Best Leader and Tippet

Planning to go on a “Fly Fishing” trip? You have to make sure your equipment is in order. Also, make sure you have the right tools for the job. As any professional and he’ll tell you a leader and a tippet are the most important tools of the trade you’ll need for the job. Very often your achievements in Fly fishing depend on how good you handle these two things. Make sure you know How to Buy a Good Leader and Bait for the fishing trip.

In this small-ish article, I’ll try to elaborate on what these two things are and what they do. Then we can get into the part where I discuss how to find the best leader and tippet around.

What is a Leader?

I can tell you, we are not speaking of a political leader. Those familiar with the “Terminal Tackle,” should know what I mean when I say “Leader.” This is essentially a thin thread that people attach to one section of the line. The other end attaches with the tippet.

It can be anywhere between six to fifteen feet in length. Experienced fishermen use tapered leaders. There’s a point where your line will reach a thickness level it can’t handle alone. You need baits at that point. These threaded extensions and Tippets (AKA baits) work jointly to secure yourselves good fishes while you are at it.

Why Do We Need the Extension after the Line for Fly Fishing?

Well, you could do with a fishing reel and a line, right? Wrong! Casting a fishing line into the water will do you no good. Take it from an expert, fishes can see what you are throwing at them. No matter how delicious the bait at the end is, it won’t bite as it clearly will see what you are throwing in the water.

That is where Leaders come in. These tapered lines are basically invisible while in the water. These work pretty well in fooling your trout fish into thinking the bait attached at the end is “Food” and not a bait. As a result, you can catch yourselves better fishes while kayaking in a big lake or a river.

How to Select the Best One for Fishing?

Rattled, are you? Don’t be. Just follow few rules of thumb and you’ll get yourselves a nice tool for the job. Let us see what the rules of thumb are.

The Ideal Leader Depending on Materials

You will find two types of materials that make up leaders for fly fishing. One is the inexpensive monofilament. This material is perfect for places where you don’t need all that strength to reel the fish in. Just throw the line in the water, let the bait sink in, and wait till one of the fishes takes the bait.

If you prefer to fish in Saltwater, go for the fluorocarbon variation. This version is stiffer than the previous one. Plus, if you want, you can add a fluorocarbon fly as well. This version of the extension makes less sound while hitting the water for the first time.

Look at Your Fishing Preference

If you are a guy who likes control over anything else while fly fishing, you should get yourself a short extension. Now, many of you might not know this but shorter leaders actually grant you more control over what you do and how you do things. These are great options to have for dealing with fishes that jump around in the water. You may need to change the length depending on the position you are fishing in.

The Length Depends on Your Fish Too

As I mentioned earlier, tapered leaders have different lengths that you’ll find available on the market. The size varies from 6 to 15 feet. So, which one should you get?

The size depends on what type of fish you are catching. For example, if you are going after trout, small length extensions will be enough. I’ll advise you to get a 6-feet one.

On the other hand, when you are fishing in saltwater or freshwater with heavy nymph flies as baits, go for the medium-sized. Oh, and don’t use them with the fishes that are weary.

I always select an appropriate and lengthy extension to fish in places with moderate current and look for bass fish in there. The 15-feet ones work best in clear water.

Choose One with Proper Strength to Hold the Tippet and Fly

You need to be really careful here. Judge the strength of your Leader carefully as it is directly related to how heavy fly it can support. To make things easy on your part, the fly uses an index. A lower number on the index means higher strength and a higher number means lower strength for the extension wire. As the number increases, the diameter of the bait decreases.

For example, 03X Graded Fly will have a diameter of .015”. The extension combining with this bait can support fishes that weigh up to 25lbs. Similarly, a 2X Tippet has a diameter of .009” and with the extension, can hold up to 11.5lbs of fish. It is only good for trout, Smallmouth Bass, and Bonefish. So, you need to pick a Leader that suits your fly.

Additional Tips that will Make Your Purchase a Winner!

– If you want sturdiness, purchase one with the Long Butt. These are stiffer than the rest.

– From my experience, buy shorter “Leader” for more control.

