Hidden Lakes press

Hidden Lakes Press

Information for Recreation in Colorado and the Rockies


© Al Marlowe

We are definitely living in the high tech era. The revolution has even invaded the age-old sport of fishing. A visit to your favorite fly shop will leave you reeling after examining the new graphite rods, plastic fly lines, flies tied with synthetic materials, and neoprene waders. Vests are constructed of the latest acrylic fiber and reels are built of magnesium or titanium, making them extremely light. The only thing we haven't seen so far is a compound fly rod.

Anglers who have been in the sport more than a few years will recall the old-fashioned equipment. Fly rods were bamboo or fiberglass. Reels were made of heavy metals and flies were constructed of real feathers and fur. Because these natural materials were not water-repellant, they tended to absorb water quickly, causing them to sink rather than float high and dry. Though Mucilin was used, it didn't keep a fly dry for long.

Today, chemistry has given us a solution to this problem. On the shelves with the exotic rods and synthetic flies are high tech floatants. Whether in grease, liquid or spray form, these chemicals will make your fly waterproof down to 25 feet. Use of these floatants will absolutely prevent your fly from sinking -- ever.

Each improvement, however, brings associated environmental problems. The EPA has really blown it on the floatants by not requiring an Environmental Impact Statement for use of such items.

My first experience with the new generation of floatants has prompted me to make fellow anglers aware of a potential problem. To avoid a possible lawsuit, the brand will not be mentioned. A few summers back, I fished a remote stream in the Colorado high country, which I will not identify for obvious reasons.

On this day, I had parked my truck near the river and fished upstream. In a few hours, I had covered nearly three miles of water. In the late afternoon a caddis hatch began. After treating an Elk Hair Caddis with one of the new floatants, I dropped the container before I could close it. The excitement of seeing 16-inch trout rising and the slipperiness of the plastic bottle combined to make me fumble it. Unable to locate the brightly colored container immediately and being eager to cast to the actively rising fish, I abandoned my brief search and started fishing.

I finished my angling endeavors that evening and returned to my truck. As I began to pack my gear, I noticed a pool in which a callibaetis hatch had begun and decided to make a few more last casts before quitting for the day.

As the light had started to fade and the fish were rising all around me, I failed to observe everything that happened on the water. While concentrating on changing flies in the near darkness, something bumped my leg. Being anxious to catch one more fish, I ignored it. Then it happened again. I felt another bump behind me. The fish were steadily rising, so again, I ignored it. After a minute or so, another object smashed into me, this time causing me to lose my balance and fall.

I was amazed at what I saw following my unplanned baptism. In the growing darkness, I observed rocks, from pebble size to boulders more than twenty inches in diameter (I did measure them) floating on the water. Not wishing to become a short item on the evening news I quickly stumbled my way out of the stream, dodging a growing number of rocks as I made my way to the bank.

The following day, I returned to the place where I had lost my floatant. What I saw was shocking. Not one rock was left on the stream bottom in this area. Apparently, the chemical had dissolved on contact with water and coated the rocks on the stream bottom, causing them to float.

A year later, I returned to this once lovely stretch of water, hoping to see that it had recovered from the previous year's disaster. What I found was disheartening. This former riffle was still a barren, mud-bottomed, fishless pool.

Perhaps it would be advisable for the manufacturers of these floatants to place warning labels on the containers. One company does state that an ounce of the chemical is sufficient to float the QE II all the way across the Atlantic to England. I would urge all fishermen using these products to recap them immediately after each use. Then, if the chemical should be inadvertently dropped in the water no harm will come to our streams and lakes.

There is one redeeming value for the new floatants. When the container is almost empty, tape the lid shut and pin it to your vest. The miniscule amount left inside the bottle makes it an excellent life preserver. Just don't get any of the stuff on the soles of your wading boots. You’ll find yourself walking on water, scaring hell out of both fish and fishermen.