Fly Fishing Leaders And Tippets

The Dynamics & What You Need To Know…

Fly Fishing Leaders And Tippets; Tapered leaders & Guidelines

In the sport of Fly Fishing, an important part and key to success is your leader. Many anglers do, however, look too much into the dynamics of making and using a leader. Essentially, your leader (Regardless of what you are fishing for) should be tapered. This means that there should be different strengths of fairly rigid line, nylon or fluorocarbon, in your leader. Generally, a rule of thumb that is not set in stone is to have 2 different strengths of leader. A stronger more rigid length of leader tied to the fly line, and then a lighter leader attached to that. Then you have the tippet sections, I normally use one length of tippet. This will be the part of line that is soft, light nylon, where you will tie the fly on to. When fishing for larger fish or when fishing in dirty water, one section of tippet is fine. However, sometimes when fish that are easily spooked or that occur in clear water, more than one section of Tippet should be used (Please read more about fly fishing tippets below). Also know your knots and test them thoroughly.

Now we move onto lengths of leader. Because fly fishing has so many facets, there are some guidelines for leader lengths. Generally if you are fishing a sinking or intermediate line, your leader should be shorter than a floating line leader. A good guideline for this is that it should be about the length of the rod, 8-10 foot. Now with floating fly line, you would generally be fishing fly patterns that would need a better presentation, such as a nymph or dry fly. Your leader in this case can be anywhere from 10 to 18 feet. Lengths are important for different types of fly fishing, but do not over do or under do your lengths, you can use the above numbers as relatively good guidelines.

Where Your Leaders Need To Be Longer Or Shorter?

Some exceptions to the rules above apply to different bodies of water. When fishing fast flowing waters in rivers, streams or during a pushing tide in an estuary, a shorter leader should be used, around 8 feet in length. In large Stillwater systems or in slower moving saltwater bays or lagoons, a longer leader of around 15 feet should be used. Normally though, the clearer the water (Especially when freshwater fly fishing), the longer your leader should be.

Tapered Leader Strengths & Diameters

As mentioned above, your tapered leader should be in different strengths or in different diameters. For example, you could have 2 types of 10lb line, but they could both have different diameters. If I had to give you an example of the two different types it would be something like this, remember it goes from strongest to lightest or higher diameter to least diameter. So you would have something like 20lb rigid line attached to the fly line, followed by 15lb and then your tippet, say 10lb. Or, in diameter terms, you would start off with 0.40mm, followed by 0.35mm and then a tippet of, say, 0.25mm. The advantage of a tapered leader is that it absorbs all the shock and sudden movements of the fish, so less pressure is placed on the nylon.

What Is Tippet, And What Do The ‘X’ Strengths Refer To?

Tippet is the last piece of nylon you attach to your leader, on which you tie your fly on to. Generally each strength of tippet will be suitable for 4-5 different weights of flies. If the fly is too heavy for the tippet, your line may part, and if it is too light you might get the correct presentation. Below you will see the X strengths of the tippets, as they are often described. It is in order from weakest to strongest (That should be used for South African fly fishing)…

  • 9x – 1lb
  • 8x – 1.75lb
  • 7x – 2.5lb
  • 6x – 3.5lb
  • 5x – 4.75lb
  • 4x – 6lb
  • 3x – 8.5lb
  • 2x – 11.5lb
  • 1x – 13.5lb

Then you get the stronger tippets which are designed for big freshwater and saltwater fish, I wont list all of these, but will give you an example, of an all round good size to use to fish for estuary game fish and predatory freshwater fish. 02x(0.13) – 20lb.

Also keep in mind to change your leaders often and take care of your fly line.

Follow Us On Social Media... Fish The Fly knows how everyone loves updates, photo's and videos, so keep updated with all the latest fly fishing news from South Africa below!

Pin It on Pinterest