I think the moisture isn't as much an issue if you have the steel cat, but I don't want a lot of unburned smoke going through it. I figure creosote will stick to the catalyst surface, then burn off but the ash will be stuck; It's not gonna blow right out by mouth, like fly ash does. I wanna see that cat glowing in less than a minute when I close the bypass. It may be that the 201 is capable of lighting off like that due to different cat setup and air routing, but I don't think my Keystone or Fireview can light off without burning in the load. I can't see how much wood could be gassing, just tossing it in and closing the bypass...
It's quite possible the 201 has different characteristics than the more modern cat stoves including the 205. I got the impression even Woodstock considers it the crude red headed step child lol. They merely said it would be hard on cats compared to the 205. Not an outright condemnation but an acknowledgment it needed improvements.
And I think your correct the airflow has a lot to do with it. The 201 still has a crude air inlet on the side door. A manual sliding plate with holes in it. The cat is on the opposite side of the stove from the door.
Correct me if I'm wrong but from what I've read most folks do that charring burn in with the door cracked. I've found that to be mandatory on the 201 anyway.
Following a burn in I've found mine lacks the air supply to keep a good fire going once the door is closed unless I'm using sticks. The air seems to ride up over the wood into either the open baffle or if closed into the cat causing a cooling effect more than ignition.
Through trial and much error I've discovered as long as I already have decent stove top temps (270+) and bed of coals stuffing it full to the baffle plate and shutting the air fully will get things going faster than trying to use air.
Seems this allows the somewhat stagnated heat in the box and baffle plate to rapidly heat the exterior of the wood to the ignition point. I'm also not getting a ton of smoke from wood that was just charred that got extinguished.
I'll get flame starting on the bottom from the hot coals and the top of the pile starts burning from close proximity with the baffle plate. The ceramic cats are already at or close to ignition temp because I haven't spent time with the door open and air flowing through the box. Lights right up. It also rums best with the air fully closed. Not sure if I still have a leak or it's designed that way. I know it's odd.