A Comprehensive Guide On Selecting The Right Leaders And Tippets!

Are you an amateur angler who is planning to start fly fishing? If yes, then you must read this comprehensive guide on selecting the right leaders and tippets. Fly fishing is extremely confusing in comparison to other kinds of fishing. You need to understand the numerous terminologies as well as select the appropriate tippets and leaders. Don’t fret! Just read this post till the end to clear most of your doubts related to fly fishing.

fly fishing

There are innumerable sizes of leaders and tippets available on the market. Selecting the right one is extremely important as different sized fishes will require a leader and tippet of a varied size. If you are unable to select the right leader and tippet for fishing, then this comprehensive guide will be helpful for you. In this guide, you will get to know the different types of leaders and tippets available so that you can make the right choice for your fishing needs.


leader nylon

In simple words, leader means the length of material that helps in connecting the fly line to your fly. You will come across different kinds of leaders. Some are tapered while others are level. Similarly, some are in one piece whereas others are knotted to bring together several short sections. However, each of them has only one objective, which is to help you in catching fishes.

How To Select Leaders?


Leaders are always tapered from thin weight line on one end to very heavy weight line on the other end. They are available in varied lengths. Short leaders are easier to cast as compared to longer ones. Moreover, the short ones will give more control over your fly. You should select your leader based on some or all of the following criteria:

  • Frequent style of fishing – nymphing, dry fly, or streamers.
  • Size of fly.
  • Type of water you are planning to fish – river, stream, or creek.
  • How you are planning to fish – wade or float fish.

So, depending on all these factors, you need to select an appropriate leader.


Tippet is a fine portion of the leader that attaches to the fly. Its sizes are described in X’s. They are sized from 0x to 8x in which higher the number, lighter is the weight of the tippet. This size describes the diameter of the tippet. For instance, a 0x tippet is 0.011” in diameter whereas a 5x tippet is 0.006” in diameter.

To make small flies work properly, you will require small diameter tippets. Similarly, larger flies will need larger tippets. If you want to guess the size of the tippet that you should consider buying then simply divide the size of the fly by 3. The solution will give you an approximate number of X rating of the tippet.

To give you a better picture, here is a simple example! Generally, a 12-sized fly is tied to a 4x tippet and an 18-sized fly is fished with a 6x tippet. However, there are several exceptions to these sizes and you should research well before stepping out for fishing.

If the water is extra clear then you should use one size smaller tippet. If the water is murky then it is advisable to use one size bigger tippet. The size of the tippet also depends on the fish you are planning to catch. For instance, the salmon will require stronger weight tippet strength to fight and land.

Tippets can be confusing for amateur anglers. However, with a bit of research, you will get to know the variations that should be used for having a great fishing experience.

Some Important Tips To Follow To Enhance Your Fly Fishing Experience:

fly fishing rods

  • Most anglers prefer purchasing a short leader and if they want to make it longer then they attach a little additional tippet on the end.
  • If you are planning for brown trout fishing then the overall length of the tippet and leader should be 9-10 feet.
  • If you are using streamers then you should use a heavier weight line than the one that you would have probably used for small dry flies.
  • Tippets and leaders of different companies will have different characteristics. This is because each company uses diverse chemical formations while creating leaders and tippets. For instance, 5x material of Company A will have different breaking strength than 5x material from Company B. So, while experimenting, if you like a brand, then stick with it forever!
  • There are different materials available for leaders and you need to pick one carefully. Some examples of materials are nylon, fluorocarbon, etc.
  • To attach tippet or leader quickly, you can make use of tippet rings. All you need to do is tie one of the butt sections and tie your tippet to the ring. The butt section is the part of the leader that joins to the fly line, which is normally on the heavy side of the pound test rating.

tippet rings

  • Shorter leaders will provide better control and longer leaders will support finer tippet for shy fish, so select one accordingly.

To give you a rough idea of the varied sizes of leaders and tippets that can be used for fly fishing, mentioned below are some important aspects. However, these are general guidelines and there can be several exceptions that you will come across at the actual time of fishing.

  • For fishing dry flies on surface, you will require a long and tapered leader. Similar is the case with dead drifting nymphs below a floating line.
  • While fishing in choppy waters and trying to catch big fishes, you will need a heavy leader, somewhere in the range of 3x to 4x.
  • For fishing in smooth water and for smaller flies, you will probably need 5x or 6x range leader.
  • A shorter and stouter leader will be needed if you are fishing streamers or nymphs with a full sinking line. The exact size will depend on the clarity of the water, size of the fly, and the size of the fish that you plan to catch.

Final Word:

To conclude, you will have to experiment a lot with fly fishing! Now that you know how to choose the right leader and tippet, pick one carefully and have a great time while fly fishing.

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