Many fly fishers consider dry fly fishing the pinnacle of the sport. There’s no angling equal to the thrill of presenting a bit of fur, feathers, and thread in a way that a wary trout believes it to be a real insect. Seeing a trout rise from the watery depths and slurp their artificial fly off the surface of the river or lake sets an angler’s pulse racing.
One of the real challenges of dry fly fishing, though, is maintaining the ‘dry’ part of the equation. Keeping an artificial fly afloat in a tumbling river water has been a struggle since the first days of the sport. In 1886, the issue was addressed by Frederic Halford in his work, “Floating Flies and How to Dress Them.”
Hand-warmed beeswax and “pure shellac dissolved in spirits of wine” are two of the dry fly treatments discussed by Halford.
Today, fly dressings are a bit more advanced. Engineers at Loon Outdoors have created a wide selection of products to address a range of fishing conditions and fly materials.
Best for General Dry Fly Fishing
For years, Loon’s Aquel has served as the go-to floatant for dry fly fishers. The silicone-based gel is best when applied to flies prior to use. We’ve found the Aquel works well in all conditions—though in hot weather the gel can become somewhat liquid, so care must be taken to prevent overapplication. For best performance, work the gel into the fly body and hackles prior to use and let dry thoroughly. The Aquel can be reapplied during fishing to damp flies as well to ‘recharge’ them once they start to sink. But we found it beneficial to use a powder desiccant to remove excess water prior to reapplication of the Aquel. $5.50 per ½ ounce bottle.
Best for Stillwater and Finicky Fish
Royal Gel provides all the benefits of Aquel but with an extra enticement to help grab trout interest — an iridescent shimmer that mimics the sparkle of natural membranes in fly wings. The Royal Gel proved especially helpful when working dry flies on still water. We found it a great aid when fishing high alpine lakes, where crystal clear water under bright skies make it easy for fish to even spot slight imperfections in artificial flies. Like Aquel, the Royal Gel doesn’t bleed off the flies, so there’s no ‘slick’ of chemicals around the floating fly. $5.50 per ½ ounce bottle.
Best for CDC flies
The small, delicate feathers known as ‘cul de canard,’ or CDC, feathers found on a duck’s back are naturally buoyant and perfectly structured to mimic insect wings. The CDC feathers are found near ducks’ preen glands which secretes the oils that help ducks stay dry and afloat in all weather. Loon’s Lochsa fly treatment is light enough to prevent matting of the delicate CDC fibers while enhancing the feather’s natural oily buoyancy. A few drops worked into a CDC fly keeps the fly afloat for scores of long drifts. $9.50 per ½ ounce bottle.
Best for new flies
Anglers who tie their own flies can pre-treat their creations with Hydrostop. Simply drop new flies into this jar or fluid, let soak for 5 minutes, and air dry for 8 to 10 hours. The Hydrostop treatment on the fly provides water repellency that lasts for most of the life of the fly. If the fly shows signs of water absorption, a treatment of Aquel will re-invigorate the water repellency. $7.50 per 2-ounce jar.
Best for mid-river application
Fly Spritz 2
Nothing sinks an angler’s spirits faster than having to cast a waterlogged fly to a rising trout. That feeling of standing mid-river, watching an active feeder in a lane well within your casting range, knowing your fly is not drifting naturally. For these situations, Loon’s Fly Spritz 2 is the ideal solution. After a couple false casts to dispel as much water from the fly as possible, simply bring in the fly and hit with a couple shots from the small spray bottle. The water-based liquid silicone treatment will give new life to a drenched fly. After application, false cast a few times to air dry the floatant, then drop the fly in your target’s feeding lane. $7.95 per 1.5-ounce bottle.