knowing my leader and tippet size

ratherfish

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Is there anyway to know what size leader and tippet I currently have tied on to my outfit - and what is a good way to keep track of what I tie on in the future?
 

JoJer

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Heres an easy way: Add a leader appropriate for the rod and line, then a tippet ring, then add tippet appropriate for the water d' jour.
 

silver creek

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Is there anyway to know what size leader and tippet I currently have tied on to my outfit - and what is a good way to keep track of what I tie on in the future?
Size of leader can refer to tippet size or leader length. But most of the time "size" when in reference to a leader means the "X" size of the tippet.

You need a tippet gauge if you don't know the tippet/leader size. This is a device that measures the diameter of the tippet. OR if you have a selection of tippet spools, compare the size of the leader tippet to the tippet on the spools by looking at the two diameters side by side.

I have fished long enough, I can tell the difference between 3X and 4X and 5X, etc just by looking at the diameter. It is not hard to do.

does that mean if I have a 5wt rod I want a 5x Leader?
NO, NO, NO!!!

This is how I explain leaders and tippets.

The function of a leader is to transmit the energy of the cast from the fly line to the fly so as to deliver the fly accurately. The leader functions as the continuation of the fly line. It then becomes obvious that the diameter of butt section of the leader should be a close match to the diameter of the tip of the fly line. For a 5/6 fly line it should be in the range of 0.021" to 0.019" diameter.

The tippet is the thinnest section of the leader that is on the end opposite the fly line. It is the level end section of leader that is attached to the fly.

Tippets diameters are by “X” sizes where X = 0.011” - (tippet diameter). So a 0.06” diameter tippet is 0.011 - 0.006 = 5X. This is the “Rule of 11” The X size PLUS the diameter of the tippet will equal 11.

The function of the tippet is to deliver the fly, but it's main function for dry flies is to eliminate drag. These two functions are opposites. To deliver the fly most accurately, the tippet must land straight; but to eliminate drag, the tippet must introduce slack. We control accuracy vs slack by controlling the tippet length, diameter, and stiffness. The shorter, thicker and stiffer the tippet the more accurate the tippet; the longer, thinner, and limber the tippet, the greater drag free drift.

One does not choose the leader or tippet according the rod weight but according to the size, weight, and air resistance of the fly. We are choosing the leader and tippet according to how difficult the fly is to cast. The more difficult the fly is to cast, the stiffer, shorter, and thicker the leader and tippet. So match the leader to the fly and not the rod.

The tippet size The "X" size of the tippet varies with the size and wind resistance of the fly. The fly size in terms of hook size is used as a guide for choosing the tippet size. Then consider the weight and the air resistance of the fly to go up or down a tippet size.

There are two "rules" for choosing the correct tippet size for a given hook size. They are the rule of 4 and the rule of 3. The rule of 4 is for beginners and the rule of 3 is for intermediate to advanced casters. You divide the hook size by either 4 or 3 to get the tippet "X" size. The rule of 4 results in a thicker tippet than the rule of 3, and beginning fly fisher needs a thicker tippet than an advanced caster to deliver the fly as accurately.

Example: For a size 16 fly, the beginner would use a 16/4 (rule of 4) or 4X tippet and the advanced caster would use a 16/3 (rule of 3) or 5x tippet.

For a beginner, the length of the leader should be about the length of the fly rod. The is because a longer rod give the caster more leverage and it is easier to cast a longer leader with a longer rod. Conversely, a shorter rod is less able to extend a long leader. So start with a leader length about the same length as the rod and then lengthen it as your casting gets better.

Most commercial leaders are built on the 60% butt - 20% transition - 20% tippet formula. You can use this 60/20/20 formula to decide when to add new tippet to a worn leader. Using this "rule" a 9 ft leader for a 9 ft rod would have a 22" tippet. Use it to calculate the probable length of the tippet for your leader.

Realize that commercial leaders have to work for beginners as well as experts, but experts can cast a longer tippet section with accuracy. So I recommend that as beginners become better casters, they lengthen the tippet. Using the 20% tippet rule for a 9 ft leader, I tell beginners to start with a 22" rule of 4 tippet, then as they get better, lengthen it to a 26" and then a 30" rule of 4 tippet. Then switch to a rule of 3 tippet and gradually lengthen that to 30". As they become better casters, the tippet gets longer, then thinner and longer.

Everything starts with the fly we need to cast. Fly selection determines leader and tippet size; and also determines the increasing weight of fly rods that are needed to cast that fly as fly size increases. This is actually no different than spin fishing in which the weight and size of the lure determines the line, rod and reel that are used to fish that lure.

Read the article below for more information:

Modify your fly leader to meet changing conditions
 
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bigal36

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Learning the importance of this relationship has gone a long way in improving my casting/presentation immensely. I carry a little water proof card - one side it has a hook chart, for matching the hatch size. The back side has a chart of tippet sizes/test/fly size etc.

