Monday, May 1, 2017

DIY Shake Fly Floatant

I don't often fish dry flies, 
but when I do, 
I sure as heck want them to float.

It's no great secret. I am always looking for ways to save money, while still feeding the addiction. Fly fishing is such a small niche in the world of angling. With any small, specialized market, there tends to be a pretty high markup on products. The more unique the product, the more expensive it tends to be. For this reason, many fly anglers seek out inexpensive resources. Craft stores are often a fly fisherman's best friend. I always feel a bit odd wandering around the toll paint, yarn, and beads. This doesn't mean I don't fund my local fly shop, because I feel that is important too, but, where possible, I will try and save money. The funny thing is, in all my efforts to save money, I think I probably end up spending more. Oh well, at least I enjoy the effort.

DIY Shake Fly Floatant

Some years ago I stumbled upon an online forum where two people were talking about purchasing the same stuff used to make Frog's Fanny, and other similar silica based powder fly floatants. I found it interesting. I ended up purchasing some of the material myself, and came up with my own little shake style floatant container. It has worked great ever since, and though I do not fish dry flies very often, when I do, I appreciate having it. For this reason, I thought I would take a moment and share the ideas.

The material is called fumed silica. It is a common additive in epoxies as a thickening agent. It is remarkably hydrophobic, and can even be dangerous if handled incorrectly. Acquiring this main ingredient is the first step in creating your own shake fly floatant. I have provided a couple links where this can be purchased. It is usually around 10-25$, which may seem expensive, but this will probably last a lifetime.
Another Seller

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The fumed silica is a very fine powder, and should be handled with care. Once you are ready to open it, and start working with the material, make sure to wear a breathing mask, and protective glasses. Because of its hydrophobic nature, it can cause all kinds of problems in both lungs and eyes, which require copious amounts of moisture. Make sure to keep it away from your kids.

The next thing you will need is some Silica Gel (balls). This is usually easy to come by if you know where to look. When I first created my own shake fly floatant, I was working as a satellite technician for Dish Network. Electronics are often packaged with silica gel packets to keep moisture out. I grabbed a few from the many receivers I worked with. I imagine you could talk to a local store that sells electronics, and they could dig some up. Another option, if you don't want to be social, and don't mind spending money, is to purchase some online.

Amazon has them available in bulk --> Silica Gel Balls

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The last thing you need is some type of container. I chose an old film canister. It was the perfect size. I had some laying around the house, but if you don't, or don't know someone who does, you can either ask your local photo processor, order some online, or use a different type of container. Non-childproof pill bottles could work as well. It would be easy to request one from your local pharmacy. Who knows, it might be worth it for the looks you get on the river. There's something fishy about an angler messing with a white powdery substance in a pill bottle out on the river.

More from Amazon --> Film Canister

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Image result for pill bottle

Once you have acquired your fumed silica, your silica gel (balls), and a container, all that is left to do is fill your container around half to two thirds full of the silica balls. Then, carefully transfer the fumed silica into the container. I used a plastic spoon for this part. It also doesn't hurt to wear rubber gloves, since the powder can dry your hands out quite well. Once you have a couple spoonfuls in your container, place the lid on and shake it up. Then, slowly remove the lid, place some more fumed silica in the container, and repeat the previous step. Once you are satisfied with the amount you have (I prefer a decent space open so it shakes well) you are good to go.

When using, simply place your fly (attached to your line) in the container, hold the lid on with your finger, and shake it around. This allows the silica balls to force the fumed silica into your fly. Then, remove your fly, place the cap back on your floatant and resume fishing. It is stupid simple, but it has saved me money. I'm not sure I'll have to ever by this powdered floatant again during my lifetime. When necessary, I simply add more fumed silica to the container. In between fillings, make sure to save your silica in a safe and dry location. It will suck up moisture from the air, and become far less effective if it is not stored in a sealed container.

4+ years of use.

