One of the little secrets to dry fly fishing that we swear by is that gel-based floatant doesn’t get the job done.
You also need a dry shake style powder floatant (or dessicant more accurately) to get your flies riding high by sucking out the moisture.
And crucially, this style of floatant is the only type that works with CDC flies (gel based floatants ruin the barbules of the CDC), so they are crucial to have for fishing any dry fly that uses CDC in its construction.
Powder Based Floatants/Desiccants Explained
There are a few different types of dry shake floatants – there are ones that come in a bottle that you put the fly inside before shaking it (Tiemco Dry Shake, Loon Top Ride and Loon Blue Ribbon), and ones that you brush onto the fly with a little brush (Loon Dust Floatant, Frogs Fanny).
Whichever way you apply the floatant, it pays to give the fly a quick blow at the end to get rid of any loose powder.
Dry fly shake style floatants are really desiccants – the name for a compound that absorbs water. All these products contain silica (or silicon dioxide) – the material that you see in those little sachets you get that come with electronic goods for absorbing water in the air during transit or storage.
Frogs Fanny, Loon Dust and Loon Blue Ribbon are made from hydrophobic fumed silica in powder form, whereas Shimazaki Dry Shake and Loon Top Ride have both silica gel in crystal form and floatant powder.
Best Dry Shake Style Floatants for Dry Flies: Reviewed
We’ve used Tiemco Shimizaki Dry Shake successfully for years. It has both forms of silicon dioxide – powder and crystals. The larger bottle enables you to put the waterlogged fly in the bottle attached to the tipper, close the lid and shake. Your fly emerges dry and ready to ride nice and high in the surface film. The only criticism of this product is the lid has a snap closure that is less secure than a screw top lid. We’ve had it spill in a back pack and in a travel suitcase and it is a bit of a pain to clean up. If you have to scoop it up with your fingers, it will dry them out severely!
Loon Top Ride uses the same combination of silica gel crystals and powdered silica, which makes for a very effective dry fly floatant for fishing dry flies. It’s the same principle as Dry Shake and the same flip-top container as described above. The Loon Top Ride container may be a bit more robust thus preventing accidents of the type described above with Dry Shake.
Frog’s Fanny is made solely from hydrophobic fumed silica, so it’s powder only. The other key difference is in the container – it comes with a screw top lid that has an applicator brush on the underside. It’s a great product that is really effective in getting a wet fly dry again and riding on the surface again.
Loon Blue Ribbon is a powder only floatant, but unlike Frog’s Fanny and Loon Dust, it comes in a larger more squat bottle and you put the fly inside and shake it to apply in the same way you do for Tiemco Shimizaki Dry Shake. It is an effective floatant and will get any waterlogged fly floating again.
Loon Dust is another powdered floatant made from hydrophobic fumed silica. It also comes in a screw top bottle that has an applicator brush on the bottom. We used Loon Dust on a recent trout fishing trip and found to be a great dry fly floatant. My own view is you are better with these powdered floatants with the applicator than the combination ones, if only because the risk of a spill is much lower with the screw top lid.
Final Thoughts on Dry Fly Fishing Powder Floatants
If you like fishing dry flies a powder based desiccant/floatant should be part of your arsenal, and if you fish CDC flies (if you don’t, you should!) then it is an absolute must.
Even when fishing non-CDC patterns, we will use the dessicant powder to dry a fly before reapplying a gel based dry fly floatant (see here for our top picks). This combination is the best way of ensuring your dry flies stay afloat in any river or water conditions and can be seen right through the drift.
All these products are effective and will do the job and get flies to float, but we favour the ones with the brush applicator just because the screw top lid is better to avoid spills and the brush applicator is handy. Not having the silica gel crystals has been a big problem for us.