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Tippet size selection

Joined:
2007/1/2 11:55
From Bozeman
Posts: 19932
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I have been thinking about what I believe to be common misconceptions among beginning FFers.

I thought back to when I was a 14 year old beginner, that only really knew what I was told by fly shops, magazines, and the odd TV show.

Without a doubt, the one biggest misconception that I had was about tippet size.

Beginning fly fishermen, for whatever reason, seem to feel that fly fishing is about light, delicate tippets. There is a culture of overestimating trout's sensitivity to tippets, IMO, and it results in a lot of beginners with twisted tippets and break offs.

I have found the following points to ring true:

1. Tippet size is primarily a function of fly size.

If you're fishing a size 12 or 14 dry fly on 7 or 8x, you probably will experience line twist. The tippet is too supple to prevent twist while casting or retrieving flies. 4 or 5x is much better suited for flies of that size.

2. Trout can see 4x. Trout can see 8x. Trout can see 12x. Using smaller tippet DOES help you to achieve a better presentation. This is because it's more limber, and allows you to get a better drift. Often, I have found that the same effect can be achieved by using a longer piece of heavier tippet, and working on my presentation. There is no magic formula for presentation. It takes practice and hours on the water. Using lighter tippet is a crutch, IMO, and can be substituted with better presentation skills.

In situations where presentation isn't much of a concern, such as a brookie stream, there is no reason to use any less than 3x. I prefer 1x. It saves flies from trees and brush, requires less re-ties, and in the off chance that I hook a nice fish, allows me to keep it out of structure.

I do concede that there are cases where the larger diameter tippet could cause a fish to reject a fly in VERY occasional circumstances. It is certainly not the case often. This is just a guess, but your average fly angler would be (un)lucky to encounter such a situation MAYBE once per year.

Consider the following:

If the trout can detect the minute differences between 5 and 7x tippet, why does it ignore the colossal metal spear coming out of the "bug"'s rectum? Food for thought.

Regarding pressured fish:
I used 0x to 2x for the bighorn river. It's possibly one of the hardest fished rivers in the world.

3. Break offs should be rare in typical PA fishing situations (excluding steelhead, salmon, and other "big game" situations).

Breaking a trout off should NOT be a common thing. I usually only have break offs in the following situations:

- My tippet is frayed or nicked.
- I tied a bad knot
- I horsed a large fish
- A fish ran into structure
- The fish made a last ditch run as I was attempting to land it, and I didn't give it line.

I cannot remember the last time I broke a trout off. I typically nymph with 2x-4x and fish dries with 4 or 5x. When I made the decision to stop using light tippets, I DID notice my catch rate drop, due to my bad presentation. The tippet had been hiding my flaws. In the year or two since then, my presentation has improved to the extent that I do not see it as a handicap in any way.

I anticipate people to chime in with what they think to be exceptions to this, because their pet streams are tougher in their eyes. If so, I welcome them to try heavier tippet and work on their presentation. It'll allow them to safely land fish with less stress, save flies, and become a better angler.

Thoughts, disagreements, comments welcomed. This is an opinion post, but I'm pretty close to positive that it's correct. Plenty of respectable anglers that I have met disagree. I think they're incorrect here, but would like to hear any arguments to the contrary.

Posted on: 2010/3/18 11:44


Re: Tippet size selection
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2006/9/9 9:29
From Monessen, PA
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I pretty much agree, but I doubt that lends any credence to your thoughts. I use 5X most of the time. This covers flies from 12-18. At 18 and smaller, I would consider using 6X. I can thread tricos on 6X with no problem. On #12 and larger I would consider using 4X and any nymphing rig if started from scratch would end in 4X tippet. I will use 3X for streamers.

Posted on: 2010/3/18 12:22
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Re: Tippet size selection

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2009/1/7 12:19
From Glenmoore PA
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I dont have as much experience as JayL in fly fising. I am under the same school of thought tho. I go long with my tippet length, usuallly 3 ft. Mono filament has some stretch to it, the longer the line, the more it increases its ability to "give" to the strength of a trout. I use mostly 5x and 6x but thats cause I usually fish with #16 and #18 flies. I dont usually play around with 7x too much, unless Im fishing tricos, but at that point I up the length of my tippet. In my opinion going any smaller doesnt help a whole lot.

Tippet size should be proportional to the size of your fly.. The multiple of 3 works pretty well. Divide the fly size by 3 to obtain tippet size. #12/3 would be 4x. Just a general rule. Im fairly new to fly fishing, but my biggest suggestion would be to fish with a long tippet, I saw an increase in number of hookups when I did.
Just my two cents.

Andy

Posted on: 2010/3/18 12:23


Re: Tippet size selection

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2007/1/2 11:55
From Bozeman
Posts: 19932
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Streamers... how could I forget?

I like 15lb mono. I have lost one streamer to the bottom this year. I usually end up retiring them due to dull hooks.

Posted on: 2010/3/18 12:37


Re: Tippet size selection

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2009/9/9 14:52
From Bel Air, MD
Posts: 703
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An interesting topic, and one that I have talked and read a lot about. I appreciate the extent to which you covered it Jay. On the Gunpowder, the mantra is "If you want to take more fish, you have to use 7X." More specifically, when the water is low and gin clear in July and August, I suppose that if you get close enough to cast to the trout, it wouldn't matter what size tippet you had on, now would it?

So my question is this...does a lighter tippet reduce the spook factor?

