Tippets and Leaders explainedSteve Gerard, owner and operator Flyshop NZ

The connection between our fly line and fly is arguably the most important part of the whole fly fishing equation!

As it's the part the fish can see! And if it's not "right" then we may not be catching as many fish as we could.

Here's what I learned over many seasons on the water;

  1. We want to use the longest leader/tippet setup we can depending on the water and weather conditions on the day and our casting ability - no point in a beginner trying to learn casting a 20 foot leader...
  2. Our goal should be to get the leader to land as close to fully extended as we can, in a straight line, but with a little slack (I'll explain this later)
  3. Check for wind knots frequently - if you find one, replace that section of tippet as invariably that will cost you a fish if you don't.
  4. Test the strength of tippet knots frequently, a simple stretch will soon tell you, and you'll soon get a feel for how hard you need to pull. And it pays to change it regardless frequently as tippet is at it's strongest when it's fresh on before it's had any abrasions from flicking things on the back cast, fish teeth, rocks etc
  5. Use a tapered leader, and taper any tippet sections too
  6. Your leader will last longer if you tie on two sections of tippet, so you may start with a 3X (7- 8lb leader) to which you tie on an intermediate section of 4X (6lb) tippet followed by another 5X (5lb) section of tippet
  7. This is because every time you change flies you use up a few centimeters of tippet tying on the new fly, which shortens the tippet section, so you need to add more tippet from time to time to maintain the length, this all ends up shortening the leader after a time, so having that intermediate piece of tippet increases the life of the leader
  8. Over time though, after numerous changes of flies, your leader will become shortened too. I've noticed that once you start to get past the thinner front section and into the thicker part of the leader, not only is it more difficult to tie a good knot, but the difference in diameter means that heavier part of the leader is getting closer to the fish, and you'll start to spook them, so replace the whole leader before you get to this point.

More to come...