Stillwater Anglers Fly Fishing Tippets

What You Need To Know About Fly Fishing Tippets

Though it might be hard to admit, even the basics of fly fishing can be a little confusing if you’re just starting out. Especially if you’re not used to fly fishing, the terminology can get a little overwhelming. There’s a lot to understand, from fly fishing tippets to leaders, the fly line to types of flies, how to cast with fly line, and more. 

Here we want to make sure you understand all the ins and outs that come with some of the basics of your fly rod. That includes understanding all about fly fishing tippets and what their importance is when it comes to fly fishing.

Read on for a quick easy guide to deciphering tippets (and leaders and tying flies too).

How To Guide To Understand Fly Fishing Tippets

Regardless of whether you’re brand new to the concept of leaders and tippet materials, or are an experienced fisherman, we hope this guide gives you a little more clarity on what they are and how to use them. 

In every fly fishing gear setup, you have your fly rod, fly reel, fly lines, and of course, flies. The leader and tippet come into play when it’s time to connect those flies to your line so you can cast them out.

The Difference Between Fly Fishing Tippets And Leaders

First, let’s define the difference between the two. A leader is the main material, usually clear, that is connected to the end of your fly line. Typically this materially is a fairly heavyweight where it connects to the butt section of your fly line, and then tapers down in weight/thickness to the point where the tippet attaches. 

The butt section of the fly line is generally a little heavier, and some anglers start with a 20-pound test butt section and then taper it down to around a 4-pound test. Typically the leader will be about 9 feet in length, which is a great starting point for a beginner.

Fly fishing tippets, on the other hand, are lightweight portions of material that is attached on the other end of the fly and on the end of the leader. You want to use a light, yet durable and strong, tippet while trying to make sure the fish doesn’t notice it’s there. This is the part when you can keep your leader section attached, and then change your tippet size depending on your fishing situation.

The Purpose of Fly Fishing Tippets

The leader and tippets are supposed to provide a nearly invisible transition from the fly line to the fly. They come in a large variety of shapes, materials, sizes, and colors. There are two main purposes for them. The first purpose is to connect your thick and brightly colored fly lines that is used for casting, without scaring the fish away. The second purpose is to help complete that transfer of energy you’ve built up in the fly line when you cast. You want your stroke to pass through the line and down to the fly so that your line rolls neatly and straightens itself out. The balance that the leader and fly fishing tippets provide help your cast land where you want it to.

Fly fishing tippets and leaders are all apart of presentation. You want your fly to look enticing to the fish swimming below, and having a good cast, a balanced rod, and strong yet invisible materials will help make that happen. 

Fly Fishing Tippets and Leaders Material

Let’s talk a little bit about the materials that make up fly fishing tippets and leaders. Typically, they can be broken up into two main types: fluorocarbon and monofilament. There are a few main differences between the two, and it comes down to the type of fishing you’re doing.

Monofilament is known for having more stretch than fluorocarbon and it typically floats on the water easier. Because fluorocarbon has less stretch, it has a stronger hookset. It sinks faster in the water and is usually more durable. Fluorocarbon is also much more invisible to the fish. The downside is that knots break more often and requires proper lubrication. Monofilament is also much less expensive. Whichever you use, both are equally acceptable when being used for fly fishing.

One way to help you decide which might be best for you is to analyze the type of fishing you’re doing. Since fluorocarbon sinks quicker and provides higher abrasion resistance, many anglers use it when nymph and streamer fishing. And on the other side, monofilament floats easier, so dry fly fishing might be a good excuse to use that material.

If you’re having questions about what materials are best, reach out to us! We’d love to answer your questions, and we have everything you need at The Fly Shop.

The X System For Fly Fishing Tippets

Ok, let’s get into some of the details for choosing the right fly fishing tippets. Here we will talk a little bit about the “X” system and tips to think about. The larger the “X” number, the thinner the tippet. 

Thinner tippets work great for smaller flies and smaller fish, although some anglers find it useful for trying to trick larger fish that scare easily. A thin tippet also gives the fly a more natural-looking movement in the water.

On the flip side, thicker tippets work for larger flies and larger fish that aren’t shy of fishing line.

A few considerations to think about when selecting a tippet are the type and size of fish you’re trying to catch. What is the water clarity like that day? How large are your flies? Are the fish particularly shy?


Now that you know the basics, fly fishing tippets and leaders don’t have to be so complex. When you’re learning the basics, it comes down to practice and to learn the purpose of each piece of the fly fishing puzzles. Hopefully, this article has eased some of your confusion and given you a general sense of why you need them. However, if you have any questions or just need to stock up on gear, stop by the fly shop! We would love to make sure you got everything you need and get all of your questions answered. 

Happy fishing!