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Shawnny3October 2nd, 2007, 4:34 am
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
I think there was a tippet thread already started, but I couldn't find it. CaseyP mentioned in another thread that he rarely goes lower than 5x. I do the same, for reasons I don't have time to post right now. Anyway, I was wondering how people rationalize what tippet they use in common stream situations.

Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
SofthackleOctober 2nd, 2007, 5:10 am
Site Editor
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
Tippet size is fitted to hook size. If, during a cast, the tippet collapses under the weight of the hook as the fly is being presented, the tippet is too light for the hook weight. The other problem is getting the tippet to pass through the eye on smaller hooks.

Lengthening a leader tippet some, will often help to put S curves in a line, helping to eliminate drag.

This is, basically, what I've always read, heard and experienced.

"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders:
SmallstreamOctober 2nd, 2007, 11:07 am
State College, PA

Posts: 103
I dont know if this is right or not, but there are quite a few people that say going any smaller than 5X is pointless, even in a trico hatch. Can you indeed fish flies this small with this thick a leader? The people that say this point out that a drag free drift is far far more important than tippet thickness. It has even been said that fish can still see the tippet no matter how thin it is most of the time.
JOHNWOctober 2nd, 2007, 1:05 pm
Chambersburg, PA

Posts: 452
I will admit to having a spool of 8x in my chest pack but it never sees the light of day. I do use everything from 0x down to 7x although in the past year the majority of my fishing is with 4x and 5x at the terminal end. The major exceptions are tricos which I start with 6x and when midging on the Little Lehigh where the 7x is frequently put in play.
One thing that also must be considered is that many of the folks who are in the nothing smaller than 5x category are old school and grew up with tippet material that was considerably less durable/forgiving than that which is available today.

You can thread 5x through the eye of a true #26 fly but if the weather is cold it gets real tough. Much smaller than that and the tippet just won't fit. And yes I do carry some #28 and 32's in my midge box.
Just the humble $.02 of a simple fly slinger
"old habits are hard to kill once you have gray in your beard" -Old Red Barn
RleePOctober 2nd, 2007, 1:18 pm
NW PA - Pennsylvania's Glacial Pothole Wonderland

Posts: 398
Other than trying to pay occasional attention to the "Rule of 3's" (Or is it 4's or even 3.5's?)relationship between fly size and tippet size, I always tended to fish about one size bigger tippet than just about anybody I compared notes with. When I was living in and fishing PA, the only freestones I would routinely fish with 5X were places like Slate and Cedar or Kettle in the project, if I somehow found myself down there. And also very occasionally in the thinnest water on some of the small Bennett Br. and Driftwood tribs I favored. Everywhere else (on frestones anyway like Young Womans, Cross Fork, and in the ANF), I pretty much tipped out at 4X. But then again, I seldom fisded anything smaller than a #16. On the limestones (excepting the CV spring creeks where I seldom went)like Fishing, Spring and Penns, etc. I almost always fished 5X as a rule. I had a spool of 6X, but I threw it away after it sat in my vest for 3 years and I had only used about 3 new tippets off of it.

I really don't think it matters all that much within reason (give or take a single tippet size, that is). One of my favorite things to do used to be to go to the Benner Spring section of Spring Creek and fish big ants on 5X tight to the bank up along the rocks on the edge of the hatchery lawn. These fish have to get pounded, yet I never had any trouble with them that could be clearly pinned on tippet size.

So, I've always been skeptical of the need for 6X, let alone anything smaller.

Still, when we came out to the Midwest and I started fishing in SW WI, somehow I got sucked into this thing where I fish as much if not more 6X as I do 5X. I think it may have to do with the generally smaller run of flies I use out here and how they match up with a proper tippet size. I use a lot of size 18 and 20 olive and/or PT nymphs and a lot of #18 deerhair caddis. Stiil, the whole time I'm doing this, there is this voice in the back of my head saying it's mostly BS, much more a matter of religion or OCD than real need and that I could be doing just as well on 5X...:)
CaseyPOctober 2nd, 2007, 1:48 pm
Arlington, VA/ Mercersburg, PA

Posts: 653
I would routinely fish with 5X...But then again, I seldom fished anything smaller than a #16.