One last thing to mention. I used tape to attach a key ring to the container. I then attached it to a small carabiner. You could probably come up with a better system, but this redneck setup works for me for now. Hopefully this is helpful, and good luck if you give it a try. And, as always, if you have some recommendations to add, feel free to do so in the comments.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Stupid flies

I spent at least an hour on that dang thing. Two virginal casts, and it was gone. Another sacrifice to the gods of rip rap and underwater snags. Somewhere down in that dirty green hued abyss lay a beautiful fly. I had poured love, attention, and detail into that thing. Maybe I should start carrying a wet-suit and goggles, I thought to myself. Should I throw caution and comfort to the wind and make an exploratory dive to salvage that little work of art? The thought was a tempting prospect at the moment. It is painful to lose something created with such care and attention to detail, and only after the second cast. In a grumpy funk I tied on another pattern. This time it was one I could fish and lose without the same agony I had just experienced. Two times in a trip would be more than I could take. I made the switch, cut my loss, and slowly drifted into a focused state. Without the risk of lost artwork, I could dedicate my attention to the reason I was there; to fish.

I try not to think about how often this scenario has been revisited. It's a natural following for someone who loves to create and experiment with fly patterns. The flies that are most pleasing to the eye are often the hardest ones to lose.

Anglers are left with two options: 1- they can fish beautiful flies, enjoying the confidence they induce, but all the while stressing over the potential snag and loss, or 2- they can fish a basic bread-and-butter fly that took a fraction of the time to tie, is far less painful to lose, is cheaper to make/buy, and induces a different type of confidence born of consistent success. Each scenario has unique consequences.

What is a stupid fly?

Beautiful and complex flies can create a confidence that is remarkably valuable, but also often results in a distracted angler, who gingerly fishes the fly in a superficial manner, and only hits the sweet spot zones here and there. This confidence is a result of seeing something that resembles the real thing to the angler. It may not move or really look like the real thing at all to a fish, but out of the water it may resemble, at least with the help of our imaginations, what we're trying to mimic. For one of these more artistic, many-materialed patterns, fishing it slower, deeper, or tighter to cover is to risk losing that little labor of love.

Bread-and-butter, or what I like to call "stupid flies," can be fished with a reckless abandon. Sometimes they are ugly. Sometimes they don't actually have an apparent relevance to a living thing. These patterns are stupid because they are often extremely simple to tie, and are made of relatively inexpensive materials. They let the angler probe the deepest depths, toughest cover, and snaggiest riffles to get to those sweet spot zones rarely reached by the cautious fly guys. This is one reason the tried and true woolly bugger is so amazing. Simple, cheap, and easy to tie, and probably one of the most effective patterns out there. Usually boring, always effective.

Confidence is a crucial element of success in the world of fly fishing. We work a run differently when we have some degree of faith in the catching. A fly that has so much attention to detail that it truly resembles what it is trying to mimic, or at least gives us that impression, is phenomenal for inducing confidence, but the pain of losing one of these flies is considerable. If the resulting success is substantial, we usually endure the pain. Whether bought or tied, this can be hard on the pocket book.

To summarize, one confidence comes from an impressive looking fly, but another type of confidence comes from fishing a fly that just plain works, even in it's simplicity, and can be lost without much remorse. With this kind of confidence an angler fishes the deeper, slower, faster, and snaggier runs, and covers those sweet spot zones better and longer. Anglers who tend to fish the stupid flies are generally more effective. They fish without fear of loss, which is to say, they are far less distracted.

Stupid flies are for anglers who like catching. Fancy flies are for those who like to tie, or admire what has been tied on top of the attempted catching. So, if you like catching fish, I highly recommend identifying your stupid flies. If you're nymphing, these could include Pat's Rubber Legs, Glo-bugs, San Juan worms, or mohair leeches. If you are throwing dries, these could be Parachute Adams, Chubby Chernobyls, or Rusty Spinners.  If you are throwing streamers, these could be Wooly Buggers, Circus Peanuts, Peanut Envys, or any other glorified, articulated woolly bugger-like streamer. For myself, I always have woolly buggers/leeches, Skullcrackers, and Skullchasers, in my box. These are all flies that are relatively easy and fast to tie, and don't break the bank. I can fish them with confidence, and without fear of losing a fly or two in the process.

It isn't stupid to like the nicer flies, to enjoy purchasing or tying them. Sometimes that is just one way to find more enjoyment in the sport. It really all depends on your goals, and what stage of angling you are in. In fly fishing, we all have different things we consider stupid. For some it could be a view that someone else's methods are unorthodox, or not really fly fishing. For another, fishing is stupid when there is no catching going on, or the catching is not easy. For me, it's probably because on the end of my line you will usually find a stupid fly. They work, and that's why I love them. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the others, but you'll never find me without my stupid flies.

I am curious, what are some stupid flies you would add to my lists?