What size tippet do I use?

Frank Whiton

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The size and weight of the fly determines what size tippet works best with that fly. A 3wt rod is for smaller flies and the leader will have a lighter tippet. If you were fishing a size 16 fly a 5X tippet would be used. If you were fishing an 8wt rod with a size 6 fly, a size 2X tippet would be called for. The companies making the leaders size the butt of the leader to match a group of fly lines it might be used on. All you have to worry about is what size tippet you will be using for a particular sized fly.

Tippet Diameter|Tippet Size|Pound Test|Fly Size
.003|8x|1.2|24-26-28
.004|7x|2|20-22-24-26
.005|6x|3|16-18-20-22
.006|5x|4|14-16-18
.007|4x|5|12-14-16
.008|3x|6|10-12-14
.009|2x|7|6-8-10
.010|1x|8.5|2-4-6
.011|0x|10|1/0-2-4
.012|x1|12|2/0-1/0-2
.013|x2|14|3/0-2/0-1/0-2
.014|x3|16|5/0-4/0-3/0-2/0
.015|x4|18|6/0-5/0-4/0-3/0

NOTE: Leader diameters and strengths vary from manufacture to manufacture and with different materials or processes.


Here is a quick way to calculate the best size tippet to use on the water. You take the fly size and divide it by 4 and then add 1. For example, take a size 6 hook, divide 6 by 4 and you get one. Add one to that and you get 2. So for a size 6 hook use a 2X leader. You will note that the chart says 1X or 2X will work. The formula is a guide to get you close to the proper sized tippet on the water. In this case you use the leader that is most appropriate for the size of the fish.
 
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tcorfey

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Great chart Frank,

To determine tippet to fly size I tend to use the rule of threes.
Fly size uses approximately 3 times the tippet size.

3x tippet - 3 x 3 = 9 good for size 8 - 12 flies
4x tippet - 4 x 3 = 12 good for size 10 - 14 flies
5x tippet - 5 x 3 = 15 good for size 14 - 18 flies
6x tippet - 6 x 3 = 18 good for size 16 - 20 flies
7x tippet - 7 x 3 = 21 good for size 20 - 24 flies

At least that's what I learned, it's easy to remember and it seems to work.
 

nevadanstig

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Just me, but I prefer just to go by the size of fish I may hook. I really wouldn't want to get in to a 30+ inch brown trout with 7x just because I'm fishing small midges.
 

jonbo

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I have heard or read several guys say that the spookier the trout (clear water, heavily fished, wild fish, or what have you), the finer tippet one needs to be using in order to have success. Then others seem to be of the opinion that trout don't care about tippet size.

There was an article a few years back which followed someone who swam in scuba gear with the trout and observed how they reacted to various fly presentations as some fisherman they had there cast next to him. I guess somehow his presence in scuba gear didn't bother the fish. I can sort of believe that because I've had them refuse my fly presentations but feed right around my feet.

Anywho, the scuba man came to the belief, it seems, that tippet size didn't matter to the trout, much. It was all about presentation, drag-free drifts, and to avoid "lining" them, that is casting or allowing the line to drift over the fish such that the shadow of the line, especially, entered their vision.

Then again, I've seen them rise right next to my line on the water, so I donno! They say educated trout are wary of indicators. Okay, so why do they rise and nip at my indicator so often. Are those the trout "school" dropouts?

Any opinions?
 

comeonavs

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Correct presentation I do believe trumps tippet size. But that being said there are spots where you just sometimes have to go to small flies and tippets on heavily fished streams.
 

silver creek

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Great chart Frank,

To determine tippet to fly size I tend to use the rule of threes.
Fly size uses approximately 3 times the tippet size.

3x tippet - 3 x 3 = 9 good for size 8 - 12 flies
4x tippet - 4 x 3 = 12 good for size 10 - 14 flies
5x tippet - 5 x 3 = 15 good for size 14 - 18 flies
6x tippet - 6 x 3 = 18 good for size 16 - 20 flies
7x tippet - 7 x 3 = 21 good for size 20 - 24 flies

At least that's what I learned, it's easy to remember and it seems to work.
I also use the rule of 3 for veteran fly fishers, rule of 4 for newbies.
 

bigspencer

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1) Position yourself to make as easy a cast, where mending will be at its easiest to keep a fly's drift natural. A tippet that doesn't overpower the weight of the fly will let it drift more naturally, especially if there is slack in it...not a tight straight line to the fly. NOTHING is set in stone...each line has a certain amount of stiffness in it...as does each diameter of leader material. It's up to the angler to make the decision as to what LENGTH of each section and what taper to put into a leader = affecting the leader's stiffness or looseness for delivering slack in the leader. ALL the leader/tippet material on the market today is Miles ahead of what leader material used to be just 20yrs ago... People have to learn how to set the hook while preserving the tippet's integrity. These days it's not difficult, just takes a little PRACTICE!
2) Judge a trout's location by what type of current there is. If it's strong...the presence of somekind of rise will be further downstream from there the trout actually holds, but it the current is a slow one....there might not be any difference from where it holds and where it rises. Observing/learning this makes it easier to understand how not to line fish.
Frank Whitton's tippet diameter table is pretty good but here's a few options:
5x = #12-14
6x = #14-18
7x = #18-22 (#22 is the smallest hook I use, if you need to go w/smaller fly..tie it smaller but on a #22 hook...you'll get more hookups).
 
