Leader & Tippet Question
I have an 8-foot/5-weight rod which I plan on using for trout in small to medium sized creeks in Northeast, PA. I was wondering what leader/tippet combo should I attach to the fly line and what weight tippets should I have on hand along with what I originally tie on. I understand that a leader already has tippet attached in a one piece tapered fashion. I was thinking about attaching possibly a 5lb. 4x or 5x ....I don't know, help!
I'll let the trout guys tell you better but I can say that the answer depends on what you want to do.
There are three parts to a leader in most simple terms:
1) butt (60%)
2) taper (20%)
3) tippet (20%)
1) the butt should transfer energy from the line properly, so it should not be too thin nor too fat/stiff for the fly line. It should dissipate some of the energy in the line for the taper...
2) the taper steps the butt down to the tippet, which acts like a gentle brake before the final delivery.
3) the tippet is the final presentation of the fly to the fish and needs to match the fly (hook size) and the fish's power (or all is for naught)
A high density sinking line only requires a short leader of 4-5ft while a floating line might work best for dry flies with at a rod's length or longer for more delicate presentations.
As a general rule, use a leader that is more or less the rod length and make sure the butt is not too stiff or too fine for the end of your flyline.
The tippet should be robust enough to turn over the fly (hook) you are using, and strong enough to land the fish you are apt to hook... but no more than that to maximize stealth for more hookups.
The leader comes with a tippet extruded from the same mono filament but you will find the need to replace it often if you are fishing a lot.
For weighted flies, you might tie the fly onto a thicker part of the leader without the fine end tippet. Then when the evening hatch begins, put a length of tippet back on with a blood knot (a must) or a surgeons' knot (easier but not as nice).
For a 5wt, the range of tippet sizes really depends on the fly you are going to throw. If you are fishing bead head wolly buggers don't worry too much about a fine tippet. If you are fishing midges, well then you should have some spider web on a spool.
As far as specifics, that's where I will let the trout guru's answer. I am a saltwater and steelhead/salmon Spey dude so most of my tippet is maxima ug and 8# test is ultralight for me. :)
Packaged knotless tapered leaders typically are available in 7-1/2', 9', and 12' lengths with tippet sizes 0X to 7X. The 7-1/2' is usually reserved for small streams and the 12' for larger streams or drag-free, dry fly presentations. For an 8' rod, a 9' leader would be a good compromise. A rough formula for tippet selection is to divide the hook size by 4 (i.e., for size 12 hook, use 3X tippet). Another rule of thumb when joining tippet sections is to stay within two X-sizes. For instance, when stepping down from 4X, go no lower than 6X for your next lower section. For most PA trout fishing, tippets from 3X to 6X should cover most applications. Night fishing to large trout or swinging large wets may require 2X or stronger. I rarely need to go lower than 6X, even for midge fishing.
Hey, thanks for the informative responses. I suppose I will go with a 9 ft. leader with either a 3x or 4x tippet and carry 2x through 6x to start off. If I buy this can I step up a notch to a 2x if my original leader came with a 3x. Does the "two size a way rule" apply to stepping up as well as stepping down in tippet (x).
The biggest improvement in fly tackle since I was a rooky was not from fiberglass to graphite rods, or the bewildering expansion of choices in line configurations. It was simply the amazing improvement in strength ratings for leaders and tippets of a given size. When I started, 5X nylon was around 2 lb. test, and I broke off many flies using it, even when striking smallish trout. Now, premium 5X is around 5 pound test; you can darn near anchor a boat with it.
You can get along fine without the most expensive rods and reels. Instead, spend a few more bucks for premium grade tippet material.
You'll save money in the long run if you learn to tie your own leaders. You don't need every possible variation, but you do need enough to match the many conditions of trout fishing. Overcast day, rifled, discolored water, big nymphs or streamers on a sinking line? Perhaps a lX or 2X leader, half the length of your rod. Bright day, smooth water, little dry flies, post-graduate trout (as on some of your famous spring creeks): a 15-foot, 7X leader may be barely enough. You'll learn about leader formulas as your experience increases. It's a string, not a jet airplane wing, so don't lose sleep over whether the fourth section from the top should be 12" or 15."
I would recommend you always tie on a section of tippet to your leader especially if drag free drifts are necessary - I will often tie on 24 to 36 inches of tippet to get a good drag free drift. Also by tying on a tippet every time you cut off the fly you are not shortening your base leader - if tying a fly directly to the leader you will run out of the tippet section quickly and get to the tapered section.
Do not step up - transfer of energy does not work well if you have a heavier section attached to a lighter section - if you have a micrometer, just cut back your leader to the correct diameter and then rebuild it with your spools of tippet material. So if you have a 3x leader and want a 2 x leader cut it back so the diameter is at least 2 x and tie on a section of tippet that is 2x
For the use you describe (i.e. small streams), I'd stick with a 5X tippet at the largest, and have 7X ready if you're planning on fishing any flies 18 or smaller. Personally, I don't bother using separate tippet. I start with 12 ft 5X or 7X leader for trout, and when I trim off the last 3-4 ft from tying on a bunch of flies, I use the leader for bass pond/lake fishing since now it's perfect for that. Then I can use another couple of feet of the leader and then I chuck it. I keep 9 ft 5X and 7X leaders handy for windy conditions or small streams since a 12 ft leader can simply be too long to load the rod well when casting space is limited.
If I only had one leader, I'd recommend going with a 9 ft 6X leader. Use the last 2 ft to tie on flies, and then add 2-3 ft of tippet when it gets down to 7 ft.
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