In the second blog in this series we will be covering what we refer to as “terminal tackle,” or the materials that transition us from the fly line to the fly. This is a small category and includes two main items, leader and tippet.
The leader is a tapered length of nylon monofilament. Most leaders are sold with a pre-tied loop at the thick end, which makes attachment and replacement quick and easy. The leader attaches to the fly line and tapers down to a fine tip, and vary in both length and thickness. When you look at a pack of leader you will see two sets of numbers. The first usually corresponds to length, the most common being either 7.5 feet or 9 feet. The second number is followed by an “x” and refers to the thickness of the small end of the leader. These numbers inversely correspond to thickness, meaning a small number refers to a larger diameter. When choosing the right leader think about matching the leader to the flies you will be using. For example, a 3x leader is a good choice for flies size 6-10, a 4x leader is good to use for flies size 12-16, 5x for flies size 18-20 and so on.
Tippet is also made of nylon monofilament but unlike the leader, tippet is not tapered, instead it is a single diameter and comes in a spool. Tippet is generally used to rebuild your leader as you cut into it and shorten it every time you change flies. Tippet is also used to add a second fly to your rig. We often fish two, sometimes three flies at a time, and attaching tippet to the hook of the first fly and running a length 18’-24’ down to a second fly is a trick to add a seamless second fly. Tippet also comes in varying strengths and like leader you will see the spools range from 0x to 7x. The same rule applies here, where the smaller number refers to a thicker diameter and you should always have a variety of tippet spool on you so that you can quickly make adjustments for the conditions while on the river.
Lastly, we should mention that you have an option to purchase leader and tippet not only in nylon but also in a material called fluorocarbon. The benefit of buying leader and tippet made of fluorocarbon is that it is stronger, invisible in the water and sinks faster than nylon. You will pay a pretty penny for these improvements but will likely forget the sticker shock when you successfully land a monster.