A good place to start is with a 9-foot tapered leader. If you're fishing for creepier fish, add a tippet section and lengthen that to 12 feet or something like that. If you're fishing for bass or other more aggressive species, you can go with a 6- to 7-foot tapered leader. Well, first of all, choose something you're comfortable with.
My favorites are TroutHunter, Umpqua, Orvis and Climax. Then decide on the type of material you want. If I go fishing for streamers, wet or nymphs, I like fluorocarbon leaders and tippets. The TroutHunter Fluorocarbon, Orvis Mirage and the Umpqua SuperFluoro are great.
They offer greater knot resistance, excellent abrasion resistance and virtually disappear in water, allowing you to hook fussy fish into heavier tippets. All three will give you a decisive advantage over traditional nylon, especially if you are fishing for shy fish like Great Lakes rainbow trout or spring brook trout. Two of the best fluorocarbons on the market are TroutHunter and Cortland Ultra Premium. TroutHunter has been the standard reference material for many of my guide friends for quite a few years.
It first gained popularity because knots sit better than other fluorocarbons, is flexible compared to other brands and comes on a large shaft reel to reduce memory. The leaders of fly fishing and the tippet, at first glance, seem relatively simple. A tapered guide followed by a fine tip will allow precise casting, a delicate presentation of the fly and relatively drag-free drifts. At its most basic level, a leader is a piece of fishing line designed to connect the thick and colored fly line to a fly.
While the heavier fly line provides the weight needed to complete a fly launch, the leader serves as a thin, transparent connector to the fly to avoid scaring the fish. It also allows a clean unfolding of the line at the end of each cast. Most of the leaders you'll find in the store have a reduced thickness from one end to the other. The thick end, or “stock section”, is attached to the fly line and provides rigidity and strength to the top of the leader.
The thinner end attaches to the tippet and ensures a more delicate presentation of the fly. Leaders usually run about 9 feet long, although there is a wide variety available from 6 to 15 feet for different situations. While the leader provides the backbone of the connection between the fly line and the fly, the tippet material adds more precision to the configuration. As a leader, the tippet is a clear line.
It is tied to the thinner end of the leader to connect the leader to the fly. As the name suggests, you can think of the tippet as the “tip of the leader”. The tippet is usually very thin, although it is sold by reel in various sizes, labeled with a numbered “X” scale, which will be discussed later in more detail. As a general description, tippets with higher “X” numbers are thinner, so a 6X tippet is thinner than a 3X tippet.
A 5X tippet is considered a good standard for most trout fishing situations. Fly anglers often carry various sizes of tippet to suit different scenarios, and the tippet can be used to build a leader in a hurry by connecting thicker pieces with thinner pieces to form a rough cone. As you note, once the leader and tippet are connected, they are often collectively referred to as the leader. It would be very annoying to hear: “I have a mess between my leader and my tippet every time.
Here is a chart to give you an idea of some common leader lengths. So how much tippet should you add to the end of the leader? That often comes down to personal preference. Some people like to add several tippet feet to make a long leader and take into account breakups that could shorten the tippet throughout the day. Other people tie with one foot or less if the leader already has the length and thickness they would like to fish.
In other words, there is not a single tippet length that is good for all situations, and you don't have to worry too much about it. When selecting a tippet, there are quite a few things to keep in mind. What are you fishing for? What is water clarity? What size fly do you use? How creepy are fish? Are you tying several flies? You can also tie the tippet from one fly to another to catch several flies at the same time. While it's okay to use the same tippet for both flies, I like to wear one size slimmer for the second fly (or the third one if you're using three).
That way, if my bottom fly gets caught in deep water and I have to break the line, I can often only break the second half of the platform and get my upper fly back. This board will help you choose the best tippet for your day on the water. What should I use, monofilament or fluorocarbon leaders? As with most leader-related questions, the answer depends on the fishing style. While neither material is intrinsically better than the other, they serve different purposes because of the unique qualities they possess.
Technically, the word “monofilament” only means that there is only one line thread (vs. multifilament braided lines), which would actually also include single-stranded fluorocarbon leaders. However, when people refer to monofilament leaders, they are usually referring to monofilament nylon leaders. These nylon leaders are what we'll talk about in this section.
The first clear benefit of monofilament leaders is that they are generally less expensive than fluorocarbon leaders. This is because they are cheaper to produce, not because they are of lower quality. Again, given the right circumstances, monofilament leaders may be the right way, so saving money on them is a big plus. Probably, the most important characteristic of monofilament leaders is their ability to float on water.
When dry fly fishing, monofilament is definitely the best choice, as having a floating leader will help flies stay afloat. One of the main disadvantages of the monofilament line is its strength compared to fluorocarbon, especially after a long day of fishing. Over time, nylon absorbs water and weakens, making it less resistant to abrasion. This means that rubbing rocks, logs, or other debris could cause the line to break.
It also breaks down under UV light, so prolonged exposure to the sun can cause the line to weaken over time. This doesn't mean you need to hide your tippet every time you go out, but it's often recommended to replace the monofilament line after a few years if you've had a lot of exposure. Two disadvantages of fluorocarbon are its cost and rigidity when tying knots. If you want to fish fluorocarbon, you're going to have to be willing to pay a little more.
I like to have fluorocarbon tippet in the sizes I use the most for this reason. There is no point in paying extra money for a fluorocarbon tippet that you rarely use. However, if you often nymph, the cost may be worth it. The rigidity of fluorocarbon, while good at detecting bumps, makes knot slippage a possibility.
You'll want to recheck your knots before launching a fluoro platform into the water. For trout fishing in general, choose a 9ft monofilament knotless tapered leader in 4X or 5X. Pick up some extra 4X and 5X tippet reels to replace the cut ends when changing flies and place it on a 6X reel in case you need to change to a smaller fly. A final note on fluorocarbon that all fishermen should know is that it takes about 4,000 years to decompose naturally.
Ask ten of the best anglers you know what their favorite leader design is and you'll get ten different answers. The idea is to link a section of the tippet that has the same number “X” or higher than the leader you are using. On the other hand, if you plan to make nymphs with a lightweight nymph and a long leader to provide a more delicate presentation in thin waters, then you will need a tapered stock section that helps to flip the lighting platform. Anglers carry additional tippet reels because as flies change, the tippet becomes shorter and shorter, at which point it must be replaced to maintain the proper length of the leader.
You'll catch more fish with short throws where you can properly repair and control drift than with long throws. If you're fishing for streamers, nymphs, or wet waters with a sinking tip or full sinking line, you'll need a shorter, more robust leader. Art Lee's Fly Fishing book has a whole chapter of leading formulas, but you can experiment until you find what you need. If you are fishing for fish in open lakes, rivers, oceans or bays, you will need a long rod (9 feet or more).
You can also try to remove 12 to 18 inches from the leader, but then the terminal end is larger than 5X. Most good shops can help explain what type of fly line you need for the type of fishing you want to perform. Now, the following statement may surprise you, but I don't carry a bunch of leaders of various sizes. .