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Thread: Is there a formula for proper leader and tippet length?

  1. #1

    Default Is there a formula for proper leader and tippet length?

    I hope this is the right section to put this question.

    I have mostly been using furled leaders that are about 6-feet long. For some reason, I can fling those a lot better, so I have stuck with them for better or for worse.

    But I have been using the exact same leaders for whatever I fish and wherever I fish and something tells me this is wrong... The same one for streams as for lakes. The same one for dries as wets as streamers.

    Also, I have been making tippets that are about, oh, 18-24 inches long. Is that too short? Is that maybe why the trout look at my fly and laugh??

    Are there any general guidelines I should be following?

    Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” –Henry David Thoreau
    Time flies like an arrow but fruit flies like a banana.” –Groucho Marx

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Michigan's U.P.

    Default Re: Is there a formula for proper leader and tippet length?

    Here is one. There are several out there. H&H Leader Making

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    S. E. Taxachusetts
    Blog Entries

    Default Re: Is there a formula for proper leader and tippet length?

    What little I know about furled leaders is that they seem to be specialized, i.e. tiny dries, wets, nymphs, streamers etc. Depending on the source you use, the level of specialization varies.

    The trout "laughing" at you fly may have nothing to do with the leader / tippet, but may have to do with some aspect of presentation and/or fly choice.

    For Comparisons to mono.... I have thrown everything from 3' of 2X maxima chameleon tippet off a sink tip line for streamers to up to 16' leaders for dries, wets and nymphs

    The dry / wet-nymph thing, I always found the fly size was more important than the floating or sinking and used the same leaders. Streamers are a different story and need a heavier (and generally shorter) mono leader. Not sure how much of that will cross over for you, but it is something to consider.

    The perennial Charlie Ritz formula is 60/20/20, or 60% butt section, 20% transition, and 20% tippet
    I'm currently out of my mind, but feel free to leave a message, and if you would like to reach me by phone, please hang up now.

  4. #4
    turbineblade Guest

    Default Re: Is there a formula for proper leader and tippet length?

    NA -- my bad

  5. #5
    mridenour Guest

    Default Re: Is there a formula for proper leader and tippet length?

    No. Too many variables to put into a formula.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Des Moines IA

    Default Re: Is there a formula for proper leader and tippet length?

    I have used furled (made out of thread) leaders off and on for the past several years. As far as tippet length, I normally start off with 3' and have used as much as 6' of tippet. I need to clarify that I use them primarily when fishing dry flies and sometimes nymphs.

    To me, an 18"-24" tippet seems a bit short. Unless of course you are fishing smaller streams, then that may be about right.

    The one thing I have noticed when fishing nymphs, other than high sticking, if there is any current, the furled leader seems to be pulled down stream more so then when I am fishing a mono leader. When that happens, I just mend up stream.

    I don't fish lakes for trout, so I do not have any experience in that area.

    While I have used furled leaders when swinging wet flies, I normally switch to a mono fluro furled leader when swinging streamers and use fluro tippet. That leader was given to me and if I did not have it, I would probably use a mono leader with a fluro tippet. I should mention that most of my trout fishing is done on small spring creeks,so I don't swing streamers that often.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    quiet corner, ct

    Default Re: Is there a formula for proper leader and tippet length?

    Your leader is your most important piece of equipment.
    It's the direct link to your fly and the fish and like a lot of things "fly fishing" the more you understand about their construction, the better off you'll be
    I've been building my own hand-tied leaders for at least 20 years. There's a configuration and formula to fit almost any situation. Some are simple, some are complicated. I tie and use lots of different ones.
    The simpler the outfit, the more skill it takes to manage it, and the more pleasure one gets in his achievements.” --- Horace Kephart

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Adirondacks & Great Lakes Tribs

    Default Re: Is there a formula for proper leader and tippet length?

    Its not as complicated as one may think. 9' is pretty standard for a trout leader, I use 9' tapered leaders mostly flourocarbon instead of monofiliment. As far as adding tippet goes, sure a few feet is fine, it all depends on how spooky rthe fish are and good your casting technique is. I frequently add 5ft of tippet to my 9' leader, giving me a total of 14ft, I love long leaders b/c the fish seem to hit more often. If your technique is sound you'll throw long leaders no problem, if its a struggle for ou to cast long leaders, stay around 9-10ft until your casting stroke can handle the longer ones.

    As for a formula? well I wouldnt say there is one, but certain conditions and fly rigs call for different lengthed leaders, this you will learn over time spent on the water.