– If you have to deal with shy fishes, try longer ones that can handle fine flies.

– The ideal one should have shorter butt section and a prolonged midsection to minimize the drag.

Now that we are done with the first part, let us get to know “Tippet” a bit intimately too. Let’s focus on what it actually is.

What Are Tippets AKA Fly holders?

Tippet is the thin monofilament line at the end of your Leader. It is the part where you attach the fly or the bait. Sometimes, it is referred to as bait as well. This thing is thin compared to the earlier extension. It wears out as you continue to use it. The best way to keep your fishing rod functional is by changing it frequently.

How to Buy the Best Tippet Around?

There are some rules of thumb to buying these monofilament extensions as well. Let us look into those while we are at it.

The Best Tippet Needs to Be Super Thin

The basic idea of these monofilament extensions is to make your bait seem natural when it hits the water. To achieve that, you need to select the thinnest tippet. It should be practically invisible yet sturdy and immune to chewing of the fish. People that are using knotted Leaders should be able to customize these extended parts that connect to the fly.

The Tippet’s Diameter Should Be Lesser than the Leader’s

Be sure to check the diameter of the leader you are using. It helps as you don’t want to change the leader frequently. Without the extension at the end, these things tend to wear out fast. The main reason is friction with rocks, water, and fishes. Having a smaller diameter tippet helps as it takes the blunt of the friction extending leader’s life.

Keep the Chart in Mind

That’s right! There is indeed a chart for these things. This chart provides you information regarding the diameter you need. A certain diameter has a certain strength count. Plus, it can hold on to fishes of a certain weight range. Based on that weight range, you can decide which fishes you can catch with the equipment.

Or, if you have a certain type of fish in mind, just select the equipment necessary to catch that fish and you are good to go. Have a look at the chart below. You will find which tippet is good for which species of fishes too. That is a bonus for me!

Here, the “X” represents your Tippet’s breaking strength. To put it simply, the “X” means the strength and the diameter of the leader itself.

Which Material to Pick?

After you narrow down the size and diameter of this thing, you need to decide on the material too. This is where it gets tricky. There are a number of choices for you to consider. Let me go over few of the variations in material for you. This will help you consider what to buy for which situation.


People can always go for hard or soft nylon variations of these things. If you are fishing in saltwater, hard nylon tippet is the way to go. For everywhere else, fishermen can go with soft nylon. This construction gives it the edge when you decide to use it in rocky terrain. You can use it where it is windy and when you are trying to fish for sharp teethed ones.

Copolymer (Nylon Mixed with Various Polymers or Resin)

I use Copolymer to get my strength vs. diameter ratio right. It is especially useful to me when I want to lure out the shy fishes. The presentation of the fly improves when you use tippets made of the copolymer. My advice to my readers is to use medium-sized flies with this material.


This material is also known as Polyvinylidene Fluoride. This is expensive kind of tippet I am talking about. But this one has its uses. For example, if you want to fool the fish into thinking your bait as the real food, you need to make it invisible and minimize the “Splash” sound; this is the type of tippet you need to get. Plus, it is UV and abrasion resistant.

How to Add the Tippet?

Okay, we’ve thus far come to know how to buy the best leader and Tippet curtsy of this post. But, how to connect these two? Let me give you my insights on how I do it.

You can do it in three ways. Either utilize the “Barrel Knot” method, the “Surgeon’s Knot” method, or the way I do it. I do it with a “Blood Knot” method. You can find information on each knot in these videos with detailed instructions. Just make sure you tie the knots solidly so that the fly isn’t lost in the water when you need it the most.

The Surgeon’s Knot

The Final Say

I’d say I gave away almost all my secrets on How to Buy the Best Leader and Tippet article on both the topics. It is pretty hard to separate both of them since these things are closely intertwined. I tried my best. Hopefully, you can follow these tips and get yourselves the perfect gear for fly fishing. Plus, you can get a clear idea about how to approach tying the two things together too.

But hey! My line of surprises doesn’t end here. Keep your eyes on future articles to learn how to fish a bit more intimately.

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