Monday, June 24, 2019

Fort Collins Beginner Fly Fishing Lessons: Leaders and Tippets

Leaders & Tippets: What, How, Why and More

What is a Leader?  A leader is a tapered monofilament fishing line attached to your coated and colorful fly line via, most often, a loop to loop connection, having an overall length between 6ft and 15ft. Leaders can be bought pre-made, or some anglers prefer to make their own by simply buying various diameter monofilament fishing lines. See Graph.

What is a Tippet? Generally, tippet is the last 2ft of your tapered leader.  Tippet sizes range between 8X and 0.015.  The higher the tippet number (8X) the lower the pounds, or break strength. See Graph. 

Note: To size your tippet to your fly, remember the rule of 3 or 4.  For Example: #16 size hook divided by 4 equals a 4x tippet.  If you were to use 3x or 5x instead of 4x, you should not have a problem.

Leader Length
Best suited for…
6 foot
Sinking fly lines of all types, panfish, bass, trout in tiny, brushy streams
7.5 foot
Trout in streams from 10-20 feet wide, intermediate and sinking tip lines in lakes and saltwater conditions where the fish are not terribly spooky. Also streamer fishing for trout with big flies or with heavy nymphs and big indicators
9 foot
Trout streams larger than 20 feet wide where the water is mostly riffled, or else the fish are not spooky. In salt water, fish in shallow water under bright, clear conditions.
12 foot
Trout in most lakes with floating lines. Trout in streams with flies smaller than size 16 when the water is flat, low, or very clear
15 foot
Spooky trout in extremely clear water in both lakes and rivers.

Tippet Size
Tippet Diameter
Approximate breaking strength in Super Strong nylon (pounds)
Balances with fly sizes:
22, 24, 26, 28
18, 20, 22, 24
16, 18, 20, 22
14, 16, 18
12, 14, 16
6, 8, 10
4, 6, 8
2, 4, 6
1/0, 2, 4
5/0, 4/0,3/0, 2/0
5/0, 4/0,3/0, 2/0
5/0, 4/0,3/0, 2/0


As a beginner angler, you might find yourself going through a lot of leaders.  At one time in my angling career, I was going through leaders often.  These days, I may use one leader per season. How? I may use a tippet ring or from the start, I may add more tippet to my leader (with double surgeons knot).  For example:  I'll start with a 9ft 3X leader and add 2ft of 4X tippet; 9ft 2X leader and add 2ft of 3X tippet. Either way, while casting, if you find your fly not turning over, adjust your tippet size to the size/length of your fly.

More information at: Equipment