Fly Fishing: What is a Tippet & How to Use

Fishing fanatics are known to have enjoyed the fly fishing technique for years. Many anglers use this method as a basis to develop new fishing skills while also expanding their area of expertise. 

Fly fishing is an angling method that makes use of a lightweight artificial lure to catch fine specimens of fish. This type of fishing usually makes use of a tippet, which is a monofilament line that not just helps make the bait appear more realistic but also is helpful in preventing angles from losing taper. 

Putting a tippet into service provides a variety of benefits to the beholding angler. However, it can’t be ignored that making an effective use of a tippet can only be beneficial if one demonstrates an acute use of skill and practice. 

If you are interested in learning about fly fishing and how to successfully make use of a tippet, you have come to the right place. This a quick guide to ensure that you know all there is to know about fly fishing, and subsequently the use of tippets. 

Fly Fishing and the Use of Tippets: All you need to know

Fishing is an exciting sport, and though the main idea of fishing remains essentially the same, there are many different methods that anglers use with hopes of increasing the chances of making a successful catch. 

Before we can go further to exploring the use of tippets in fly fishing, it is relevant to understand exactly what fly fishing is. 

What is Fly Fishing? 

As mentioned before, fly fishing makes use of a light lure that closely resembles live bait, thus being something that can easily tempt nearby fish. In order to fly fish, anglers generally make use of three things to attract nearby fish, namely the tippet, the leader, and the fly. 

Fly fishing can be done in either saltwater or freshwater conditions, thus is commonly opted for by the more experienced fishing folk demographic. This type of fishing is done by the way of a special casting method that is different from traditional casting methods primarily because it makes use of lighter lures and weights.

Due to this difference, in order to fly fish with greater success, fisher folk and anglers are required to refine their fishing skills by honing their knowledge and even devoting a greater amount of time to practice frequently. 

Explaining the Tippet

The tippet is a great tool often used by more seasoned anglers as they attempt to catch a big one. A tippet is a lightweight and transparent line that is usually made of monofilament, fluorocarbon, or even nylon. 

The tippet line extends from the leader to the fly, allowing the fly to look more realistic, and move in a manner that appears more genuine to the gaze of the fish. This is made so due to the natural looking movements of the tethered fly. 

Keep in mind, that though the benefits to using a tippet seem tantamount, there are several things that need to be taken into consideration in order to have a more successful fishing experience. 

One of the most important of these considerations is to understand the particular conditions when using the tippet is not a wise fishing decision. 

How a Tippet fits in Fly Fishing

As mentioned previously, many fishing fanatics wonder if using a tippet while fly fishing is worth the hassle of setting it up. Before judging if using a tippet is right for you, it is a great idea to explore the basic mechanism of a working tippet during a fly fishing trip.

The role of the leader: 

Since fish are more likely to bite the bait if they think it is harmless and unsuspicious, fly fishing is an effective way to make a catch. In order to thwart the notice of the fish, it is important to make sure that the leader is attached to the line by means of a transparent (“invisible”) line connection. 

The leader has a tapered width, with the thicker end being the one connected to the fishing line, and the more tapered end facing the fly. Moreover, the leader usually measures from about 7 to 9 feet long, with the longest leaders reaching up to a whooping length of 25 feet. It is not hard to see how the length and type of the leader depends upon the environment type where the fishing is taking place. 

During the time of casting, the varying thickness of the leader enables a whipping motion that can be mastered and used to ones advantage after frequent practice. This whipping motion can help play a large role in attracting fish during the initial casting. 

The part played by the Tippet:

As you might have guessed, the tippet bridges the gap between the narrow tip of the leader and the fly itself. The monofilament and fluorocarbon substance that usually makes up a tippet allows it to be significantly lighter than the leader itself. 

Keeping the lightness of the tippet in mind, one of the most important things that anglers new to fly fishing should do is to understand and rehearse the manner in which one successfully ties their fishing knots. Since the tippet is made of a thin material, tying effective knots requires a certain degree of skill. 

