Fly Size Guide, or: What Size Fly Is This?

samanich

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So, I'm new to fly fishing and have been trying to get a handle on what size leader/tippet to use with different sized flies, and I finally started to understand it. But, I had one problem: I had no idea what size flies I had. It doesn't do me much good to know to use a 4x tippet with a size 14 fly if I don't know what a size 14 fly is.

Forums like this recommend going to a local fly shop and looking at all the different sizes to get a general idea, but I have no decent fly shops near me. So, I made this handy guide:

DSCF7186.JPG

I found a pdf with a fly guide here wich I printed at 100%, cut out a section (the one I used was at the bottom of page 5), then taped it up so it would be relatively sturdy and waterproof. I also decided to just write a little cheatsheet with tippet/fly sizes on the back.

DSCF7187.JPG

Now, as a newbie, I can stick this in my pocket and have a handy guide while I'm out fishing until I'm able to do without. People that have been fly fishing their whole lives might think this is silly and unnecessary, but I really had no idea what sizes my flies were. Hopefully someone else with this same problem will be able to find this useful in the future which is why I'm writing out this post.

Sam
 

silver creek

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So, I'm new to fly fishing and have been trying to get a handle on what size leader/tippet to use with different sized flies, and I finally started to understand it. But, I had one problem: I had no idea what size flies I had. It doesn't do me much good to know to use a 4x tippet with a size 14 fly if I don't know what a size 14 fly is.

Forums like this recommend going to a local fly shop and looking at all the different sizes to get a general idea, but I have no decent fly shops near me. So, I made this handy guide:

View attachment 11680

I found a pdf with a fly guide here wich I printed at 100%, cut out a section (the one I used was at the bottom of page 5), then taped it up so it would be relatively sturdy and waterproof. I also decided to just write a little cheatsheet with tippet/fly sizes on the back.

Sam
Sam,

I've got some bad news for you.

If you are going to carry a guide, I would choose a different one. Notice the parts of a fly tying hook in the illustration below;



Notice the ratio of the hook shank length to the hook gap is 1.5/1

Your guide is not the basic standard hook. It has a relatively longer shank than the standard TMC 100 dry fly. I think the hook is a 2XL hook like the illustration below of the Daiichi 1710. So the size 14 hook in your illustration is actually the length of a hook 2 sizes larger which would be a size 12 hook.




Although the hooks gap should be the same, a fly tied on a 2XL hook is larger and the really the tippet to fly size rules are for STANDARD length flies and NOT long shank flies. Long shank flies are larger and have more material. You should use a hook like the standard TMC 100 below.



An even better guide is actually a fly tiers hook scale which shows shank lengths.

 

samanich

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Sam,

I've got some bad news for you.

If you are going to carry a guide, I would choose a different one. Notice the parts of a fly tying hook in the illustration below;



Notice the ratio of the hook shank length to the hook gap is 1.5/1

Your guide is not the basic standard hook. It has a relatively longer shank than the standard TMC 100 dry fly. I think the hook is a 2XL hook like the illustration below of the Daiichi 1710. So the size 14 hook in your illustration is actually the length of a hook 2 sizes larger which would be a size 12 hook.




Although the hooks gap should be the same, a fly tied on a 2XL hook is larger and the really the tippet to fly size rules are for STANDARD length flies and NOT long shank flies. Long shank flies are larger and have more material. You should use a hook like the standard TMC 100 below.



An even better guide is actually a fly tiers hook scale which shows shank lengths.

Hmm, bummer. But, I wasn’t using it for the shank length anyway, I was mostly comparing the gap, which seemed to match pretty well. It agreed with the two flies I have which I knew the sizes of, an 18 and a 10, so it still seems to work pretty well as a guide. Close enough to get close enough, at least.
 

samanich

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You’re right though, looking back at the pdf, its a 3xl hook. Oops. Shows how much I know that I didn’t know to look for that!
 

rusty 54

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I think your "cheat sheet" is pretty good. Tying flies helped me figure it out. I don't tie well, but it helped me with hook size.
 

silver creek

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You’re right though, looking back at the pdf, its a 3xl hook. Oops. Shows how much I know that I didn’t know to look for that!
You also asked about tippets on this post:

Changing line/leader sizes?