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logic_factory

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i encourage everyone to use the strongest tippet you can which provides you with satisfactory results. in more turbulent water and/or cloudy days or under limited light like late evening early morning one can often get away with larger diameter tippets but below i share an exception to the general rule which has provided me an increased level of efficiency.

my father was my fly fishing mentor growing up and there are few better mentor's to have then him. i was taught a similar system that has been mentioned in this thread; general size flies to use with x tippet. a couple years ago i tried something out and the results i have experienced speak for themselves. i often try to target larger fish feeding on the surface in almost stagnate water. i am often using large flies to help stimulate these fish into the feeding response; i.e. size 10-12. i now use a long extra fine, wide gap 14 for this job just to make the difference between 7x and the eye of the hook smaller. when the sun is still out and the water is next to flat(where the large fish often feed on surface) this setup provokes the feeding response the best i have seen. that 7x liberates your fly to act like nothing in the larger tipper diameters. as flat as the water looks there are often these micro current; vorticies which cause the fly to "beetle" around as my father has coined. i find my presentation allows much more forgiveness than the larger diameter tippets. in the last handful of years it has become my secret, a secret i enjoy sharing. the point is, guidelines can sometimes create limitation which can hinder progress; keep an open mind.

live long and prosper!
 

camelbrass

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As far as I'm aware the X rating system for tippets was based on line diameter.

Technology over the last few years has increased the whole breaking strain/ line diameter relationship out the curve even in mono. Fluro just adds to that trend.

Regards,


Trevor
 
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ottosmagic13

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The chart below is from Orvis is what I've used as a rule of thumb. I've noticed that the breaking strength reported for "tippet" is stronger per diameter of "regular" fluoro. I use Berkley Vanish, mainly because it's a third of the price and I don't have to drive an hour to Bass Pro (east) or Orvis (west) to buy actual "tippet."

4lb Berkley Vanish is .007 diameter and works great with 12-18 sized flies. Which is where I am 80% of the time. 6lb works for slightly larger flies like #8 stonefly nymphs or crawfish imitation flies. Anything larger than that gets 10lb fluoro or tied directly on the 17lb middle section of mono I have in my leaders (for me that is mainly streamers and my warm water flies like poppers and such).

For reference, my leaders are homemade 30#-17#-10# with appropriate "tippet" attached.


Tippet Size Tippet Diameter Approximate breaking strength in Super Strong nylon (pounds) Balances with fly sizes:
8X .003" 1.75 22, 24, 26, 28
7X .004" 2.5 18, 20, 22, 24
6X .004" 3.5 16, 18, 20, 22
5X .006" 4.75 14, 16, 18
4X .007" 6 12, 14, 16
3.5 .008" 8.5 6, 8, 10
2X .009" 11.5 4, 6, 8
1X .010" 13.5 2, 4, 6
0X .011" 15.5 1/0, 2, 4
.012 .012" 18.5 5/0, 4/0,3/0, 2/0
.013 .013" 20 5/0, 4/0,3/0, 2/0
.015 .015" 25 5/0, 4/0,3/0, 2/0
 

mtnjefro

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This is a huge question I had. As a newbie I couldn't figure it out but this conversation has helped me tremendously. I know there are varying opinions here but believe me I have learned a lot just from these conversations.
 

silver creek

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I have heard or read several guys say that the spookier the trout (clear water, heavily fished, wild fish, or what have you), the finer tippet one needs to be using in order to have success. Then others seem to be of the opinion that trout don't care about tippet size.

There was an article a few years back which followed someone who swam in scuba gear with the trout and observed how they reacted to various fly presentations as some fisherman they had there cast next to him. I guess somehow his presence in scuba gear didn't bother the fish. I can sort of believe that because I've had them refuse my fly presentations but feed right around my feet.

Anywho, the scuba man came to the belief, it seems, that tippet size didn't matter to the trout, much. It was all about presentation, drag-free drifts, and to avoid "lining" them, that is casting or allowing the line to drift over the fish such that the shadow of the line, especially, entered their vision.

Then again, I've seen them rise right next to my line on the water, so I donno! They say educated trout are wary of indicators. Okay, so why do they rise and nip at my indicator so often. Are those the trout "school" dropouts?

Any opinions?
Anyone who makes all encompassing non qualified statements about trout is probably wrong.

Just like any animal, trout behavior is population based. All trout do not and will not react identically. So the correct answer is that some trout do not care about tippet size as other trout. The result is that those trout are more likely to be caught and since being caught and released has a mortality rate of 3.5 -5%, the population of those trout will decrease over time. There will be fewer of those trout who grow up to be large trout. So one result is that larger trout are more likely to "care about tippet size." It is a form natural selection by fly fisher.

The statement, "the spookier the trout (clear water, heavily fished, wild fish, or what have you), the finer tippet one needs to be using in order to have success" is correct because it has a qualifier ---- "spookier trout." So of course spookier trout would be more sensitive to tippet size - that is one definition of being spookier.

