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Fly Fishing Leaders and Tippets- 5 Videos

This series of five videos answers the many questions about tippets and leaders that we hear in the store.  Most beginners will find the info to be indispensably.  Intermediate and advanced anglers will find gems in videos two through five.  Article after videos is a quick read on the same material.  Comments are appreciated. 

          Laaders and Tippets

1. What's the Difference?

2. Types of Leaders

 3. Specialized Heavy Leaders

 4. Lbs and Xs ---What is That?

5. Adding Tippet for Success and Econonmy

Admittedly, I was cynical about the “new” types of fishing line.  But if you look at my spinning rods, they are loaded with Kevlar braid, and now the leaders on my fly rods are all fluorocarbon.  But I rarely jump on new technologies, and with good reason.  They cost more, and usually there are bugs to work out.  Fluorocarbon leaders and tippets for fly fishing have come a long way.  The reputation for knots slipping is a thing of the past.  They still cost more up front, but over time, they are truly more economical.  Fluorocarbon leaders and tippets have significant advantages in most scenarios of fly fishing.  But Mono is still the way to go in some scenarios too.

Browse Fly Fishing Leaders

Differences between Fluorocarbon and Monofilament.

  • Material-fluorocarbon in made from a sophisticated polymer.  Mono is essentially plastic.
  • Fluorocarbon is “More Clear” in clear water (refractive index is nearly identical to water.)
  • Fluorocarbon is more abrasion resistant than monofilament in the same size.
  • Fluorocarbon stretches less (almost none.)
  • UV(sunlight) damages monofilament over time, but not fluorocarbon.
  • Monofilament floats, fluorocarbon sinks
  • Surprisingly, 10lb mono and 10lb fluoro are about the same diameter.

Orvis 'Super Strong' Leaders are monofilament.  Orvis 'Mirage' Leaders are flourocarbon.

Dry Fly Fishing: When water conditions are not gin clear, monofilament floats nicely.  And while mono is slightly heavier than water, surface tension holds the mono on the surface.  This will help keep dry flies on the surface.  When fishing a clear lake on a dead calm day, fluorocarbon may be better, because it is more invisible, but you will have to grease you fly to keep it floating.  But most dry fly fishing is on a lake that is tannic, or on a river that has a ripple surface.    Either disguises mono.  So, most of the time, use monofilament when fly fishing with dry flies.

Wet Fly or Nymph Fishing:  Fluorocarbon sinks.  This is a perfect match for fishing subsurface flies.  Even lightly weighted flies sink easily in a pond with fluorocarbon.  On the river, again the fluorocarbon sinks and gets flies down.  Don’t be mistaken, weighted flies are needed and sometimes split shot is still needed.  For anglers who refuse to use indicators, a mono leader with a fluorocarbon tippet creates a nice combination.  Make sure to seat the knot carefully when typing fluorocarbon to monofilament.

Top water popper fishing:  Mono, unless the water is gin clear, then use fluorocarbon.  If fishing a popper/dropper, use fluorocarbon on the dropper tippet.

Saltwater Flats fishing:  This is usually a sight fishing situation which means the angler is trying to see fish before casting.  This also implies that the water is fairly clear.  In this situation, the fly (usually) is weighted, so fluorocarbon is an ideal leader.

Tarpon Fishing:  The angler needs to get the fly down to the fish quickly and fluorocarbon is ideal.  Particularly the bite tippet which may be tied in 100lb, the clear nature of flouro is also critical!  Modern formulations have superb knot strength.

Bite tippets:  When fishing with a bite tippet, the fish can see the wire or heavy mono.  This reduces the number of hits, but is necessary.  In a double benefit, fluorocarbon makes this portion of the leader almost imperceptible, and since it is more abrasion resistant than mono of the same strength, the angler can use a lighter weight bite tippet.  The thinner tippet will give the fly slightly better action too.

Beach Fishing:  Because there is almost always chop (riffles 2in to 12in) in addition to the waves, a lot of slack is created by the up & down wave shape when using a floating leader.  Fluorocarbon leaders settle below the waves and riffles, eliminating the slack.  {The same applies to the fly line; consider an intermediate fly line rather than a floating fly line.}

Fluorocarbon tippets tied to a monofilament leader:  Originally not a good combination, but better now.  The flexibility/stiffness of the two materials may be different, so the tippet might be too stiff or limp for the leader that it was tied. Carefully flex your leader and see if transitions are smooth arcs, or lumpy.  This is easier than it sounds, and surprisingly critical to turning over a fly.  Ideally, use the same brand and type of tippet material and leader.  I prefer a 100% fluorocarbon leader (when using fluorocarbon.)  Also, the fluorocarbon has a shell-like exterior, so knots that are mediocre will hold in a mono to mono connection, but will not hold in a flouro to mono connection.  Make sure the knots seat perfectly, lubricate with moisture, and tighten slowly.  Newer flouro is easier to knot than the original fluorocarbons.

Recently, the makers of most fluorocarbon leaders removed expiration dates.  Simply, it has been found that UV does not degrade the material and the shelf life is perhaps five years or more.  It is also much more abrasion resistant, and the leader just last longer.  This is the economy fluorocarbon.  It is a great tool for the angler when applied properly.

{And many anglers use fluorocarbon on their spinning rods, trolling gear, and bait casters.  It is popular to add a five foot leader to the regular line on the reel.}

Allen Wyatt
Allen Wyatt


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