7b5f609a7888c01ca0db89f76420a197.jpg
 

rusty 54

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Silver, That is probably the most thorough and concise explanation I have seen. Needs to be a sticky or a FAQ.
 

rusty 54

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Silver, That is probably the most thorough and concise explanation I have seen. Needs to be a sticky or a FAQ.
 

ratherfish

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Good write up Silver; one more question and let’s see if I am totally messed up - a tapered Leader has the Tippet built into it; therefore, a 5x Tapered Leader would finish out with 5x Tippet. If I am adding additional Tippet as a sacrificial end, why would I need to add on 6x - how does it know it’s not all one 5x Tapered Leader?
 

bevanwj

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Yes a standard 9' 5X tapered leader has the tippet built into it. So a 5X tapered leader will end with a 5X tippet. That 5X end can vary in length depending upon the brand of the leader. There is variation in brands. During the course of a days fishing it will gradually get shorter as a result of changing flies. keep an eye on it by using your rod to measure it's length. 9' rod = 9' leader. If you find your leader has reduced to say 8' add another 12" of 5X tippet to bring it back to 9'.

If you want to lengthen your leader say to 10' either use a longer bit of 5X to lengthen it or drop down to 6X if you are changing to a smaller fly. The key is to never tie a heavier piece of tippet to lighter tippet. In other words don't tie a 4X end bit on to a leader that ends in 5X.
 

silver creek

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Good write up Silver; one more question and let’s see if I am totally messed up - a tapered Leader has the Tippet built into it; therefore, a 5x Tapered Leader would finish out with 5x Tippet. If I am adding additional Tippet as a sacrificial end, why would I need to add on 6x - how does it know it’s not all one 5x Tapered Leader?
Yes a standard 9' 5X tapered leader has the tippet built into it. So a 5X tapered leader will end with a 5X tippet. That 5X end can vary in length depending upon the brand of the leader. There is variation in brands. During the course of a days fishing it will gradually get shorter as a result of changing flies. keep an eye on it by using your rod to measure it's length. 9' rod = 9' leader. If you find your leader has reduced to say 8' add another 12" of 5X tippet to bring it back to 9'.

If you want to lengthen your leader say to 10' either use a longer bit of 5X to lengthen it or drop down to 6X if you are changing to a smaller fly. The key is to never tie a heavier piece of tippet to lighter tippet. In other words don't tie a 4X end bit on to a leader that ends in 5X.
One additional comment on what bevanwj has written on adding a thinner tippet than the one which came with the leader.

Remember when I wrote that "Most commercial leaders are built on the 60% butt - 20% transition - 20% tippet formula." Suppose we examine the case of the commercial 5X leader and for simplicity's sake we say it is 10 feet long. Then it would be 60% = 6 ft. butt material, 20% = 2 ft transition taper, and 20% 2 ft 5X tippet. To make this a 6X leader we CANNOT just add another 2 ft of 6X tippet to the end of what is 2 ft of 5X tippet. This would create a 12 ft leader with 2 feet of 5X tied to 2 feet of 6X and it would be a leader with essentially 4 feet of tippet. It would no longer be a 60-20-20 leader.

The way to make the original 5X leader into a 6X leader and preserve the approximate length and casting characteristics is to cut back the 5x tippet section to about 4-6 inches and tie the 6 X to it and make the section of 6X as long as the original 5X tippet was. This will preserve the original transition so basically you have converted the 10 ft 5X tippet to a 10 ft 6X tippet. You have also preserved the original leader design which was 60-20-20. The 60-20-20 formula goes back to champion fly caster Charles Ritz.

Remember that I suggested reading this link in my first post:

Modify your fly leader to meet changing conditions

"Specialty Leaders ......For dry-fly fishing, I use a Ritz leader formula (designed by Charles Ritz of Ritz Hotel fame), which is the basis for most of the tapered trout leaders that we buy. It is a simple design, with a 60% butt section, then a 20% midsection that tapers down rapidly, and 20% tippet."

So when beginners modify leaders to change out tippets they should keep to that formula.

The situation is different when a beginner or an expert want to LENGTHEN a leader. What if we find ourselves in the situation where we bought a 9 foot leader and we need a 15 foot leader?

We cannot just add 6 more feet of tippet obviously and if the occasion calls for a 15 foot leader, most of the times it is because we are fishing to very selective fish in a spring creek situation where we need to both be far away and have a longer and possibly thinner tippet than our standard 9 ft leader came with.

The process is not as difficult as it seems.

First you must decide how long and how thin a tippet you want. Let's assume it is 3 feet of 6X. So cut off the old tippet if you must preserving some if you need to create a taper to the transition and add the 3 feet of 6X tippet.

Now measure the length of the leader you have. Let's assume it is 10 ft 6 inches. To make it 15 feet you lengthen the leader butt to make the leader 15 feet. That means you need to cut off the leader loop, add butt material, cut the butt leaving about 6 extra inches so you can tie a perfection loop to the end of the new butt.

Obviously you must carry leader butt material with you to do this and I use 25 lb Maxima Chameleon which is 0.020" diameter.
 
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