Saltwater Tippet Question - Fly Fishing Forum
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Old 05-09-2000, 07:30 AM
Roop Roop is offline
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Saltwater Tippet Question

There's this nasty little voice in the back of my head asking why, why, why did I lose two good fish this weekend? Was it due to a 10# tippet? It was 1 year old fluoro. Could this have been the reason?

I use a simple leader formula of 30# butt section for 50% the length of the leader, a 20# section for 25% of the length and then the 10# tippet for the remaining 25% of the leader.

Last year I used biminis on my butt section to give the leader a little additonal spring. Does anyone think this makes a difference?

What tippet size do you all use?
What leader formulas?
What type of material?

Thanks... Roop
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Old 05-09-2000, 10:02 AM
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juro juro is offline
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RE:Saltwater Tippet Question

Being an AJ McClane disciple, I follow the classic 60%/20%/20% rule with adjustments for length and line style.

AJ says:

Butt = 60% of total leader, where this is again split
60/40 for longer leaders (or left one-pc for stout
or short leaders)
Taper = 20% of length
- split three ways for long trout tapers,
- split two ways for midlength and high test tapers,
- or one-piece for short sinking lines
Tippet = 20% of length

May sound complicated but it's pretty easy and makes for a nice turnover on the leader. To keep things easy, I use small Maxima spools that come in graduated diameters corresponding to lb test ratings. You just buy from butt size to tippet size and one of each in between. When one runs out, you replace it. You carry spares in the glove compartment, etc. The tippet burns quickly but the other spools get good mileage. I also carry flouro tippet in 12, 15 and 20 for flats work.

Therefore a striper leader for intermediate clear lines according to my preferences is:

<font color="0000ff"><b>7 feet (84 inches)</b> (maxima ultragreen, 12# tippet)

<b>butt</b> = 30 inches of 30# plus 20 inches of 25#
<b>taper</b> = 8-9" of 20# plus 8-9" of 15#
<b>tippet</b> = 16" of 12#

<b>7 feet (84 inches)</b> (maxima ultragreen, 15# tippet)

<b>butt</b> = 30 inches of 30# plus 20 inches of 25#
<b>taper</b> = 16-17" of 20#
<b>tippet</b> = 16-17" of 15#

And a striper leader for sinking lines like the QD325 444 cortland is:

<font color="0000ff"><b>5 feet (48 inches)</b> (maxima ultragreen, 12# tippet)

<b>butt</b> = 22 inches of 30# plus 14 inches of 25#
<b>taper</b> = 6" of 20# plus 6" of 15#
<b>tippet</b> = 12-14" of 12#

<font size="1"> I rarely use this because 12# is kinda light for sinking line work</font><!--1-->

<b>5' 2" (62 inches)</b> (maxima ultragreen, 15# tippet)

<b>butt</b> = 20" of 30# plus 14" of 25#
<b>taper</b> = 14" of 20#
<b>tippet</b> = 14" of 15#

<font size="1">I use this most often for sinking lines, the ratios are tweaked a little to extend forward sections for fly/tippet changes</font><!--1-->

<b>54 inch sinking line leader</b> (maxima ultragreen, 20# tippet for big surf / outer beaches)

<b>butt</b> = 18 inches of 40# plus 12 inches of 30#
<b>taper</b> = 12" of 25#
<b>tippet</b> = 12" of 20#

You get the rough idea, you can play around within the general guideline of 60/20/20. Things to think about are graduation over the length to the desired tippet from the desired butt diameter (lb test#). You don't want to jump too quickly or the knot strength diminishes and the turnover is affected.

The shorter and stiff/stout the leader, the more fly weight it can turn over.

I use all blood knots and nail knot directly to the fly line unless I had the opportunity to do an epoxy splice for the butt section. Loops don't make sense to me because I rarely exchange the whole leader on a given fly line, the leader is generally matched to each line and I play games with the tippet for bigger flies and faster current depths. By carrying the small maxima spools with the elastic "bras" I am ready to play taper games at any time. The larger diameter line spools (40#, 30#, 25#) go in the back compartment of my chest pack, the smaller (20#, 15#, 12#) go in the front. The flouro tippet also goes in front.

Lost butt sections (leaders) are quickly replaced using a nail knot facilitated by a large eyed doll needle, which costs about $1 for half dozen and poke nicely into the foam of any flybox. This is a rare occurrence, but replacement of the leader after several hardcore trips is a good practice.

I tend to stay away from loop knots because (a) the fly moves just fine with a fixed knot (b) I fish with lots of guys who lose fish on loop knots (c) I am paranoid.

