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The Importance of the Right Materials: Tippet

Flourocarbon, Monofilament, Nylon, Sighter, and more! There are a plethora of materials a fly fisherman may use in a given day. But how do you know which one to use and when?

What is tippet?

Tippet is fine fishing line material found at the end of a standard leader. Over the course of the day, because of snags, change of flies, a line broken by a fish, our leaders shrink in size. As a result of these occurrences we add tippet to lengthen the leaders.

Why can't I use just one for everything?

On a trip to Falling Springs Branch I ran out of my trusty Flourocarbon line. I resorted to my only option, which was putting on 5x Monofilament. The results were less than thrilling. I found I could not get my flies down, the drifts were unnatural, and I left disappointed and frustrated. What I came away better understanding is that each specific material is intended to tackle a specific fishing situation. Some materials are more buoyant, thus keeping your flies on the surface. Whereas other materials are less dense and have faster sink rates, getting your flies into the strike zone. Finally, select materials are intended to be above the surface to help detect strikes. Below is a quick reference to specify which material to use and when.

Which to use and when?:

  1. Monofilament- Used for nymphing and for dry flies; fairly common leader material

  2. Nylon- Used for dry fly fishing; often preferred if exclusively fishing on the surface

  3. Flourocarbon- Used for nymphing; faster sink rate, abrasion resistant, less glare in water from line and tougher for fish to see

  4. Sighter- Used as a material to detect strikes on many commonly used Euro Nymphing Rigs.

Which to size is best?:

0x-2x: Designed for heavy flies, large fish and primarily used for streamer fishing

3x-4x: Can be used for nymphing, swinging wets, or some dry fly fishing.

6x-7x: Most likely used for dry fly fishing and nymphing. Very delicate and thinnest


This is the material I use for my Euro Nymphing Leaders or Tight Lining Trips. The material is often bi or tri colored. The contrasts in colors help anglers see the line more clearly. The sighter acts as a visual cue for irregularities in your drift, much like a strike indicator would. The material is thin in diameter, super sensitive, and also eliminates the drag causes on the surface by a traditional indicator. I personally use Cortland Indicator Mono Bi Color Leader Material and Orvis Tactical Sighter, in sizes ranging from 2x-4x.

Here’s what you a looking for during a drift:

  1. A slight pause

  2. A "jump" or movement forward/backward

  3. A change in speed

  4. Any irregularity

If you see any of the above, remember hook sets are free and the heartbreak of a missed fish will last forever. Therefore, set and forget! The next time you hit the stream make sure you are prepared with the right tippet materials. It will result in a more enjoyable trip and more fish in the basket!

Tight lines my fishy friends!


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