How Do You Make Dry Flies Float Better?

Dry flies make great tools when fishing in turbulent or shallow waters. However, whether you will make a catch or not depends on how long your dry fly remains on top of the water. How to achieve this is the cardinal purpose of this article. 

It all starts with the design

The concept of floating in dry flies borrows a lot from a theory in physics—buoyancy. According to this theory, any object on the surface of the water is subjected to two forces; weight and the upward push by the liquid.

These two forces act on opposite sides of the floating object. 

For an object to float, the upward force of water should equal the downward force of gravity (weight).

While weight is particularly affected by the mass of the material used to make the object, an upward push is because of factors such as size, shape, and pattern of the floating object.

When designing or choosing a dry fly from the store, make sure that it features:

A large surface area

A large surface area reduces the impact of gravity on the dry fly. These, in turn, helps with reducing the effect of weight on the object and enhancing a natural kind of buoyancy.

Additionally, an increase in the surface area increases the upward thrust.

Therefore, any pull from the hook underneath can easily balance with the upward thrust.

Excellent pattern

Other than the proportionality and general appearance, the design pattern affects the buoyancy of your dry fly a great deal.

This is the reason why, sometimes, you will need to manipulate the pattern of your dry to achieve the required level of floatation.

For the fishing tool to float on top of the water you will need to:

  1. Keep your pattern as light as possible 
  2. Fold some parts of the material for some twist of simplicity
  3. Keep a pattern that matches the size and general profile of the fishing environment

Some of the best patterns that you can look out for include:

1. Adaptable mayfly-like pattern

Mayflies are common species of insects in numerous water sources.

The organisms have a shorter lifespan that allows both the male and female to hatch and die. However, the insects are both large and small fish’s favorite food. 

Upon hatching, the female mayfly becomes spent, dies and floats on the top of the water hence attracting the attention of fish underneath who come to battle for a fair share of evening meals.

When designing your dry fly, it is advisable to keep the color “intense”. This concept affects the intensity of the light on the fishing tool hence rendering it attractive to trout. 

By altering the shape of your dry fly’s wings and adding a fine touch of “spinner’s color”, you can easily come up with a spent-spinner-like dry fly.

This shape not only acts as a lure but also proportional enough to achieve the required level of floatation. 

2. Mohair leech pattern

This pattern works best for trout and bass.  All you need is to dismantle the body of your dry fly, add few wraps if the heavy wire and add a shaggy body. Then, using a bodkin, add some strands of mohair on the body.

Though color does not play a role in affecting your dry fly’s floatation, it is not separate from the general design. Besides, it can either bury or notch-up the effectiveness of your dry fly. 

Minimize the weight

 Just as aforementioned, the weight plays a huge role when it comes to the floatation of a dry fly. However, weight is a force that results from the effects of gravitational pull and mass.

Meaning, whether your dry fly will be heavier or lighter to sink or float is determined by its materiality. 

Let’s talk a quick glimpse of materials that will enhance the lightness of your dry fly:

  1. The CDC

Cul de canard—abbreviated as CDC are flies made from duck bottom feathers. The feathers are plucked strategically from the back of a duck (around uropygial gland)

The uropygial gland produces the preen oil that is popular for enhancing buoyancy in ducks. Once produced, the preen oil is distributed to bottom feathers hence rendering the whole duck buoyant.

CDCs are easy to dress and do not require any floating to achieve the required level of floatation when used on dry flies. 

  1. Genetic hackle

The genetic hackle is special chicken feathers that are artificial. They come in stiff and close packages for ideal buoyancy. You can use genetic hackles to tie your fly to add some aspects of buoyancy on the fishing tool.

  1. Foam rubbers

Foam rubbers come in sheets of different colors, thickness, and design patterns. One thing that is sure about foam rubbers is their versatility.

Other than being overly buoyant, you can cut them to the most preferred shape and size through a basic DIY process.

With the wide range of shades, you are also free to choose from the color of your preference that matches your fishing requirements. 

Using a floatant

Nothing will save you the sweats of keeping your dry fly afloat without burying its effectiveness than the floatants. Just as their name goes, floatants are specifically designed to keep your dry fly afloat throughout your fishing journey.  

A floatant is a combination of a carrier (in a liquid state) and wax. It absorbs water to keep the fly afloat.

The wax substance on the floatant coats the dry fly whereas the liquid carrier usually evaporates while at the same time acting as a passenger bus for the waxy part. 

Floatants come in a wide range of options.

Popular variants that you can find in most of the store include:

  1. Gel floatants

These are the most popular.  They are also the easiest to use. To use a gel lotion, you need to pre-treat the dry fly before putting it on the surface of the water.

Pull your dry fly right out of its box and apply the gel evenly on its body while ensuring that none of its parts amasses excess gel. Anything extra will undermine the buoyancy of your fly.

Modern gels are CDC friendly hence making them more effective. 

  1. Spray floatants

Spray floatants are bursting in popularity for their ease of use. Unlike the gel counterparts, they can be used for pre-treatment (when the fly is dry) or when the fly is wet.

All you need is to pull the fly and spray floatant on its surface before dropping it on the water. 


Most aquatic lives (fish inclusive) have excellent sight.

They can easily spot any unnatural fly in a glimpse of an eye. Therefore, for a good catch, you fly must float on top of the water’s surface tension.

Not unless you are hyper-smart, the fish will not even be tempted to bite.