okay, i'll 'fess up: the only times i've used real small trico or midge flies have been with guides. they can see them and their tiny holes, and manage that 6x tippet. one of these days i'll learn to play a big fish on a light tippet (God grant me the opportunity!) and then maybe i'll convert, but until then, 5x and 14-18 flies do it for me when fishing on my own.
"You can observe a lot by watching." Yogi Berra
IEatimagoOctober 2nd, 2007, 2:10 pm
Spring Mills, PA

Posts: 97
i use 6x most
at night latley with streamers i use 5x.
but i never seem to catch fish over 18 inches
Shawnny3October 2nd, 2007, 3:20 pm
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
Thanks, guys, for your thoughts and experiences. I am one who thinks that using 6x and smaller is usually more for show than anything else. I am a pretty aggressive fisherman. I don't really care what the number on the line is - if it routinely snaps me off when I'm conducting normal stream operations (that is to say, yanking my fly off rocks), then I have no time for it. Even though I love tying flies, I HATE to lose flies - I get enough aggravation at work and at home, thank you. So I'll usually resort to 6x only on a very small fly that is trailing another fly tied on with 5x.

I was with my uncle on the Frying Pan a few years back, and he said before we started, "Don't even think about using anything but 6x or 7x on these fish." I've found since then that fishermen use that statement when what they really mean to say is, "This water is really heavily pressured." Though I have great respect for my uncle as a fisherman, I've personally had little trouble fishing heavily pressured water with 4x or 5x. That's not to say that certain situations don't call for extreme stealth, but I think that tippet size is down the line in importance in those situations.

Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
SofthackleOctober 2nd, 2007, 3:28 pm
Site Editor
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
Hi everyone,
Interesting replies from you all. I would have a tendency to increase leader length than decrease tippet size when fishing in clear low water. I normally fish leaders of 9 foot. as the water gets lower, I might go to a 12 footer, and I've even used a 15 foot leader. I tie my own leaders.

"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders:
GeneOctober 3rd, 2007, 10:22 am
Posts: 107Gentlemen:

Tippet size and length is determined by one thing and only one thing will the fish hit it! I've taught people to always use the heaviest tippet size they can get away with.

However, those of you believe that you can get away with 5x on all streams must be drinking the Kool Aid! The limpness or stiffness of the tippet is often more important than the X factor because it controls the behavior of the fly. Also, the length of the tippet is also important. Tippet size from various manufacturers also vary greatly. Try putting a micrometer on the stuff. Seldom is the diameter listed on the spool accurate.

If you are fishing a 26 midge you better be fishing 6 or 7x in these spring creeks because percentage wise 5x it will look like a rope and will probably be refused over and over again on streams like Big Spring, Falling Spring etc. Furthermore, the thicker tippet actually rides the surface and scares the fish. Also, the color will also play a part in the whole equation.

There is no magic formula except will the fish hit it. One of the tricks I've used for years is to take a small nymph size 16 or 18 and tie it on a 6 or 7x with a minute shot and flip it above a large trout in a spring creek. With around 40 or so inches of tippet the little nymph just drifts to the bottom and bounce and floats right into the trout's feeding lane. Yes, these fish are more difficult to land on such a rig but it's not that hard and it's the only way to take these fish most of the time. You can't do it with a 5x or 4x because you can't get as natural a drift because I've experimented for years and seldom does it work with the heavier leader. The drift isn't the same.

As far as tying your own leaders more power to you, however, if you have a lot of knots in your leaders on these spring creeks you will get a lot drag and your success rate will just plummet. The fewer knots in a leader on a spring creek the better. As far as the length of the leader depends how you fish. There are two schools of thought on this on spring creeks. One, long leaders and stay away from the fish but this means more casting and less accurate hooking and two, stealth..get close to the fish and fish mainly a short line and only drift the tippet to the fish. Most of the time I subscribe to the second method. It takes more skill to learn to get near the fish but it also lets you control the situation and hook more fish!

On bigger waters I use a variety of rigs, too many to mention. On these streams I agree with Shawn and try to stay 5x or above but I closely monitor the limpness and color factor of the leader because I have found that those points may make a great difference.

tight lines and nymphs on your "tippets"


"there are big trout out there and they know I'm around. They fear me and rightly so!"
MartinlfOctober 3rd, 2007, 1:01 pm
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3233
Gene, the color factor interests me. Can you say more about that? --Louis
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
SofthackleOctober 3rd, 2007, 4:21 pm
Site Editor
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
Hi Gene,
Absolutely. I agree 100% of what you've said. Water conditions can and do determine how fish see what you're chucking at them. And many times, different places require different tactics and tackle. I've never fished the spring creeks, so my knotted leaders don't have as much of a problem.