For lighter tippets or anytime the tippet permits I use palomar knots, the strongest terminal knot out there. It consumes more tippet than other knots, but no more than any doubled tippet knots, loop knots, uni-knot, or other clinch derivations with doubled lines. For stout tippets (15#-20#) I prefer to use a standard or doubled clinch because it allows quick fly changes and ties so quickly. Although the clinch is a poor knot on spider-web trout tippets it is not an issue with 20# tippet in the surf.

Who knows you might have had everything right but had a nick in the tippet from a rock or something. Maybe it's a reason to check it often.

tight tippets,
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Old 05-09-2000, 12:59 PM
jeffg jeffg is offline
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RE:Saltwater Tippet Question

where did the tippet break when you lost the fish, at the fly or at the connection of 10 lb. to 20 lb., and how did you connect them? I ask because I probably wouldn't trust a blood knot between 10 lb. and 20 lb. The diameter disparity and florocarbon kind of begs for slippage to occur.

For years I have used the following leader setup:

4' of 40 lb. looped at both ends
4' of tippet with the first 18" bimini twist, in either 8, 12, or 16 lb.

I like the bimini for the spring effect as well, especially on the smaller tippet classes.

All that being said, I am switching to tapered setups this year for my intermediate lines. I tied some over the weekend when I should have been fishing with you at the Clave. I did 40-30-20-16; 30-20-16-12; and 30-20-16-8 (still put a bimini in the 8). I am going to see how they turn the flies over and adjust accordingly. I was getting by fine with the old setup, so I expect this can't be any worse and will probably be better.

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Old 05-09-2000, 04:56 PM
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Hawkeye Hawkeye is offline
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RE:Saltwater Tippet Question

For saltwater I'm very simple and probably "wrong" but it seems to work for me. I use a 40# butt section attached to the line with a nailless nail knot. At the end of the butt I make a loop and to that I attach my tippet which is almost always 20# florocarbon. I like the heavy tippet because it allows me to bring the small ones in quick and fresh and it is always there when I need it for a bigger fish. Plus if 20# floro is supposed to be invisible how can 15# be more invisible?

On my 7 weight I use a furled (I may have that name wrong) leader (it's like braided but not) and I just love it. I have had it for years and it turns over beautifully!

On my 4 weight I have just been using whatever knotless tapered leader the store happens to have.

I haven't a clue what a bimini is.
Tight Lines,

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Old 05-09-2000, 07:51 PM
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Lefty Lefty is offline
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RE:Saltwater Tippet Question

Gregg say:

&gt;I haven't a clue what a bimini is.

I'm with you. When I saw a diagram of how it was tied I nearly died laughing! You hold a leg out, put a loop around the knee or something, wrap your arms in a loop, flap your wings and croak like a dog. Seems like knot tying gone to the extreme. I'm sure I'll regret saying that, but it felt sooooo good.
Meanwhile, I need to rethink my butt section, too short.

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Old 05-09-2000, 08:33 PM
josko josko is offline
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RE:Saltwater Tippet Question

Well, a bimini may look funny to tie, but it's pretty quick and durned useful once you get the hang of it. But, it has no place on a fly leader unless you're trying for one of those IGFA records. For NE coastal leaders, I use 60-20-20, as well, but switch from a 40# to a 50# butt if the fly is fouling on me. That tends to open up the loop at the end of the cast, and brings the fly around more slowly. I rarely fish less than 20# test from shore, but then I tend not to go for schoolies. Can't really turn a big fish away from a rock with 12# tippet.
I've also gotten to looking at my blood knots with a loupe. Lets of times I find crossed strands which I'd never see with the naked eye. Invariably, they break and are worth retying.
I believe in fluorocarbon for hardtails and tropical fish, but still haven't figured out the requisite knots. Lost more fish than I should have to unraveling unis and blood knots in fluoro.
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Old 05-09-2000, 09:13 PM
artb artb is offline
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RE:Saltwater Tippet Question

I use the surgeons knot rather than the blood knots, for me it may not look as good, but it does not break. To tie a fly on I forget what it is called, but to tie it. Put the end of the leader thru the fly eye bring it back toward the line,make a loop, squeeze it between your fingers at the fly, then make about 5 turns around the leaderand thru the loop, and then still holding the hook eye tighten the knot. You can either tighten it against the hook, or leave it loose which serves as ashock absorber when a fish hits as the knot then slides agains the hook eye.I have never had the leader break at the fly yet. These instructions are probably as clear as mud.
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Old 05-09-2000, 09:22 PM
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ssully ssully is offline
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RE:Saltwater Tippet Question


