Michael Gracie

Not So Secret Fly Floatant Formula

If you are keen to fish dry flies and are tired of constantly applying and reapplying goops and pastes to your flies only to watch them sink two casts later, there’s a little surprise in store. Claim to the idea dates back to the gold rush years, but with a few procedural mods it’s easy as pie to brew up utilizing generic ingredients at a generic price. With otherwise patentable results.

We’re talking fly floatant here, and assuming you don’t spill your supply every time you are on the water, the ingredients/instructions detailed below should make enough to last you (and several compadres) an entire season if not more.


The formula and instructions after the jump …

What you need

1) White gas i.e. the stuff you sniff on your days offthrow on the campfire after forgetting the hose to siphon gasoline from your tank use in camping stoves ($8-$10, via REI or other outdoor store)

2) Paraffin wax – used by the fairer sex to tidy up those private parts??? – sorry but can’t think of another really good use for wax besides fricken fly floatant (and that certainly ranks second, without doubt) – you can obtain it in the food storage section at grocers; goes by names like Parowax household wax and triples as ski and snowboard wax – yes, lame, all three possible applications considered (about $5)

3) A large bottle for mixing/storage – 12 ounces plus will do, and stainless works better than plastic for long-term storage (which you will need, since we’re making a lot here – hang out at any fly-fishing business gathering and you can easily collect a dozen of these for free)

4) A small bottle for carrying – I use the extra-small Nalgenes (available at REI or an Army surplus store for around $1.50)

5) A warming pot (yes, the above pictured one came from a Williams-Sonoma catalog, but that’s admittedly going overboard)

The ridiculously simple instructions

First off, fill a pot with hot water. Next, pour a sizable helping of the white gas into the large mixing bottle, and lower the bottle into the pot. Then, finely shave a pile of wax into a paper towel (or other implement that can be used to funnel the shavings into the bottle). After the bottle has warmed for a minute, dump the shavings into the bottle, screw the cap back on, and shake. The wax shavings should be dissolved – if they are not, you either didn’t shave fine enough or the bottle isn’t warm enough – so shake some more.

Rinse and repeat the shaving/dumping/shaking process until you’ve dissolved an ample helping of wax in that bottle. What’s ample? Well, it isn’t science, but I used a 4 ounce cake of wax in roughly 14 fluid ounces of gas ; I could probably have added more wax too. What you will begin to notice between shakings, however, is that a little bit of the concoction will wind up on your hands – as the gas evaporates, you hands will retain the waxy film left over. And that’s the theory behind the floatant too.

You dip your fly in the mixture, shake off the excess, and give the fly a minute to dry (false casting helps). The gas is evaporating here, leaving the wax, which has now penetrated all the fibers of the fly without turning it into a pile of messy crap.

Grant Holzworth actually tested the exact formula against a slew of commercially available products, and it pretty much held its own beat the pants off the rest.

In other words, your dry flies WILL NOT SINK thereafter.

MG signing off (to mix first and ask questions later, as in after casting some very dry flies)


Heisenberg says:

Can this be done on a gas stove safely? Also can you give some tips on helping me improve my purity percentages on my next batch of meth? Tips on trout poaching would be helpful too. TIA

Definitely don’t do this on a stove. And there is zero knowledge here regarding the procurement and/or preparation of illicit drugs, nor transient ischemic attacks. We can, however, tell you how hospitals nationwide fare in terms of 30-day risk adjusted mortality rate for afflictions such as heart failure, but that’s just a hobby. Fly floatant is all business.

jfwellspdx says:

Does the parafin (or white gas if you happen to cast before it is all evaporated) give off any chemicals that might offend the delicate olfactory receptors of trout or other targets?

Wait, that gives me an idea: What about mixing some nice salmonfly smoothie into the gas & wax mix so that it gives off a nice buggy scent? Would that be crossing the Rubicon into bait fishing?

The wax is odorless, and the white gas is nearly so even before it evaporates. When the fly hits the water it leaves no surface residue (i.e. “film rings”) either, unlike other distillates might. ADDED: I’m not opposed to the use of scents, and have admittedly experimented with them in both fresh and saltwater environments. My conclusion … they simply don’t work.

jfwellspdx says:


I am going to blow up my kitchen, uh, I mean, brew up a batch tonight!

