Fishing larger diameter leaders and tippet

Sean Visintainer - 06/05/14

Go big or go...

Every year I'm amazed at how light of tippet anglers use for flies. Out of all the sizes we sell at the shop, 5x is definitely one of the most popular. There is certainly nothing wrong with 5x... for small flies. However, for larger sized flies and especially during high water flows (ie now during runoff), it makes more sense to run larger sizes of tippet.

Here's why...

  1. Larger diameters of tippet turn over larger sized flies. It doesn't make sense to use a really fine tippet with a great big, bushy, wind resistant or heavy fly... that thin tippet just doesn't have the strength or mass to turn over those beefy flies that you tend to use this time of the year.
  2. You break off less flies when the tippet diameter matches the gauge of the hook wire. When using thin tippet diameters and large hooks that have thick diameters, knots tend to slip more. Match those two diameters up more closely and your knots will hold better, your credit card will thank you, and you will be less frustrated from loosing flies.
  3. Because of the increased flows or potentially off color water, fish are less discerning. Water levels are higher, fish don't get as much of an opportunity to see the tippet connected to fly. Why not up your odds of landing more fish with stronger tippets if the fish don't seem to mind.
  4. Bigger bugs fish well this time of the year... why not throw them?! This is the time of the year when most of your big bugs hatch... skwala stones, salmonflies, golden stones, brown or green drakes, etc... all of these bugs require larger diameters of tippet to be able to turn them over properly and fish through the heavy currents, so naturally it just makes more sense to fish larger sized leaders / tippet.
  5. Keep your tippet from twisting. Bushy dry flies will twist thin tippets. Ever had that happen? It sucks and is annoying. Increase that leader diameter so the tippet matches the hook wire more closely and you should eliminate tippet twisting.
Rio Products Tippet Spools.

My favorite tippet sizes this time of the year are 2x and 3x... however I'm going to throw 0x and 1x in there as well for big nasty streamers. I know crazy huh?! It works though!

Try fishing larger sized tippets and leaders this time of the year before the water gets low and see for yourself if your flies turnover better, knots stay connected better, and see if the fish mind... they probably won't as long as you present your fly correctly... trust me. ;)

Streamer Stan and Eddy with a North Idaho Cutthroat.