When it comes to fishing gear, one of the most overlooked pieces of equipment is the fly fishing tippet. The tippet is almost invisible – deliberately – but forms an absolutely vital link between you and your fly lure. Your tippet needs to be able to handle the fish you want to catch, but without scaring them away.
There are a lot of different sizes and styles of tippets available, which can make it difficult to pick the right one – especially for newcomers. You need the right tippet to match your fly and your intended catch, and one with the strength to hold its weight.
These are some of the most important considerations.
1. Material type: Monofilament or Fluorocarbon?
The decision here really boils down to price vs performance.
Monofilament (nylon) tippet has been a mainstay for decades, and it’s extremely inexpensive. Most new fly fishers will start on monofilament tippets. It’s supple and lightweight, which can make it easier to cast, as well as working nicely for people who build their own leaders. Monofilament is also a bit stretchy, which may – on occasion – help prevent breaking.
However, monofilament is not particularly strong, and it’s susceptible to scrapes and abrasions. If you’re using monofilament, always check it beforehand for damage!
Fluorcarbon is stronger and longer-lasting, as well as being more resistant to damage. It’s a dense line, and won’t absorb water, which means it’s better at sinking. The damage resistance also makes it a good choice if you’re going after fish with strong bites and teeth.
The problem? It’s three times more expensive than monofilament. Choose based on your budget, as well as your intended catch.
Fly fishing tippet sizes are typically based around two main factors: diameter, and breaking strength. Strength is usually rated using a scale of 0X to 8X, where the higher the number, the stronger the tippet is. Of course, price goes up with strength, so try to match the tippet to the type of fish you’re expecting to catch.
That said, size can also be a factor in attracting fish. Larger or thicker tippets may be visible to the fish and scare them off. So, you want a tippet that is large enough to hold the weight of the fish, without becoming visible.
3. Saltwater considerations
If you’re going to be fishing in saltwater, you need a fly fishing tippet that is capable of standing up to additional abuse. The fish tend to be bigger, and the water itself can be damaging to the line. Plan ahead and think about the type of fish you’re going to be catching. You could need anything from 10lb to 80lb, just depending on your intended prey.
Also, in extreme circumstances, wire tippets may be called for. The most dangerous of fish, such as barracuda or bluefish, can easily chew through basic tippets and lines. Of course, wire tippets also won’t allow for very natural movement of the fly, so there’s still a balance there between strength and (in)visibility.
Either way, if you pick the right fly fishing tippet, your next fishing trip could be much easier!