Have you paid your property insurance premium this month? 😉

onefly says:

I make this floatant formula for myself occasionally. I am also a pharmacist and I would like to offer a couple of simple modifications (that eliminate the shaking and the shaving of the paraffin) to your procedure, if I may… Set up two water baths (easily done by setting Pyrex glassware in pans of heating water). Use one for warming the white gas and the other for melting the paraffin — do not do this over an open flame. A good ratio is 4oz. (by weight) of paraffin to 16oz. (liquid measure) of white gas. Do not become excessive with the paraffin or your flies will become globs of wax. When all is ready, pour the warmed white gas into the melted paraffin (for easier cleanup). Mise-en-place to finished cleanup is less than an hour. By the way, white gas is actually a liquid petrochemical named naphtha (naf-thu). Naphtha – also know as naphtha solvent – is readily available in hardware and auto supply stores. I hope this helps. The process is dead-easy and the finished product works great.

Offer accepted. Like the fact that you have a ratio of wax-to-gas all worked out. Obviously, this deal isn’t anything new, but the procedure was amiss everywhere I found the idea mentioned.


onefly says:

I might also mention that this solution will rejuvenate the waterproof capabilities of some gear items. Most noticeably, those of leather and canvas (Got any Filson waterproof apparel?) It works similarly to the commercially available product, Sno-Seal. Be advised though, our not-so-secret formula can potentially darken said gear items, as well as leave some surface wax residue.
If you are like me however, style points for gear are derived from function, not from fashion.

chris says:

It’s probably more fun to cook up the combustible mix at home as you describe above and from the quantity of ingredients pictured, you may have a pretty good inventory. But if you ever run out and are feeling lazy, Albolene, a makeup remover that has been around for decades is basically Gink. Amazon will sell you a near-lifetime supply for about $10. It’s really a wonder compound, apparently people are using to lose weight now too.

[…] easy DIY instructions on fly floatant (as well as tag-along firestarters), check out these recent posts by Michael […]

Michael Florez says:

While fishing in Fernie, BC, the guides used a similar (and easier) substitute for all that cooking. They called it “Fly-agra”. They took Albolene (make up remover) and lighter fluid and mixed in a small container, anywhere from 3 to 1 up to 5 to 1 Albolene to lighter fluid. Shake and dip the flies. A few false casts and the bug rides high in the river.

joe russ says:

I mixed up a batch (4 oz wax to 16 oz naphtha), it looked good in my shop. A trial in my shop had good results the fly looked good no globing of wax and the treated fly is still floating 7 days later. But when I when to dip my fly in the mixture on the stream the mixture had turned cloudy and there were wax globs on the fly. I was using the fly as an indicator so the wax globs did not bother me and the fly floated all day. As the day went on the temperature dropped to 40deg and the mixture turned in to a solid. Any thoughts on this or is there something that can be added to keep the mixture from solidifying. A grater ( a Walmart cheap one) works great
for preparing the wax.

Yep … warm up the little bottle. I just roll in it my hands for fifteen seconds and the cloudiness disappears.

Ian says:

Careful everyone! White gas has a low flash point and will ignite easily, even without a spark. I have the burns to prove it!

Otherwise- good, cheap recipe that works.

Joe says:

My gas-paraffin solution fell out of solution and now looks like cloudy, chunky, hazy water. Any suggestions?

I used 20g wax per cup of gas. If that helps. It was totally dissolved and clear until last night in the garage…?

Put your container in a bigger one of warm water, then shake.

Darryl Siemer says:

I’ve used this stuff for years – it’s great. I do have the following suggestions.

It’s neither desirable or necessary to saturate the gas/naphtha with wax. Doing so by heating a mixture of with a relatively small amount of solvent generates a solution which can turn your fly into a wax ball & from which wax will “crap out” (precipitate) when it is cooled.

It’s also not necessary to heat the stuff (possibly dangerous) or to make lots of it. I make it up as needed by adding about one tsp of paraffin wax shavings to the same 1 oz high density polyethylene bottle (e.g., rinsed-out cosmetic or sunscreen bottle) that I carry in my vest, filling it with gas, recapping , & then shaking for a few seconds. It’ll certainly dissolve by the time it’s needed.

Ivan Valenti says:

I admit it. I love this article and the crazy questions people ask. Thanks for the tip on how to make floatant you guys are awesome lmao

Crazybrave333 says:

Doesn’t the smell put fish off?

If not it sounds brilliant!

Has anyone definitely caught fish on fly after this treatment?

Jim says:

Ray Bergman published this formula in 1947 in his acclaimed book “Trout.” I have used it and caught a ton of fish with it, however the gas does evaporate leaving too much wax in the bottle, and then more fuel needs added. It floated flies better than any other liquid or gel though. Just tedious to maintain the right mixture.

bob says:

just put mixture in plastic or metal dish tub. set outside, relatively hot day (80s) inside a black plastic trash bag. let sit a few hrs. mix occasionally to check emulsification. no other heating necessary. you can dress flies at home before ever being on the river, but should you need to, be sure fly is completely dry. mixture must be around 68-75 degrees to remain mixed

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