How to Choose the Right Fly Fishing Leader and Tippet
Choosing the Right Fly Fishing Leader and Tippet – In fly fishing, what is the difference between a leader and a tippet? They are two independent components of your fly fishing rig, despite their resemblance. Let’s define what a leader is, as well as what a tippet is and how they differ.
In fly fishing, what is a leader?
The section of line between your fly line and tippet is known as a leader. The majority of leads are monofilament, with a taper that is thicker at the butt end and thinner as it comes closer to the tippet/fly. This taper makes it easier to turn the fly over when casting.
When casting larger flies on larger rods, a tapered leader isn’t always necessary. Anglers throwing heavy streamers frequently use a straight length of mono or fluoro as a leader.
So, why can’t you tie a fly to the leader directly? You can, in fact, do so. Most fly anglers prefer to tie their flies on a length of tippet for a variety of reasons (which I detail below).
What is a Tippet for Fly Fishing?
The segment of line between the leader and the fly is known as the tippet. The primary function of the tippet is to provide more line length to the fisherman in order to protect the leader. If you didn’t use tippet, you’d be reducing the length of your leader every time you changed flies. This is especially critical when using a tapered leader, as the taper will change as the leader is shortened.
Tippet selection is about more than just providing extra line length. Tippet is the final segment of the line before the fly. This raises a few points to consider while selecting the best tippetf for any particular angling setting.
- Are the trout spooky, or are they in water with a lot of pressure? It’s best to use a tippet with low visibility and/or diameter.
- Are you fishing near sharp objects like rocks? If this is the case, an abrasion-resistant tippet should be considered.
- Are you going after a toothy critter? (pike). It’s best to use a bite-proof tippet (such as wire or heavy fluoro).
- Are you pursuing non-toothy fish (trout, bass) with the expectation of catching toothy animals as bycatch?
- To lessen the chances of a pike biting through your tippet and swimming away with your fly, choose a bite-resistant or exceptionally abrasion resistant tippet.
Should I use Flouro Carbon or Monofilament for my leaders and tippet?
I know it’s a bit of a scribble. At the time of writing, I didn’t have any new material. Just goes to show that I utilise it!
This is the typical material for both fly fishing leads and tippet, and has been used for many years. Monofilament is used in the majority of fly fishing leaders.
What is the definition of monofilament? It’s a single-strand material made of nylon (usually). Manufacturers of fishing ling can create monofilament with variable qualities by combining different types of nylon in different proportions.
- In general, it is less expensive.
- Floats. Ideal for topwater and dry fly fishing.
- Mono can be brought below the surface with the use of weighted flies or sinking fly lines.
- Flouro has a lower memory than this. Mono is less susceptible to the irritating coiling behavior found in many fluorocarbon lines.
- Knots that are generally stronger. Because mono is rather soft, it “sits” well when a knot is tightened.
- Mono will stretch by about 10%. The mono works as a shock tippet when a huge fish slams your fly. This allows fisherman a little more wiggle room in their line before a fish breaks it.
For most dry fly and topwater fly fishing, I’ll use mono. When you have a visual clue that a trout has accepted your nymph pattern, the increased sensitivity provided by flouro isn’t necessary.
I’ve been using Seagaur as my fly fishing flouroarbon leader for years, despite the fact that it’s designed for spin fishing.
Fluorocarbons come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some fluoro lines are constructed with one benefit in mind over the other. Fluorocarbon lines have the following advantages in general:
- Transparency. Flouro, like water, refracts light at the same wavelengths. As a result, flour is virtually undetectable below, making it an ideal line for hesitant, timid, or high-pressured fish.
- Resistance to abrasion. Fluorocarbon lines also have the advantage of being far more resistant to rocks, metal, coral, and other sharp objects.
- Fluoro will last far longer than monolines if you’re fishing alone the bottom or near structure that could nick your line.
- Resistant to bites. Abrasion resistance is closely related to this property. Some fluoro lines have abrasion resistance to the point that they can be used as a bite guard. When bass fishing, I prefer to use seaguar line because little pike are a typical bycatch. I only had a pike bike pass across this stretch once in a while.
- Less bouncy. Flouro is a fantastic choice for nymphs and streamers because it is slightly less buoyant than mono. However, line diameter continues to play a significant effect in sink rate. Thinner lines sink more quickly.
- Flouro can still be used on topwater flies and dries. The sink rate is low, and without a weighted fly or sinking line, most lightweight fluoro lines will not break the water tension.
- While fluoro has some flexibility, it is significantly less than monofilament. Due to the lack of stretch, this line is extremely vulnerable to blows. If you’re trying to detect minor strikes by feel alone, this is a good attribute to have in a line (E.G. Euro nymphing). It’s a trade-off between having enough flexibility to operate as a shock tippet and not enough stretch to aid strike detection.
- It’s worth mentioning that certain flouro will stretch and not rebound when used for the first time. To eliminate the initial stretch, simply stretch the line once it has been tied. Your flourocarbon leader’s sensitivity will improve as a result of this.
- The absence of flexibility also aids in securing hooksets. It’s especially useful on fish that require a strip hook set rather than the conventional trout hook set.
For most streamer fishing, I like fluorocarbon. I’m a streamer nut who fishes streamers far more frequently than dries or nymphs. As a result, I frequently utilize fluorocarbon leads.
For added sensitivity, I’ll also use fluorocarbon while high stick or euro nymphing.
When it comes to fly fishing leaders and tippet, the two most important factors to consider are mono and fluorocarbon. However, there are a few alternative options.
This isn’t something you’ll see very often in fly fishing circles. When you do come across it, it’s usually in the context of saltwater fly fishing. However, it can also be used for freshwater fly fishing.
Hard mono is similar to mono in that it floats. It also has some of the same characteristics as flouro, such as abrasion and biting resistance. Hard mono is an excellent choice in a certain set of fishing conditions due to this mix of qualities.
When fishing poppers for smallmouth bass in water with pike, I use hard mono. This minimizes the number of bite-offs from smaller pikes seizing the gurgler intended for smallmouth bass, and eliminates the need for me to use wire bite tippet, which may reduce the frequency of strikes due to its high visibility.
The Rio Fly Fishing Tippet Hard Mono 16Lb (Amazon Link) is a hard mono that I’ve had a lot of luck with. Scientific Anglers, on the other hand, makes a good hard mono tippet (pictured above) Although I normally stay around the 16lb range, you can go down to an 8lb tippet strength and still maintain some level of bite resistance.
Wire bite tippet
Although you wouldn’t use wire for the entire leader, a wire bite tippet is an important consideration when fly fishing for toothy fish like pike and musky. These fish are apex predators who aren’t as line-shy as other fly-fishing species like salmon and trout.
When primarily targeting pike and musky, I utilize wire bite tippet. Rio Fly Fishing Tippet Powerflex Wire Bite Tippet is my favored brand of wire bite tippet.