DIY DRY!!! by Montana Grant
By angelamontana

Posted: July 1, 2024

When fly fishermen use a dry fly, they need to perform fly maintenance, to keep flies afloat. Some fly guys hate doing this so they often use foam, cork, or modern materials that may not work as well but require little to no care. Recycling and repurposing are never a bad idea. 

Natural dry flies sink for several reasons. Since natural feathers and fur are organic, they tend to absorb moisture. This comes from fish, or the water being fished. Fish slobbers are heavier and denser. Fish being caught also sinks your flies. This is a good problem to have. Dragging a dry fly will also speed up an absorption of moisture and sink your fly. 

Because of this wetting of your flies, you need to maintain them. There are many commercial products available. Some are powders, gels, liquids, or even absorbing cloth. All are expensive. 

The only time that I use a liquid fly flotant is right after I tie a fly or on a new fly. Then allow the fly to dry before putting into your fly box or on the line. Any wet liquid will sink your fly and defeat the whole purpose. Applying wet flotant + wet fly= a sinking wet fly. 

Many fly anglers enjoy building rods, reels, tying flies and leaders, and learning how to do things themselves. Here are some ideas on how to make your own Fly Flotant and save a few bucks.


Start by mixing petroleum jelly and paraffin wax in a 2-1 ratio. Heat/warm the mixture while stirring it to create a smooth gel. No boiling or burning. Allow the product to cool and store in an airtight container in a cool dry place. For long term storage, place it in a refrigerator. This helps prevent any crystallization and stabilize your gel. You can use old Fly Gel bottles or small squeezable bottles. Feel free to add more or less ingredients to create a viscosity that you prefer. A syrupy texture squeezes out easily. 

You can improve this simple flotant using some essential oils. Consider some Eucalyptus or Lavendar oil. A few drops will do, depending on the volume of your DIY Gel. These oils will enhance the water repelling qualities and help to prevent mildew or mold. 

Essential oils also have other benefits. These oils effectively reduce surface tension. Natural scents could attract fish and promote more takes. They also help with the fishermen’s mood. Allowing you to focus and relax. That’s what I have heard.


Glass works best, with an airtight seal but will also break if dropped. I use glass as my base storage. Then I top off my small vest sized gel applicator. A tight-fitting container prevents leakage. When I guide, or take new anglers out, I often give them some of Grant’s Gel, after teaching them how to use it. 

I often find old, lost, or used up gel bottles along the rivers and lakes that I fish. These old Gink or Aquel bottles are perfect. Simply clean them out and refill with MT Grant’s Gel. Any similar polypropylene bottle will work if it’s the right size and seals well. I have found that eye drop bottles and similar applicators will also work. 

One of my friends uses a Clearasil Pimple tube for his gel. He likes pointed applicators. To refill it he cut open the back of the tube and glued it back together. He has a couple teenagers and is never out of old tubes. 

Montana Grant’s Desiccant Powder

Before adding any flotant to a dry fly, you need a dry fly. A desiccant powder will help remove moisture from your fly. An absorbent powder is the trick. You can by commercial products for $10-$20 or make your own. Again, you want a container that will tightly secure but has an opening big enough for your dry fly to fit into. 

Grab a pile of old silicon packets that come with electronic equipment and other products. These are little sacks filled with silicon beads that absorb any moisture and protect the electronics. Use a mortar and pestle to crush these beads into dust. 

You are not making a new product, just making the product into what you need. Silicon sucks up water off the wet dry fly. I carry a couple bottles of powder with me. I have even mixed some into commercial products. Any of these powders will become chunky after use, and not work as well. Instead of throwing them out, dump them onto a tray and allow them to completely dry. I have used the sun, a camp stove, or candle to do this. Re-crush the powder and reload. I also keep small silicon packets in my bulk storage fly boxes, for additional moisture protection. 


So, here, the maintenance plan to fish DRY FLIES

  1. Start with a completely dry fly
  2. Squeeze a pinch of gel onto the dry fly.
  3. Smear the gel all over the fly. Less is more. 
  4. Fish the fly
  5. If the fly begins to sink, place it into the Desiccant powder and flick the excess off with your finger
  6. Catch a Fish
  7. Unhook the fish and rinse off your fly. Yes, place it into the river and rinse. A few flicks or a false cast will whip off any excess moisture. Remember fish slobber is heavier than water.
  8. Re-apply the desiccant powder
  9. Catch another fish.

On a good /average day, I hope to reuse the same dry fly several times. At some point, the fish slobber and water will overcome all flotant. This means you need to re-rig. I hook the wet dry flies onto my fly patch for later use, once they dry and recover. 

To speed a re-rig up, I pre-tie my double dry fly rigs ahead of time. These are stored in a small plastic bag, like the ones leaders come in, and wrapped around a small piece of cardboard that fits into the bag. A small slit will hold the wrapped leader in place. Now I just need one quick knot to be back on top of the water. 

Catching more fish is about a better presentation and more efficient use of your fishing time. If you spend your time playing with your flies and drying or tying knots, the fish wins. 

Keep your fly high and dry!

Montana Grant

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