"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders:
CaseyPOctober 3rd, 2007, 6:38 pm
Arlington, VA/ Mercersburg, PA

Posts: 653
Mark, you have exactly what you need on a spring creek in those wet flies of yours, so put it on your list. Best Fishing Buddy and i were sharing a rod on a Montana creek in late July and the fish were just giving us fits as the many little currents made every dry look like it was doing a can-can across the water. light tippet, long leader, nothing worked. finally went to a 5x knotless leader, 5x tippet and a wet fly that vaguely resembled the LGJs* that were hovering, and caught the fish of the evening on the swing. was glad i'd used 5x because fishy went under a huge weed bed; plunged the tip of the rod into the water towards the edge of the weeds while stripping gently, and then walked backwards away and out he popped.
(*i know, i know, 10 months on this forum and i still don't know one Little Grey Job from another.)
"You can observe a lot by watching." Yogi Berra
GeneOctober 3rd, 2007, 10:34 pm
Posts: 107Martin and Fly Fishing Fools ( of which I include myself):

I always thought the color of the tippet didn't matter until around 15 years ago on Penns Creek. I was nymphing the area below the Broadwaters known as Rainbow Riffle (if you fished Penns much you know where I was fishing). My buddy Bill was taking 3 fish to my one. He's a great nymph fisherman too so it didn't really bother me much until we came to shore for lunch. He noticed my tippet which was kind of brown tinged, it was Maxima. He told me that for some reason the fish in this stream can see that stuff he thought and that was the reason I was doing as well as he was.

So when we resumed fishing he gave me some stuff he had (I think it was Aeon or something like that back then) and it was like someone turned on a light switch. Bang...bang...bang....hit after hit and trout after trout. So being I scientist I had to put the brown Maxima back on just to see what would happen. Well, my hits and trout started to drop dramatically. I put the other stuff back on and had a field day.

Now I don't know if it was the limpness or the color or what but I have seen this on some streams where different color tippets seem to have a dramatic effect on the number of hits you get and the number of fish you catch.

It appears on some waters it doesn't matter and then on some it really matters. I have a theory that the fish can see certain tippets in the "mirror" of the stream and some they don't see so well. This could also be in conjunction with the turbidity of the water.

About 8 months ago I was fishing Big Spring and was catching some nice bows and browns as well as some brookies on small nymphs. This neophyte who was a young kid around 19 teen asked me for some help. It was his first time here and he was from Lancaster. So I gave in some instruction in short line nymphing. But he didn't catch anything. So I looked as his leader and he had the brownish tippet material. So I gave him a completely new leader to put on and put some 6x tippet that was clear.

I gave him the lesson over again and he immediately began to catch trout. As I was leaving he was still thanking me as he had just hooked another fish. I think it matters sometimes depending upon lighting and stream conditions. I would be interested if anyone else has had any experience with color of tippets and success rates.

tight lines and the devil is in the details..


Besides my family I have met the finest people in the world on trout and salmon waters. And it's a good thing because our society is stocked with reprobates, scoundrels, and worst of all politicians and other losers who should not be allowed on our precious waters!

Shawnny3October 4th, 2007, 4:15 am
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
I love Maxima for making leaders (because of its stiffness) and as tippet for bass fishing because it's so abrasion-resistant. But I stopped using it for tippet a number of years ago for the very reasons you mention, Gene. I have not done any scientific research on it, but I think that stuff is more invisible to fishermen (looking into the water) than it is to fish (looking out of the water). Think about the backgrounds and it makes sense.

I have had some problems with the line laying out when I have a more supple tippet attached to a leader of Maxima. I've just kind of learned to deal with this, since I haven't found a better leader material to use, but I'm open to suggestions. My solution is to actually go all the way down to 4-lb Maxima before tying on 5-lb tippet, which gives a nicer transition that helps the layout. The Maxima section is still heavier than the other tippet and almost never breaks. Again, I haven't tested it, but I think Maxima is stronger than it's labeled while most tippets are weaker than they're labeled (at least after some fishing).

Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
SofthackleOctober 4th, 2007, 5:26 am
Site Editor
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
I've used Maxima, Chameleon, leader material for years, however, they also make a pale green color that, to me is more appealing. I'm going to have to make a complete switch to it. That will be costly, but worth it.

Don't worry about fly names as long as you're catching fish.

"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders:
GeneOctober 4th, 2007, 9:07 am
Posts: 107Shawn:

After that incident I quit using Maxima for trout. I'm glad to see some other people have had some similar experiences. It's amazing you spend a fortune of fly fishing equipment and lifetime tying flies and it's the color of the tippet material that determines success.

In old book I have on Nymph Fishing by Jim Quick, he mentions using different colors of sewing thread to seduce trout with nymphs. Makes you wonder.

tight lines and clear tippets


I fish therefore I am!
SayfuAugust 31st, 2011, 5:39 pm
Posts: 560I don't go smaller than 5x because where I fish fish mortality greatly increases using the 6x, and smaller tippets. Our rivers have good sized trout, and good water flow much of the season. You just can't land a good sized trout very quickly, and release them.
WbranchSeptember 1st, 2011, 2:47 pm
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2733
Sayfu wrote;

"I don't go smaller than 5x because where I fish fish mortality greatly increases using the 6x, and smaller tippets."

Maybe that would be true if we were using 6X gut leader or the Gladding 6X of the 1970's that had a break strength of 1.2# but with today's modern polymers and flurocarbons that have 6X breaking at 3.6# I just don't believe fish mortality is an issue - unless of course the angler has no fish fighting skills and he/she are playing a fish for longer than is necessary.

Edited to soften the effect and not offend anyone. I catch lots of big fish - see my Facebook albums if there are any doubters out there - and I do wholeheartedly agree that one should always use the heaviest tippet possible yet still be able to catch his quarry. On the Missouri, which I know intimately and have caught hundreds of 18" - 22" browns and rainbows (and a handful of 23" - 24")I usually never go above, or below, 5X flourocarbon. Once in a blue moon for a particularly difficult fish or fish that are very leader shy I will go to a piece of 6X about 36" long. If one plays his fish effectively and is not showboating most any river trout can be in the net in under eight minutes. The waters I fish are relativley placid and hooked fish aren't going to get exhausted by me dragging them back up through heavy water and they are either going to be released immediately or the camera will be ready for a quick photo and then a gentle release and recovery period if necessary.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
EntomanSeptember 1st, 2011, 4:02 pm
Northern CA & ID

Posts: 2604
Hi Matt,

unless of course you are an idiot who has no fish fighting skills and you are playing a fish for longer than is necessary.

In an attempt to play peacemaker and prevent a cyber fistfight (I just hope I don't get punched for standing in the middle:)), I'm assuming the interpretation of "you" in the quoted sentence is any angler who fits the description as opposed to referring to Sayfu personally. Being new to the forum, I don't want Sayfu to take you the wrong way and feel insulted. I can tell from his writings he's a pretty experienced guy with a lot to offer.

As to the point of contention, it's interesting to see the difference in perspectives. I think you are both right. Huh? No, I'm not taking a stand in the wishy-washy middle, I'm recognizing the circumstances and context of the two positions. One is that of a working guide who is spending a lot of time on heavy water, perhaps most of the time fishing from a moving boat with fisherman of varying degrees of prowess (being polite). The other is of an experienced/competent angler who knows how to use his tackle effectively. For example, fishing the Lower Sac the way it's commonly fished, I can't think of a guide that wouldn't discourage the use of 6X, if for no other reason than it isn't necessary to fool the fish. Guides always prefer the heaviest tippet possible, though even that's no guarantee. I've had rods in the boat that would kill 18" fish using 3X! Deft boat handling and skillful use of a long handled net is the only way some fish are brought to hand. The concepts of rod angles, proper pressure, line control, and keeping their heads up at the surface escape them. I think that is the context in which Sayfu meant his comments since he did reference "the water he fishes".

I won't comment on the waters you fish back East, But I agree with you that 6x is both practical and sometimes necessary for fishing hatches of ephemerellids and baetids on rivers like the Missouri. For those that don't know, the Missouri does have it's share of heavy water and big fish, though it's amount of heavy currents are not comparable to the Madison, Dechutes, Lower Sac, or in Sayfu's case, the South Fork.


"It's not that I find fishing so important, it's just that I find all other endeavors of Man equally unimportant... And not nearly as much fun!" Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Fisherman

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