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Pattern Index

Softex

Softex was introduced at the 1996 Denver Fly Tackle Show by John Ryzanych of Icon Products. Ken Kuhner of the Cold Spring Fly Shop was drawn to the body builder, mainly because of its ease of application. All you have to do it dip a pattern into the jar and it forms a rubber-like coating. Ken received a case of Softex last week, and that gave me the opportunity to do a little experimenting.

Softex isn't a silicone or an epoxy. It is a thin liquid. The best description I can think is to call it a highly thinned, liquid rubber cement, only without the tack. All you have to do to coat a head or a whole body is to dip the pattern in the jar. The more coats you give the pattern, the thicker the Softex becomes, but I think most will find two or maybe three dips will do for our purposes.

Softex dries to a firm but rubbery consistency, much the same as silicone, and it dries within seconds. I put the clock on it. I immersed a #1, CraftFur sand eel pattern, eye to bend, and it was dry to the touch in less than a minute, so that should give you some idea about the evaporative nature of the chemicals Softex contains. It's what some might call hot, so hot that when I tried dipping an old silicone pattern, the Softex seemed to lift some of the silicone before it set.

Does it replace silicone? No. Softex completely penetrates fibers, while silicone coats them. A large body pattern dipped in Softex will sink and might even be too heavy to cast.

Does it replace epoxy? In many ways, yes. I was able to completely finish a simple shank-tie sand eel pattern, eyes and all, with two coats of Softex in ten minutes and I could have fished it within an hour. No mixing. No mess. No turning.

Coating heads and making sure those stick-on eyes don't come off is where many saltwater fly rodders will find a use for Softex.

Threads can be protected just by dipping the head, but make sure you clear the hookeye before the Softex sets.

For stick-on eyes: It's thin enough to apply a very light coat with either a brush or a craft stick and it holds well on both new and old patterns plus mass-manufactured patterns that normally don't use additional glues other than the stick-on's stickum. Softex is so easy to use and it dries so quickly that there is also no reason why on-site repairs cannot be done.

Softex's ability to penetrate fibers also makes it ideal to prevent the tails of long patterns from wrapping the hook by applying just a dab or two where the fibers overlap the hook bend. Softex is not stiff, so fibers won't break off when a fish hits.

As another experiment, I tried using Softex on a braided monofilament loop. It penetrated the weave, sealed the loop and was very flexible. It requires more strength-testing, but Softex may have some alternative fly fishing applications, too.

Tip: When you open a jar of Softex or any free-flowing glue, always place the screw cap threads down on a paper towel. This prevents a build-up in the lid that can seal the jar permanently. Give the threads a wipe before you replace the cap, too.

The maker of Softex, John Ryzanych, said, "Softex forms a firm, durable, flexible membrane that will not discolor. Best of all, to the fish it "feels real," and I have to agree. While Softex will not replace epoxy and silicone, it certainly has its place on the tying bench.

Icon Products can be reached at 2490 McCloud Avenue, Castro Valley, California 94546. Telephone: 510-881-8210.




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