Like leaders, tippets vary in their lengths. It is essential to remember, however, that you will be more likely to make a more successful catch if the artificial fly is some distance away from you and your immediate fishing point. 

Similarly on the other hand, having an extra-long tippet would make it harder for you to cast and catch a fish, especially if you are at a novice fishing level. 

Cherry on Top: the Fly on the Tippet

After the leader and the tippet comes the fly. The artificial fly is a fishing tool that can help you catch and land a specimen of fish. One of the vital things to remember regarding the use of artificial lures is that you need to be able to tie and knot them up with utmost security. 

Remember, the length of the tippet, along with the tension (breaking strain) that it an handle, depends largely on the size of the fly that you choose.  Micro sized fly are typically coupled with a lighter tippet with a lesser level of breaking strain, whereas a bigger fly would need a tippet with a higher breaking strain. 

If you are fishing in an area of high wind, it is wise to get a tippet with a larger diameter and a heavier fly to increase its resistance and prevent it from being moved around uncontrollably by the forces of the wind. 

It is not hard to imagine why tippets meant for a lighter fly don’t fare that well with larger artificial bait. In such cases, tippets run the risk of breaking easily during casting, which can be a real nuisance. It is thus ideal to match the sizes of your tippet and subsequently the fly you choose in order to have a more successful fishing trip. 

Choosing a Tippet

When going shopping for a tippet, you would find yourself amongst a great variety to choose from. As mentioned previously, tippets vary in terms of their diameter as well as the material that they are made of. 

In order to make an informed decision between different tippet materials, it is essential that you gauge the type of fishing and the kind of terrain that you will be exposed to. 

Fluorocarbon Tippet

Fluorocarbon tippets have many particular characteristics that make it appealing for various anglers. Here are some of the defining traits of this particular tippet material. 

  • More Invisible: Fluorocarbon comes with a refractive index of 1.42, making it one of the lesser visible tippet materials which makes it a great favorite to use, especially in clear freshwater bodies such as rivers, creeks, and lakes. 
  • Lesser Tangles: Another thing to keep in mind about fluorocarbon is the fact that it is stiffer with little stretch, and tends to tangle less. Moreover, its tangles are much easier to remove than those that appear in tippets made of nylon.
  • Doesn’t Absorb Water: one of the biggest boons of opting for a fluorocarbon tippet is the fact that it does not absorb water. This means that prolonged stretches of fishing would not harm the tippet nor cause it to weaken due to the constant exposure to water.
  • Double Structure Tippets: there are some tippets in the market that have double structures. This means that the inner fluorocarbon layer is stiffer, while the outer part of the tippet is made up of a softer type of fluorocarbon. 

This type of tippet allows anglers to make much better knots, which is a recipe for successful fishing.

  • Expense: it can’t be ignored that fluorocarbon tippets are the more expensive option in the market, primarily due to their range of features that make it a convenient option for anglers. 

Nylon Tippet

There are many anglers who prefer using tippets made of nylon. Here is a quick rundown of the features in a nylon tippet. 

  • All-purpose: nylon is an ‘all-purpose’ material that is preferred in conditions where the water is less clear. The material is known particularly for its strength and flexibility, along with the fact that it tends to float on water. 
  • Floatability: these particular kinds of tippet are more buoyant, which makes them more ideally suited for fishing with dry flies. However, anglers using nylon for wet flies have the option of coating their nylon tippets with silicone gel or gink to reduce its buoyancy. 
  • Absorbs Water: nylon tippets tend to absorb water, which makes them more likely to break if exposed to water for prolonged periods of time. 

Fishing without a Tippet

Though fly fishing without tippets is a possibility, seasoned anglers recognize the benefits of using them during their fishing expeditions.

  • Prevents the leader’s tips from wearing off: the part of a leader with a thinner diameter is where an angler would attach a fly if he wasn’t using a tippet. The length of the thinner part usually falls around 30 inches long. 

