Gear Tip — Keep the rust away, and keep beads shiny with silica gel

November 29, 2017

Editor’s Note: This is one of the first tips I wrote for Troutbitten, back in 2014. I’ve rewritten it here, with new info, because all things change, and in this case, improve.

For the fisherman, keeping gear dry is an unremitting chore. Hang the waders, wash the clothes and dry the pack — the bottom of which dipped in the water again during a deep water crossing. It’s fishing. And it’s a river. So getting things wet is part of it all. Rain complicates the matter, of course, and at the end of a good soaking, I come home and dry every piece of gear in my vest, laying out the boxes, spools and various containers in front of a heat run or dehumidifier before hanging up my wet rain gear.

(Never store your flies wet)
READ: Troutbitten | The C&F Chest Patch/Box, the gift any trout-chasing fly fisher will love

Importantly, I open my fly boxes to dry by the heat run as well. I’ve rarely had enough unattended moisture to rust the hooks, but it has happened from time to time. More troublesome though, are the beadheads in my nymph box. When they tarnish and forfeit their characteristic shine, I lose confidence in those patterns. Sure, sometimes a dull bead fools more fish, but most often, I want the beads looking as fresh as the day I tied the fly. So protecting that shine (and keeping away rust) isn’t just something for rainy days. Trapped moisture destroys flies on all days, in all seasons.

There’s an easy, cheap, DIY solution to all this. Silica gel.

The Stuff

Silica gel is the pellet-form desiccant found in the packaging of electronics, medicine bottles, luggage, camera bags, etc., where they absorb moisture and limit corrosion. It’s a perfect fit for a fly box.

I usually round up silica gel packs from vitamin bottles and various packaged electronics, but they are cheaply purchased online as well. I store the extra silica gel packs in an airtight container until needed.

(Most of the go-to flies in my nymph box have a bead)
READ: Troutbitten | Beads are the Best

The Box

Airtight and watertight. That’s the best way to store any and all flies with beadheads. I use waterproof boxes to lock out extra moisture, eliminating most issues with rain, river fall-ins or excess humidity.

But remember, while waterproof fly boxes keep moisture out, they also keep it in. Whatever humidity conditions are present when the box is closed will stay that way until opened. It’s a sealed environment in there. And even on a dry, sunny day, while standing mid-river to change a fly, some unnoticed water splashes or drops of sweat may drip into the box. If that’s sealed away for just a day or two, you may later open the box to find beads that have lost their luster, or worse yet, rusty hooks.

Tape and Silica

I used to toss a small silica gel pack in my fly box and just let it bounce around. That was okay. I was careful how I opened the box, and I rarely lost it. Then I started using a fly to pin the silica gel pack to the foam. That worked too. But the cleanest method is to simply tape the silica gel pack to the inside of your fly box. I use athletic tape because it’s breathable and the adhesive is waterproof.

Some silica gel changes color as it absorbs moisture, but the packs I use rarely do. So I swap out the silica gel pack for a new one every couple times that I restock my fly box at the tying desk.

It’s possible to rejuvenate silica gel packs by drying them in the oven or microwave. Google it. I rarely go that route because I seem to find enough fresh packs to have an unlimited supply.

The important thing is that I have no trouble with rusted hooks or tarnishing beads. The flies I tie look good and stay that way until mangled by a fish or sacrificed to a tree limb.

Oh, and don’t eat the stuff, right?

Fish hard, friends.

Enjoy the day
Domenick Swentosky


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Alex Argyros

That is one great tip. Thanks.

Domenick Swentosky

Hi. I'm a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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