    Im into building my own leaders now, and I use 40lb for the butt section then taper down to 25lb, 15lb, 10lb, 6lb, 4lb, 3lb maxima material either ultragreen or chameleon. I find this to be the best leader building material for me. Much cheaper than buying leaders premade and work just as good IMO. The knot I use to join the pieces together is a uni-knot, its a linear knot with "101%" break strength. Sorry to deviate from the post, but it sounds like this gentleman could use suggestions, hope this helps.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Is there a formula for proper leader and tippet length?

    When I was learning to fly fish back in the early 1970s, the maxim was to use a leader roughly equal to the length of the rod as a starting point. So 7'6" rod = 7 1/2" leader; 9' rod = 9' leader etc. I have found that still generally works for me.

    I will add 2-3 feet of tippet if the situation calls for it. For example, a slow run of very clear water with trout rising to small flies would indicate adding 3 feet of 6x or 7x tippet to a 9' 5x leader. But when casting a #14 Elk-hair caddis or a brace of nymphs through riffles or pocket water, I would stick with a 9' 4x leader on my 8"'6" rod. With a short rod on a small stream in tight quarters, I might use just a 7' 5x leader.

    I also tie my own knotted leaders because I find they turn over more readily and smoothly. There are lots of formulas out there.

    Hope that helps. I have tried braided leaders but prefer mono for most situations.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Is there a formula for proper leader and tippet length?

    The complicated hand tied leader formulas are unnecessary.

    For hand tied leaders, I use a very simple leader formula that I got from Gary Borger. He has modified his Uni-body leader formula a bit from the original. I have the latest formula. You can google "Gary Borger Uni-body Leader" to read about it but the following directions will allow you to make your own. You must use Maxima Chameleon for this leader to work. DO NOT SUBSTITUTE.

    For the 4-6 wt rods that most of us use we need Maxima Chameleon (brown color) 0.020" (25 lb test) for the butt and 0.013 (12 lb test) for the transition. If you have 7 and 8 wt rods, buy some 0.024" (40 lb test) and 0.015" (15 lb test) Maxima Chameleon for the butt and transition respectively.

    Each "base leader" without the tippet will have a butt section and a transition section made of the thicker and thinner Maxima Chameleon respectively. The transition section is ALWAYS 1 ft. long when finished. The transition section ends in a tippet ring and we will use a 3mm ring for the 4-6 wt rods. The tippet is added to the tippet ring. You can either tie the tippet to the ring or use a loop to loop connection.

    The tippet ring allows you to change the tippet length and diameter easily without shortening the 1 foot long transition section. You can eliminate the tippet ring and tie the tippet directly to the transition but you will lose the ability to quickly change the leader for nymphing vs dry fly fishing as explained below.

    The butt section length varies with the total leader length. I include a perfection loop on my butt section which I use to connect the leader to the fly line with a loop to loop connection.

    For a 9 ft leader the butt is 5 feet long (including the perfection loop) and the transition is 1 ft. long for a base leader length of 6 feet. Then add a 3 ft long supple tippet section and you have a Uni-body George Harvey style dry fly leader. For longer leaders, lengthen the .020" Maxima Chameleon.

    For nymphing, Gary uses the following formula. Butt section is 4 ft long and transition is 1 ft long for base of 4 feet. There are two tippet sections. The top tippet section is 4 feet long. The tippet diameter depends on the nymph size. Use 0X for size 2-8, 1X for size 10-14 and 2X for size 16 and smaller.

    Tie a 2 mm tippet ring to the end of the upper tippet section and then tie a second 12" section of tippet to this tippet ring. For the diameter of this lower tippet section, divide the hook size by 3. So for a size 16 fly you would use 16/3 = 5X tippet. Place your spit shot above this tippet ring. You can also place a dropper with a second fly on this tippet ring if you want to use dropper rather than tying a second nymph in-line with the first.

    You can convert from a nymphing to a George Harvey dry fly leader by changing the terminal tippet design between dry fly and nymphing set up. I keep the various nymphing sections with the second tippet ring coiled and held with a bread wrapper wire tie in separate small zip lock bags. I do the same with the various dry fly tippet sections.

    Each front end of the tippets have a perfection loops so I can swap them out with a loop to tippet ring connection. With this system I can quickly to go from a nymphing rig with the proper tippet size to a dry fly rig with the proper tippet size and back again.

    You will notice that the 9 foot leader has a 5 ft butt section and Gary's nymphing leader has a 4 ft butt section. I use the 5 ft butt section leader for both dry fly fishing and nymphing. I find the 5 ft works fine for nymphing, and I want a longer leader for my dry flies so I have less change of spooking the fish.


    "Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought"..........Szent-Gyorgy

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