When it comes to fishing without a tippet, it means that every time you want to knot or even unknot a fly, you would have to cut some line in order to save time. Moreover, cutting the line improves the casting motion as well, as you have managed to avoid the resistance of the bends caused by the knots. 

Bear in mind that though cutting the leader’s tips doesn’t seem like such a big deal, it is basically reducing the overall length and reach of the fishing line. The lessening of the length would make the fishing equipment more visible to the fish, making them more nervous to bite. Additionally, it would be harder to maintain the technique you are using for fly fishing.

Using a tippet would thus save your leader’s tips from being worn and/or cut off.

  • Increases total line length: when it comes to fishing, it often helps to have a longer line to help you get an access to a larger span of fishing area. When fly fishing in an open area such as a freshwater lake or stream, or even a saltwater body, it would be exceedingly helpful to being able to access a larger fishing zone.

Beginners might feel nervous using a longer line, but it helps to think of how a longer line not just increases your reach (and greater depths of your reach) but also makes it more likely for you to use multiple hooks and allow you to catch more fish. 

Moreover, an increased line length by using a tippet can be an effective way for you to gauge the water depth. This is possible by attaching more flies to the lines and using them as a way to make informed judgments about the total water depth. 

  • Allows more natural fly movements: in order to lure fish successfully it is vital to replicate the natural movements of fish prey in order to tempt fish better. Using a tippet can help with an authentic rendition of the natural movements, while attaching a fly to a leader directly might make the tension of the line more evident to the fish itself. 

For those anglers who need to add weight to their knot, opting for a direct leader and fly connection is a better choice. However for those who don’t need a weighted fly opting for a tippet is a better way to meet their requirements. 

It also helps to know that tippets effectively convey motions to and from the fly itself. This makes them able to alert the anglers of the slightest catch in the tension of the line. 

Attaching a Tippet

Attaching a tippet to a fly and a leader is not as complicated as you may think. You simply need to understand that in order to connect the three, you need to simply connect the butt section to the tippet section by the means of a very thin taper. 

By successfully doing so you can ensure that you can allow the easy transfer of energy through the leader and tippet, allowing you to gauge the motion of the currents and hooked fish much better. 

Common Reasons Why Some Anglers Don’t Use Tippets

In order to gauge the usefulness of tippets, it is helpful to have an understanding of why some anglers prefer not to use this piece of fishing equipment. 

  • Reduces casting room: anglers who are fly fishing in shallow waters find tippets to be a hindrance in such a tight environment where it is more difficult to maneuver.
  • Takes longer: some anglers, especially beginners, express their frustration when dealing with the multiple knots that come with making use of tippets. To them fly fishing without a tippet is more straightforward and easy.  
  • Different habitats: as mentioned previously, there are some areas that don’t require the use of tippets thus anglers tend to avoid them when sorting out their fishing equipment. 

There many more reasons which are given by anglers who choose not to opt for tippets,  ranging from matters of convenience to overall practicality.


At the end of the day choosing whether or not to go for a tippet depends primarily on the type of fishing that you intend to do. Though the effectiveness of tippets depends on the type of use it is put to, it has been noticed that generally fishing with tippets allows great catch.

As you have seen, there are various different options available when it comes to deciding on a tippet, thus it is crucial to understand the type of fishing that you wish to undertake. If you intend to do fly fishing in murkier water conditions it is best to opt for nylon tippets whereas clearer waters call for the use of the fluorocarbon tippets. 

I hope this guide helps you decide whether you should use a tippet, and if so, how you can manage one successfully.


The founder of Catch and Fillet, “Chum Charlie”, has been writing articles within the fishing community for over 9 years. He got his nickname due to his preference for chumming while he is fishing. Chumming is a common practice that is used in the ocean to lure various types of fish to the boat. Chum can consist of various fish parts that attract fish due to its overbearing odor.

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