When Should I Add Tippet?

The tippet you choose and the knot you use to attach it to your leader are one of the most important links in the chain of fly fishing. A bad knot or too light a tippet usually means a lost fish when your tackle is put to the max. The beauty of fly fishing is that you truly never know what you may hook, so you should always be prepared to tangle with the fish of a lifetime on every cast. Being prepared in this case means having the correct size of tippet and length for the job.

The Length of Tippet

Making sure you have a good length of tippet at the end of your leader is one crucial aspect to success in fly fishing. Consider the following when choosing a tippet length.

Always avoid tying flies directly to the end of the leader.

  • Whether you're nymphing or dry fly fishing, always use a section of tippet. This will save you money in the long run and you will be able to reuse a tapered leader indefinitely if you take the proper care of the leader.
  • You will ensure the length and proper taper of the leader by always adding tippet to it instead of taking away leader material from it.

Longer tippet sections for spookier fish and low water conditions.

  • Most anglers use 9' tapered leaders and add a section of tippet between 1' and 2' long. This is the most common and daily tippet length to get you by.
  • When hunting fish in low and clear water, using longer tippets means you will be able to keep the actual fly line farther away from the fish and therefore less likely to spook them with the line.
  • If adding more than 2' of tippet, consider actually tapering the size of the tippet so that your casts turn over properly.

Changing from a big fly to a small fly.

  • Larger flies like hoppers, salmonflies, and the like will require thicker tippets from 1x-3x in order to turn them over. Avoid using smaller sized tippets with bigger flies. They just won't cast properly.
  • Smaller flies are more delicate and lighter tippets are needed to both turn them over, present the fly with the least drag, and to also fit through the eye of the hook.

Streamer Fishing.

  • Keep your long 7-9' Tapered leaders at home when streamer fishing. You need to transfer as much energy as possible from the cast into the leader to turn it over. Fish short section of tapered leader of about 6' or less, of thicker 0x-20# leader.
  • Tippet sections are nice to use while streamer fishing for one good reason; so you can break off a fly easier when snagged. Snags are very common while streamer fishing. If you use a direct piece of line you will be much more apt to break a fly line or even a rod while trying to get a fly unsnagged. The tippet knot will act as a breaking point when you really put the gears to the line in order to break it off.

Other Tippet Selection Tips

In selecting your tippet to add to the leader, you always want to start with the leader thickness and go down from there. For instance if you are using a 3x leader, you would not want to connect 0x,1x,2x to that. You would want to use a tippet of at least 3x or lighter to connect to that.

Your knots are more likely to fail if you try and attach a larger thickness tippet to a smaller diameter leader. Once your tippet gets to be less than 1', then it's time to tie on a new piece with a blood knot.

If you need to use 6x for a finer presentation, then tying 6x directly to your 3x may cause breakage in knot. Try to taper the connections by adding a section of 4x to ease the transition to 6x tippet from the 3x leader. These tapered transitions allow your fly to turn over on the forward cast and lay out on the water more gently and precise. Always inspect your tippet knot and run your fingers along the line to check for nicks or abrasions or other weak points.

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