In my reply to you, I did give you a guide to the size tippet for a given hooks size - the rule of 3 or the rule of 4 as I posted below:

https://www.theflyfishingforum.com/...5-changing-line-leader-sizes.html#post1162640

Remember that these are estimates of where to begin. And the actual length of the tippet section matters as well. A longer tippet will be harder to cast than a shorter tippet, so if you have a hard time casting a fly you can shorten the tippet or go up by one tippet size or both.

Here's the deal. A lot depends on your ability to cast. A tippet that you cannot cast with a certain fly, can be cast by a better caster. So look at these "rules" as a place to begin; and then modify them so they fit your casting ability. For example a size 16 fly would match a 4X tipper with the rule of 4 or a 5X tippet with the rule of 3.

As a beginner fishing dry flies, start with the rule of 4 and if you have no trouble casting the fly, you can either lengthen the tippet to get a longer drag free float OR use the rule of 3, which may be a thinner tippet that will also give a longer drag free float. You are the ultimate judge of how well you can cast and if the leader system works for you.
 

samanich

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Thanks for all the help! In reading up on your posts, that's something that I'd come across so in my mind I'd decided to try to stick to the rule of 4 for the time being. Then, from there, change up the weight and length of tippet to get the best results in certain situations.

I knew that fly fishing was an intricate activity, but to be honest I never thought that the leader would be such an involved aspect of it. I guess anything can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be.
 

silver creek

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Thanks for all the help! In reading up on your posts, that's something that I'd come across so in my mind I'd decided to try to stick to the rule of 4 for the time being. Then, from there, change up the weight and length of tippet to get the best results in certain situations.

I knew that fly fishing was an intricate activity, but to be honest I never thought that the leader would be such an involved aspect of it. I guess anything can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be.
Tom Rosenbauer of Orvis has often said that fly fishers tend to think that the rod is the most important piece of equipment in fly fishing. But he thinks that you start with the beginning, what is closest to our target, the fish. Sometimes the fly is not important but, the leader design is always important. Then the fly line, then the rod and so on. We take the leader for granted, but it's design is important in determining how the fly lands and how likely the fly is to be rejected because of drag.
 

jdwy

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I knew that fly fishing was an intricate activity, but to be honest I never thought that the leader would be such an involved aspect of it. I guess anything can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be.
Maybe we're overly crude in this part of the west but I, and most guys I know use 5WT rods, 5X leader and 5X tippet regardless whether tying on a tiny size 20 Zebra Midge or a big #8 weighted Stone Fly.
I did meet a guy some years ago at a crystal clear C&R lake we fish and he said he'd sacrifice tippet invisibility for strength so he uses 3X tippet on those big trout because he hates breaking off a fish.
 

redietz

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jdwy said:
I did meet a guy some years ago at a crystal clear C&R lake we fish and he said he'd sacrifice tippet invisibility for strength so he uses 3X tippet on those big trout because he hates breaking off a fish.
Tippets are never invisible. A fish can see even 7x. The advantages to smaller tippet are 1) getting the tippet through the hook eye, 2) better sink rate for small flies, and 3) it's easier to prevent drag with a smaller tippet. I agree with the guy you met, if none of those are a concern.
 

silver creek

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Maybe we're overly crude in this part of the west but I, and most guys I know use 5WT rods, 5X leader and 5X tippet regardless whether tying on a tiny size 20 Zebra Midge or a big #8 weighted Stone Fly.
I did meet a guy some years ago at a crystal clear C&R lake we fish and he said he'd sacrifice tippet invisibility for strength so he uses 3X tippet on those big trout because he hates breaking off a fish.
The key is he is fishing a LAKE where he does not have to counter drag. I bet he would not use 3X tippet fishing a size 16 fly to rising trout on a river.

In moving water it is DRAG that is the killer over 90% of the time.

Some spooky trout can spook at seeing the impression of the leader on the water surface. We can never actually tell why a trout refuses a fly during a rise, but when we mud the tippet to get rid of the sheen and sink the tippet, the catch rate goes up. So the conclusion is that the floating leader is what put the fish off.

