up to about a size 8. On the Gunnison we were fishing with size 4 and 6 flies, so it didn’t work at all for me in that situation.
However, it seems like a lot of the drying powder ends up clumping up and some of it gets stuck on the fly. Where does the moisture go when you’re done drying flies? Is the Step 1 chamber just going to fill up with clumps of used-up drying agent?
The instructions say you’re supposed to tap all of the drying agent back into the step 1 lower chamber before switching to step 2. I was able to get most of the drying agent back down into the lower chamber, but some was still clumped on the fly.
Twist the cylinder until the word “Step” on the red part lines up with “2” on the bottom part (180 degrees). Shake the floatant in to coat the fly, then tap it back down into the reservoir. Sounds simple enough, but I wonder how much is getting on my fly, since it already looks to be pretty well coated with drying agent?
On opening up the fly chamber, my fly looked liked I’d drug it through a snowbank! It was barely recognizable! Not to worry, the instructions say to give it a few false casts and you’re ready to go. Sure enough, 2 false casts and you can’t even tell I’d put floatant on the fly. Maybe that’s a bad thing…
On the Gunnison I tried this with a small elk-hair caddis (since my stone flies wouldn’t fit). The water was a little rough, and I didn’t see very good performance from the shake-n-float, unfortunately. It really felt like my false casts had simply pulled all the floatant off, and I was back to the same sinking dry-fly I’d had before I started.
Since I didn’t get a lot of chances on the Gunnison, I tried the shake-n-float at home. It seemed to have better performance in calmer waters. My fly still looked like a ghost when coming out of the system, but the floatant seemed to do its job and lasted much longer. I also tried prepping the fly, casting, and forcing it under the water. Before the floatant the fly would sink to the bottom of the pool. After shake-n-float, the fly would pop back up to the surface.
It’s a really cool idea. I like the concept of having a way to thoroughly dry my fly before applying floatant. However, the power floatant gets everywhere if you don’t have the container closed (and it leaks out of the fly-line notch even if it is closed). After a few false casts I really think you’ve wasted most of the floatant you caked on the fly to begin with. The fly container is too small for large dry flies, and the performance doesn’t seem to be worth the extra effort. If I have to false cast after applying the floatant, well, why don’t I just false cast to dry the fly before I apply floatant?
Fly sauce seems to be a little more liquid than my old bottle of Gink. Maybe my old gink is just clumped up after that many years, but Fly Sauce was a lot easier to put on. Gink tends to come out in a thick, hair-gel consistency, while fly sauce comes out just slightly thicker than oil. That made it really easy to get the floatant evenly distributed on the fly, instead of having to rub in a clump of Gink. I really liked how quickly Fly Sauce soaked into my fly and got me back to fishing.
Fly sauce worked very well in all of my applications. Both on the big flies on the Gunnison and on the “Strawberry Shortcake of the Fly Box” Royal Coachman in my back yard. The floatant went on easily and seemed to last at least as long as the Gink I was using before, but without the difficulty of rubbing it into the fly.
I hadn’t even thought about this until I read it on Fish Pimp’s website, but they claim their floatant leaves less oily residue than other brands. Apparently they weren’t comparing it to 4-year-old Gink. I saw a lot of oily residue around my fly when it had Fly Sauce on it, not nearly as much with the old floatant. Probably has to do with how thin Fly Sauce is. It didn’t seem to bother the fish on the Gunnison, but if you’re worried about a visible film, I’m not sure Fish Pimp’s claims hold up in very still water.
All things considered, next time you’re buying a bottle of liquid floatant, give Fly Sauce and try, I think you’ll find the consistency, lack of clumping, and performance are worth a little more visible residue in the water.