Floatants are all those products which, when applied to dry flies, greatly increase their floatability. Often using special fly tying material is not enough to keep your imitations afloat, here come into play the floatant, that are able to waterproof the hackles of your artificial flies to make them float even in extreme situations, with strong current or turbulent water.
The floatants are divided into 3 large families: oil, gel and powder.
Although they all serve the same purpose, each of these products has very different characteristics.
A good floatant oil is generally extracted from the glands on the tail of water birds. These glands secrete an oily liquid which is then spread over the animal's entire plumage through its beak to make it waterproof. Generally you will find the words "CDC oil" on the product, which means that it has been extracted from the glands of ducks.
This natural oil is very effective in making your dry fly float. To apply it just drop a drop of product on the fly and rub it gently with your forefinger and thumb to cover the whole artificial, or moisten your fingers directly with a drop of oil and then gently touch the fly's hackles.
Although it is an extremely good product, its weak point is the temperature changes that alter its density. In fact it will tend to be more liquid in summer and denser in winter.
The oil, if applied sparingly, can also be used successfully on delicate CDC flies.
Silicone (spray or gel):
Silicone is a good alternative to CDC oil. It can be in the form of spray or gel. Silicone gel should be applied to the fly using the same process as we have seen for oil. The advantage that silicone gel has on the oil is that it does not undergo any variation in density with the change of temperature, keeping its characteristics unchanged both in summer and winter.
However, silicone gel is not particularly suitable for delicate CDC flies because it tends to knead hackles. For this kind of flies it is preferable to use oil or powder, if you want to use silicone also on CDC flies it is preferable to use spray.
Quality gels and sprays do not leave halos in water, even in slow and flat water situations, and are therefore better than poor silicone products, both in terms of effectiveness in fishing and for the respect of environment.
Floatant powders are a more recent invention and offer excellent results on all types of artificial flies, including CDC.
Applying these powders is very quick and easy. Generally they are contained inside jars that allow the insertion of the artificial fly still connected to the fishing leader, once inserted, just ajar the lid, without closing it completely to avoid damaging the leader, and shake gently for a few seconds. Once the fly has been removed from the jar, simply remove the excess powder by blowing it away or making a few false casts.
One of the positive aspects that this system brings with it is that during the waterproofing process you will never touch the fly, and this is an advantage when fishing with very delicate flies like CDC flies, because you are guaranteed to always have perfect presentations!