The integrity of the tippet material may have been compromised by that 200#er you had on.
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Old 05-10-2000, 07:02 AM
JohnM JohnM is offline
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RE:Saltwater Tippet Question


I prefer the "keep it simple approach" when it comes to my leaders and connections. I do almost the same thing that Gregg does in that I nail knot a 3 foot section of 40 to 50 lb mono to my fly lines. From there I place a surgeon's loop at the end and then place a 3 foot section of 20 lb furocarbon to that with a loop. In the 4 years I have been using this set-up, I have never lost a fish due to these connections. I do adjust the tippet material poundage and length depending on conditions (size of fish, wind, depth, etc..).
My goal with these connections is to be able to put it together and then basically not worry about it. It is very easy and quick to add or change leaders and you should really only have to carry a couple of spools of tippet with you while on the water.

As far as the connection to the fly, I have used both clinch and loop knots. I prefer the loop knot and try to use it all of the time ....

As far as the "old" tippet material, I have heard that if your material is over a year old, you are "supposed" to discard it. I have used tippet (12 to 20 lb) that has been in my gear bag for 2 years with no problem. BUT, that could be the frugal me coming thru
.... I am sure there is some facts out there that show the decline of strength of tippet material over time......Not sure where to track it down, though..........I will see what I can find......

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Old 05-11-2000, 12:00 PM
Roop Roop is offline
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RE:Saltwater Tippet Question

Gentlemen (a loosely used term),

Thanks for all your replies.

Juro of course wins the "most technically complete" answer.

The "Pope" for the response of KISS.

Terry - Josko's right, once you get the hang of it, a guy like me with 2 left hands can tie a bimini, use your big toe & not your knee for smaller loops. Of course, then any of the fish you catch will probably wind up with athletes foot of the mouth.

Sully, Sully, Sully... I thought I did that body piercing on a monster that was definitely a 250# ladyfish!

I guess I have evolved from the need to catch as many fish as possible to the need to catch the big ones. I wsa most intertested to learn of the number of fly rodders whose opinoins I cvalue that use 20#.

Guess what I'm picking up tonight?

Thanks again.

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Old 04-12-2005, 07:44 PM
jessie jessie is offline
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Leader length & wt for pike

I have a G-Loomis 9wt crosscurent rod I need to know the correct length and steel weight for a pike leader. I'm very green on fly fishing, thanks for your help. Jessie
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Old 04-12-2005, 08:38 PM
chromer chromer is offline
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Pike aren't too picky and the flies are big and move fast so I would go with a 6-7ft leader with 40# on the back end to the line and a 20# business end (toward the fly), then use a surgeon's knot to join the steel leader 8-10" long. American wire makes spools of 17# steel but it's a bit pricey. You can get spools of wire at craft stores called tiger tail for $5.
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Old 04-13-2005, 01:07 PM
Eddie Eddie is offline
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it is hard to explain, but my flouro to mono (tippet to leader) connection is a 5-6 turn surgeon's knot. It never breaks (well maybe a couple of times).
You might think, "a three turn surgeon's looks like crap. I don't want to think about a 5-6 turn!". But I tie them a little differently (as described to me by west coast knot genius Bill Nash): initially I turn one tag around the other 5-6 times like the first half of a blood knot. As I then tie the surgeons knot, the turns make it so that the knot is a neat barrel and very strong. Try it, test it and you will not use a regular surgeon or blood knot at the tippet again.
One cast can change your day...maybe your life.
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Old 04-13-2005, 01:18 PM
BigDave BigDave is offline
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I loop to loop my floro tippet to the leader - even for flats.

I never use anything less than 14lb floro for striper tippet. I usually go with 16# or greater.

The new Gen2 floro is so small in diameter that there's no reason to go lighter IMHO. Not sure what the actual percentage is, but loop to loop is up there for breaking strength compared to blood knots/surgeons.

One last thing to consider is what kind of mono you are using to construct the leader - they are not all the same. I use RIO hard mono (3ft 35#, 3ft 25#) and it wil turn over just about anything (credit to Jim Bender for the "formula")

Last edited by BigDave; 04-13-2005 at 01:24 PM.
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Old 04-13-2005, 01:30 PM
polareyez polareyez is offline
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my 2 cents worth

I use about 3 feet of 30# hard mono followed by 3 feet of 20# hard mono, then 3-4 feet of 12# floro. It's all loop to loop except the leader/line connection, where I started using a nail knot and super glue. I used to go loop to loop here as well but a couple times of having the loop pass through the tip of my rod and not being able to get it back out got me to change.
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