Gary Borger often says the largest trout in the river is the biggest "scaredy cat." The reason it is the largest is that was the spookiest trout from the time it was hatched.

So trout nip at indicators. What does that prove other than some trout will rise to indicators? It says little about the trout who do not rise to indicators. The problem is that fly fishers assume that all trout will behave like the trout they have caught when we can really say nothing about the fish who have ignored our flies .... or our indicators ;)

When we fish we are actually sampling the fish population for the fish who will be fooled by our fishing methods. I wrote about this in this post:

Trout Conditioned Behavior
 

scotty macfly

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I have heard or read several guys say that the spookier the trout (clear water, heavily fished, wild fish, or what have you), the finer tippet one needs to be using in order to have success. Then others seem to be of the opinion that trout don't care about tippet size.

There was an article a few years back which followed someone who swam in scuba gear with the trout and observed how they reacted to various fly presentations as some fisherman they had there cast next to him. I guess somehow his presence in scuba gear didn't bother the fish. I can sort of believe that because I've had them refuse my fly presentations but feed right around my feet.

Anywho, the scuba man came to the belief, it seems, that tippet size didn't matter to the trout, much. It was all about presentation, drag-free drifts, and to avoid "lining" them, that is casting or allowing the line to drift over the fish such that the shadow of the line, especially, entered their vision.

Then again, I've seen them rise right next to my line on the water, so I donno! They say educated trout are wary of indicators. Okay, so why do they rise and nip at my indicator so often. Are those the trout "school" dropouts?

Any opinions?
I have a hard time buying the "lining the fish" thing. There are many times I have watched twigs, leaves, and other objects going over fish and the fish are not at all concerned. The fish see objects floating on the surface all day.
Now, as for casting over the fish and allowing the line to fall onto the water right over the fish, I have seen fish take off from that. But just to have the line pass over head because you casted a few feet above the fish, no, not from what I have seen.
 

tcorfey

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A few thoughts on tippet size:

1. Tippet has to be of sufficiently large diameter to impart enough energy to turn over the fly on delivery. Larger heavier fly needs larger diameter tippet.

2. Tippet has to be of sufficiently small diameter to fit through the eye of the fly. Smaller diameter tippet for smaller diameter hook eye hole. Some people use big eye hooks to allow for the use of larger diameter tippet on smaller flys.

3. Tippet has to be of sufficient length and diameter to keep drag to a minimum. Well at least if you want a dead drift presentation. Sometimes adding length to a tippet can be used to increase slack in the presentation. Other times smaller diameter tippet can be used to reduce drag due to the smaller diameter.

4. Tippet needs to be strong enough to land a fish without fighting it to exhaustion.

The questions that I go through in my head are, can the tippet be thread through the eye of the hook, does it provide the optimum presentation in the form of fly delivery and during the drift does it impart action (drag) to the fly or not.

Regards,

Tim C.
 

patrick62

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The chart below is from Orvis is what I've used as a rule of thumb. I've noticed that the breaking strength reported for "tippet" is stronger per diameter of "regular" fluoro. I use Berkley Vanish, mainly because it's a third of the price and I don't have to drive an hour to Bass Pro (east) or Orvis (west) to buy actual "tippet."

4lb Berkley Vanish is .007 diameter and works great with 12-18 sized flies. Which is where I am 80% of the time. 6lb works for slightly larger flies like #8 stonefly nymphs or crawfish imitation flies. Anything larger than that gets 10lb fluoro or tied directly on the 17lb middle section of mono I have in my leaders (for me that is mainly streamers and my warm water flies like poppers and such).
I do much the same thing. For 90 percent of my trout fishing I carry 1X and 3X Rio mono, and then Berkley Vanish in 2,4,6 and 8 pound. I wind the Vanish on old Rio mono spools so they all stack. It's a pain in the neck but I've gotten good at it.

I use multiple fly rigs a lot. Assuming a 10 foot four weight rod, I'll use a Rio 9-foot leader tapered to 3X. I'll tie either two or four pound Vanish to that, with droppers off a surgeon's knot a la Davy Wotton. Eventually I wind up with a Frankenleader and have to start again.

Very rarely do I use anything super light, like 7X mono.

I use Rio because that's what the fly shops around here carry.
 

dylar

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If you're in a situation where you need to fish tippet lighter than 5X to be successful, you're just being stubborn and borderline unethical. Go somewhere else. Fish for something less picky. If you're fishing 6 or 7X, you're setting yourself up to torture fish for vanity.
 

dynaflow

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I found this in the back of my fly tying book FWIW,but in the end it's whatever gets you through the night (within reason).I've had Bonefish spook from too-big diameter tippet,but you can only go down in size so far before it's just silly....
5x.....0.006....4.75lbs.......14,16,18 (fly size)
4x.....0.007....6.0lbs.........12,14,16
3x.....0.008....8.5lbs.........10,12,14
2x.....0.009....11.5lbs........6,8,10
1x.....0.010.....13.5lbs.......4,6,8
Note that fluorocarbon measurements can differ.
 
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