Take a look at the photo below of 3 identical tippets treated in 3 different ways. It is taken from a book on fly fishing. Tippets are extruded and this coats the tippet in a shiny slightly oily lubricant. Degreasing with a compound containing bentonite clay, glycerin, and detergent removes the sheen and coating and sinks the tippet. Snake River Mud is a degreaser and sinkant.



The tippet on the left that has been wiped clean, the middle one degreased and the right one treated with a floatant. If seeing is believing, which tippet is most easily seen? This is why I never put floatant on the tippet closest to the fly.



The photo above shows direct visualization of the tippet. What it does not show is the effect of refraction on the bottom of the stream. When refracted light hits the stream bottom, bright flickers of light are cast on the stream bottom (see photo below). This can spook trout that are heavily fished over in clear slow moving water. Obviously it is not spooking this trout.



Like many strategies in fishing degreasing, is NOT a yes or no proposition. In some situations, it may make little difference but in some situations it is makes a huge difference in determining success or failure.
 

Abaco24

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Keep it Simple as they say...as a new guy it seems to me that old school experts tend to make this sport SOOOO complicated vs easy for a new person, which inclines one to at first moving on from the sport and just sticking to traditional fishing with other methods. I personally liked your guide. Is a fish really going to know??? Or just bite the damn fly because he's hungry??..I doubt the fish looks at a fly and says, "I wonder what tippet length, shank length, gap and fly size he's using, I better not bite his presentation today" .....OMG
 

clsmith131

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I say, don't overthink it. You can get by, for the most part, with 4x, 5x and 6x. Start with a 4x tapered leader. 4x tippet for your bigger flies, 6x for your smallest, but usually 5x will work for anything down to a #18 or #20. If you find you can't turn over the wooly buggers and muddlers, go 3x. I personally never go smaller than 6x. This will get you fishing, and will work well enough to allow you to catch fish. You can get as technical as you want, but your experience will teach you the subtleties.

It is best to drop a line size from your leader to tippet, but being new, I think you will find your leader shortening and getting thicker as it does.
 

jdwy

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The key is he is fishing a LAKE where he does not have to counter drag. I bet he would not use 3X tippet fishing a size 16 fly to rising trout on a river.

In moving water it is DRAG that is the killer over 90% of the time.

Some spooky trout can spook at seeing the impression of the leader on the water surface. We can never actually tell why a trout refuses a fly during a rise, but when we mud the tippet to get rid of the sheen and sink the tippet, the catch rate goes up. So the conclusion is that the floating leader is what put the fish off.

Take a look at the photo below of 3 identical tippets treated in 3 different ways. It is taken from a book on fly fishing. Tippets are extruded and this coats the tippet in a shiny slightly oily lubricant. Degreasing with a compound containing bentonite clay, glycerin, and detergent removes the sheen and coating and sinks the tippet. Snake River Mud is a degreaser and sinkant.



The tippet on the left that has been wiped clean, the middle one degreased and the right one treated with a floatant. If seeing is believing, which tippet is most easily seen? This is why I never put floatant on the tippet closest to the fly.



The photo above shows direct visualization of the tippet. What it does not show is the effect of refraction on the bottom of the stream. When refracted light hits the stream bottom, bright flickers of light are cast on the stream bottom (see photo below). This can spook trout that are heavily fished over in clear slow moving water. Obviously it is not spooking this trout.



Like many strategies in fishing degreasing, is NOT a yes or no proposition. In some situations, it may make little difference but in some situations it is makes a huge difference in determining success or failure.
Yessir, he was talking only that specific lake and those specific trout. It's kind of an extraordinary lake that requires a clever game plan for the day unless you want to get skunked like I did and a couple others apparently did yesterday.
 

deceiverbob

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Abaco24;1439795I doubt the fish looks at a fly and says said:
Maybe, but I have seen where changing from a sz 18 to a sz 20 BWO fly meant the difference between catching and not catching. I have seen the same by changing from 5X to 6X tippet.

And saminich if you are trying to replicate a fly you bought at the vise remember that there is some variation among hook brands. I just compared a Gamakatsu hook to a similar Mustad and the Gammy hook in sz 6 was the same size as the Mustad in sz 4
 
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