Sep 7, 2010

Green Means Go

I always knew Mike, from Mike's Gone Fishin'...Again, had a few things in common with yours truly.  We both enjoy throwing "big bugs at big fish," as he so elegantly stated. His recent post about tippet size revealed another common way of mind.  While I do not yet require magnifying glasses, it got me thinking and a post is in order.

When I first picked up a fly rod, I didn't know what tippet lets start there.  I had read enough to know a tapered leader was required to turn the fly over for proper presentation.  So I bought some of those.  Then I bought a couple more...and then some more.  Finally I got smart and looked into tippet, now I use a tapered lead and 6-12 inches of tippet with a strength less than the leader.  Now when I snag (as I often do), breaking off costs me only a few cents worth of tippet instead of a $4 leader.  The revelation has saved me at least $100 so far.  I'm sure fly fishing aficionados will tell me I'm missing something, but if there is another purpose for tippet I have not discovered it.

Now a little more about tippet and the god sends who package it.  Tippet is rated on an scale of X's. Generically speaking, the higher the number the thinner the line but the exact tensile strength depends on the brand you buy.  Being of bass fishing heritage, the "X" system means nothing and I prefer to know the breaking force in pounds.  Breaking force doesn't change from brand to brand and it is something I can really wrap my brain around.  For example, in the picture above you can see two spools of Scientific Anglers tippet, one is 6.8lb (4X) and the other is 3.7lb (6X.)  Those spools are the only two I own.

The angling I do falls into two categories: big fish and little fish.  I always use a 8-10lb tapered leader but the tippet will change depending on bass or blue gills. This is where the geniuses (or is it geniusii?) who market this stuff have a solution to make life simple and I've come up with an easy memory trigger to quickly find the tippet I want.

First, it is worth noting many brands will snap together to eliminate minimize our need for organizational therapy.  If you can't snap yours together, you may purchase a tippet holder to keep things in line.  In the picture above I've snapped my spools together, but a problem quickly presented itself: I can't read both labels.  One can imagine the conundrum stream side when you pull out your barrel of ten spools and start the search for 5X.  It seems the package designers felt our pain and gave each "X" a unique color - and there is today's pro tip.  If you hadn't noticed that detail, you will now.

I only have to remember "green means go."  Fitting because I usually throw big bugs and tying on the red stuff is cause for a quick confirmation of intention and sanity.  Should I ever get a third color, I'll need a new memory trigger.  When I have twenty, a laminated spreadsheet will be at hand.


  1. You could also get another type of tippet like Frogshair that actually labels the elastic bands. It's a little less confusing if you carry 3 or 4 (or more) like most trout guys do.

  2. They probably label it with the "X" rating...don't they?

  3. I second the Frog's Hair, it's good stuff, it's my tippet of choice. Yes, they use the X, which is pretty standard. The do also list the lb. rating.

  4. I love the color scheme!!! My Rio tippet does indeed have the X, and the lb. test, rating on the band, along with the tippet diameter. That's nice, if I could read it!!!! Getting old is a @#$%.

    And Clif reminds me of an aspect of 6X that I had forgotten - that it insures I lose my fly when (not if) I hang it in the weeds in my backcast.

    Good stuff here, my friend!!! And I'm sure that we have a lot more in common as well. Someday we'll have to step into a stream together and find out.


  5. Check out a new product called the Shark Tooth tippet tamer. It is a band that goes around the spool and has a cutter built into the the band. Pull off the tippet you want, wrap around the cutter, and presto.

    Also, when it comes to tippet for bass and other big predators, try Maxima in 8 and 10 pound test. You won't be dissapointed!!!!!


  6. Davie like.

    I tie my own Snell style tippets on my casting rigs for the same reason and then purposely tie a "weaker" knot (a bowline actually) at the hook so not to loose too much line. I usually get about 10-15 snags per tippet. I haven't gotten around to doing the same on the fly rig yet.

    One thing I haven't quite figured out is the stiffiness match-up between the end of the fly line and the tapered leader butt. Orvis mensions in their one of their Flyfishing Guide that the leader butt and fly line stiffness should be nearly the same. Most of the tapered leaders I find on the shelf have butt ends much stiffer then the "matched" fly line they're to be tied to. I suppose one answer is to tie my own tapers.

  7. Great info Clif, Also that was the first time I saw mikes blog, awesome. