Episode 49: Making Sense of Leaders and Tippet

Which leaders and tippet work best with a size #8 beadhead woolly bugger? No matter how many articles an aspiring fly fisher reads, he or she has to learn the hard way. It’s nearly impossible to sling a big streamer with a 6x tippet. You really need at least a 3x or 4x tippet before you can cast Mr. Woolly Bugger with any kind of accuracy and confidence. In this episode, we lay out the basics of leaders and tippet.

Listen to Episode 49: Making Sense of Leaders and Tippet

At the end of each episode, we have a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” We read a few of the comments from this blog or from our Facebook page. We enjoying hearing from our readers and listeners, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experience. Please add your ideas to the creative mix.

When it comes to leaders and tippet, any hacks that you’ve discovered for matching tippet to fly?

Here is a handy chart on when to use which tippet size: How to Choose the Right Tippet Size.

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11 thoughts on “Episode 49: Making Sense of Leaders and Tippet

  1. Nice info in the podcast. Now that you’ve mentioned lines, leaders, and tippet, however, you’ll have to mention knots. As a beginner, knots were an intimidating subject. What knot goes where, and why? Do I need a special nail knot tool, or will an ordinary nail work? Why must I trim the excess ends after tying a knot (something that I learned only after numerous bird nests of line, leader, and tippet)? And the eternal question … what type of knot is “old” Norman Maclean typing at the beginning and end of A River Runs Through It? Knots could be a multi-article or multi-podcast show!

  2. What a great topic. This subject can get a little crazy. There are so many ways to go about leaders and tippet. DIY leaders, knotless leaders, braided leaders, furled leaders, poly leaders…. the list goes on. I like furled leaders for fishing dries but i like to tie my own leaders. In my honest opinion I think that every serious angler should be tying their own leaders. I use fresh new line that I order with a date on it, yes mono has a self life. Never store your leaders or tippet in the light. Fluorocarbon is different in that it will not deteriorate under the UV light. I am very confidant in my knots and I can tie my leaders for the different situations I will encounter on the water. For the new guys I can recommend that when you buy a packaged knotless leader, be careful when taking it out of the package. the leader will come coiled. place your fingers inside that coil and hold it open. Then start to unwind the leader, most manufactures will wind the tippet section 5 times around the coil to keep it in a circle. once you have the leader unwound begin to uncoil the leader slowly, if not you can easily find yourself with a mess. Another tip for newbie’s is to cut off the first 18 inches or so of the tippet section, you can feel the transition of the taper. Then tie on a tippet ring. then tie on the appropriate tippet length and size without having to change out the whole leader. you can save the butt end for quite a while. always inspect the butt end for abrasion but with the tippet ring you simply tie on a piece of tippet for the current situation and go. I will end here as this subject will get into the knot discussion. I’m sure that podcast or article will be in the near future. Great stuff as usual guys.

    • This is fantastic wisdom, Glen. Thanks for sharing it. That’s especially good insight about taking the leader out of the package. I’ve learned to uncoil these by working with the large end of the leader. I work that through the coil about half a dozen times, and then the whole thing seems to uncoil easily. I’m going to have to try a tippet ring. Does it affect the leader’s performance at all?

      • Steve,
        The tippet ring does not affect the leader at all. It is micro. It will really help get your line in the water faster. Tip. Make sure to have your butt sections equipped with the tippet rings before you head out. Prepare them at home. They are so small that you will lose them all on the water.

  3. I just found your podcasts on iTunes, and I love them! Lots of good, concise information.

    On listening to this podcast, I was a little disappointed that you did not address furled leaders. What are your thoughts and advice on them?

    As for the question on what knot Norman Maclean was tying, I believe it was a turtle knot. That particular knot was a favorite of fly fishermen fof a long time. There is a great story behind why that gentleman was selected to play that role.

    • Hey Roger,
      I am a big fan of furled leaders. I have been using them for dry fly fishing for 3 seasons. For one they last forever. I love the tippet ring. I can changed out tippet in a min and I never have to worry about getting into the butt section of the leader. That is a big issue I see with clients. They keep cutting into the leader on fly changes, until they have like a 2 foot piece of butt section left. I use a tippet ring on mono leaders as well. I will usually cut the tippet section of a mono leader off, tie in my tippet ring then retie the length of tippet back on.
      As for the knot, I think you are right. I belive it is the turle knot as well. I use that to. Very fast to tie and great knot strength.

    • Thanks, Roger! We didn’t address furled leaders for a couple of reasons. First, we’re trying to keep this as simple as possible for the sake of beginners. Second, neither Dave or I have used them. Now I’ve heard there are some real advantages, such as having no memory (thus remaining limp) and their shock absorption. But we’ve done well enough with commercial leaders that we haven’t had a compelling reason to invest the time into making and using them. It doesn’t mean we won’t, though. Do you make your own, or do you purchase them somewhere?

      • I have been using them for two years. The great thing about them is that is that it is very easy to change your tippet, besides the ease of castability.

          • Awesome, you won’t be disappointed. Not sure who you ordered from but they make them for dry fly fishing and Nymphing, Czech Nymphing and steamer fishing. Have fun with them and happy 4th of July to you both and your families.