Posted on: 2010/3/18 13:21


Re: Tippet size selection

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2006/9/10 9:05
From Schwenksville
Posts: 445
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I wouldn't see how a lighter tippet would reduce spooking fish. Like Jay said, the fish can see the tippet regardless what size it is. What a lighter tippet does, like Jay mentioned, is gives you a better drift because it moves with the current of the water better than a stiffer material. If you throw a bad cast that lands heavy on the water, you're going to spook fish.
The Gunpowder Mantra is very similar to one used at the Little Lehigh by some. Yet I have never used 7x there and cannot remember the last time I didn't catch fish. Jay's comments about presentation are very important. You can, in almost every case, catch the same trout on 5x that you can on 7x. You might have to use a different approach/casting position to ensure you don't get drag but you can still catch that same fish with thicker tippet.

Good information Jay. Anyone who is just getting into fly fishing should try fishing heavier tippets and work on your presentation before going to a smaller size tippet. 9 times out of 10 it's not the tippet causing you not to catch fish.

*Disclaimer*- I have no analytical or statistical data to reinforce my "9 out of 10 times" claim. But it probably isn't too far off.

Posted on: 2010/3/18 14:04


Re: Tippet size selection

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2006/10/2 10:08
From Westmoreland County (near fairgrounds)
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Jay makes a compelling case and I have to say that I agree with the general approach he is advocating. I'm not quite so militant as Jay (I only use 0X and 1X for salmon).

I fish most of my dries on 5X but will go to 4X or 3X for really large flies and 6X for tricos and such. Most nymphing is done with 4X and 5X, 2X or 3X for steelhead in colored water and 6X for midge pupae.

Posted on: 2010/3/18 15:24
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Re: Tippet size selection

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2006/9/10 21:53
From Greensburg, PA
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I have fished lakes...Still water is a little different in my opinion...where the only thing I had to do different was go down from 5x to 7x to get takes. 8000feet gin clear water, no wind, spooky cutts, 5x and a 16 Adams...nothing...switch to 7x, fish every other cast. Maybe they land softer on 7x? Who knows but hey go balls out right up to the fly with 5x and turn off at the last second. 7x they take.

Normally Anything bigger than a 12 I go 4x but 5x for anything 14 and smaller. I step up one size in each case if I am nymphing and sometimes 2 steps for weighted streamers. I adjust from there.

Posted on: 2010/3/18 17:36


Re: Tippet size selection

Joined:
2008/10/8 0:36
From Florida
Posts: 281
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I admit I have lost fish in each the ways described, and also because of wind knots. Wind knots are formed in your leader when you make a cast with a tailing loop, and they will weaken your line if not removed.

I find that it is best to clip away wind knots (instead of tying to untie them), and to tie on a new tippet section afterward.

HTH.

Quote:

jayL wrote:
...Breaking a trout off should NOT be a common thing. I usually only have break offs in the following situations:

- My tippet is frayed or nicked.
- I tied a bad knot
- I horsed a large fish
- A fish ran into structure
- The fish made a last ditch run as I was attempting to land it, and I didn't give it line.


Posted on: 2010/3/18 17:40
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Re: Tippet size selection

Joined:
2006/9/21 0:02
From Pittsburgh
Posts: 4269
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There are many variables to consider when choosing tippet size IMO:

#1 - Dry or wet flies. I rarely fish subsurface, but I would think that there's probably no reason to use anything smaller than 5X for that kind of fishing.

#2 - What type of water. I definitely think that you can get away with heavier tippet in a riffle than a pool.

#3 - I agree that fly size is an important factor. I would likely never use anything heavier than 5X on a #12 or #14 fly either.
But for small flies in still water, I do think that 6X and 7x can make a difference

In their writings, Vince Marinaro and Charlie Fox talked about having to go to 7x tippet to fool tough fish.
Vince even stated that a #24 fly needs to be fished on 7X to ride right on the water

Posted on: 2010/3/18 23:55


Re: Tippet size selection

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2006/9/10 7:44
From Enola, Pa.
Posts: 2312
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I very rarely fish lighter then 5x, I do use a long tippet which I think helps. I use to fish6x and sometime even 7x, I would lose way to many fish and flies, so now I just use 5x for dries. I don't fish many small flies, with a trico, sometimes I will use 6x but I don't fish them that much.

PaulG

Posted on: 2010/3/19 5:54
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2007/4/25 10:02
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Flouro vs Mono side of tippet


I have been using flouro more.

Nymph more but I also like the way that flouro knots can be tighten without creating the curly-q's.

I know- wet the line. But still dont get it to work well.

Would like to use mono more since it is cheaper and the limpness can help with a dry flies drift. (guess flouro could sink too)

Would like to observe some fly anglers tie some mono knots for their techniques.

TGIF, work day dudes!

Posted on: 2010/3/19 10:17
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Re: Tippet size selection

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2007/1/2 11:55
From Bozeman
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Paul,

From what I gather, fluoro isn't suited for dries at all. It sinks like a stone.

Nymphs, whatever floats your boat. I see it as a waste of money. I like it for abrasion resistance, which is only really a factor at the salmon river for me.

Posted on: 2010/3/19 10:21


Re: Tippet size selection

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J-I understand that.

How do you keep from getting curly-q's?

Anyone got some photo's or video of your nice mono knots?

Posted on: 2010/3/19 10:26
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Re: Tippet size selection

Joined:
2007/1/2 11:55
From Bozeman
Posts: 19932
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For a long time, skoal mint spit.

Lately, dunk knots under water before pulling tight.

I use palomar knots when possible, but they use a lot of tippet.

When palomar is a no go, I use a clinch.

I use blood knots to connect lines. I find them easier to tie than surgeons, and more pleasing to the eye (a completely baseless reason). People have issues tying them, but it's all about making 4 grip points with your two hands to easily tie them. index-thumb and middle/ring-base of thumb. It's nearly impossible to articulate, but it makes tying them easy for me.

I honestly have more trouble tying fluoro knots that don't slip than I do mono knots.

Posted on: 2010/3/19 10:26



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