Tippet material and what makes sense for fall steelhead.
There are many options in today’s fly-fishing market for tippet material with many companies and many products to choose from. If you are entering the fly fishing world from regular fishing world, you will be further confused by “X” ratings instead of “pound” ratings. What does that mean? Instead of answering these questions lets take a step back and bring some clarity to the table.
In general, there are two types of materials: Nylon and Fluorocarbon. These two materials come in a range of sizes measured in pounds. They also come in various diameters (thickness) and that’s where the X rating comes from. It is in this realm where the various tippet manufactures compete. Some tippet materials are thinner in diameter with a higher pound test than others. These in my opinion are the best for fly anglers. Supple and strong tippet equals higher knot strengths, better presentations and tippet that is less likely to break on snags or fish.
Fluorocarbon vs. Nylon
Both tippet materials have a designated use. Fluorocarbon tends to be more abrasion resistant, has a tendency to sink, is stiffer and doesn’t reflect light in the water, Nylon is more supple, floats better and has more stretch. Fluorocarbon is often the tippet material of choice when using sub-surface flies or where abrasion-resistance is required. Nylon is usually the choice for dry fly fishing, when abrasion resistance is not a priority and a little stretch is ok.
How to choose your tippet “X” size?
As with all things fly-fishing, there is a general rule and many exceptions to the rule. For good fly turn over, using simple mathematics will get you pointed in the right direction. As a rule of thumb, take your fly size and divide by three. For example, if you have a size 18 fly, divide 18 by three and you come up with 6. So 6X would be a good start. 16 by 3 is a little more than 5, so 5X could be a good starting point.
In a Nutshell
Choosing the right tippet can boil down to a few considerations.
- Fly size?
- Sinking or floating?
- Abrasion resistance?
- Stretch or no stretch?
In the world of fly fishing, you will soon learn that it’s a balance of science and art. Through trial and error, you will discover what works best for you in various conditions. After a while, these considerations become second nature and you’ll reach your preferred spool of tippet without giving it any thought.
Stay tuned for more fly-fishing tips and techniques from ABOTF experts on our blog page.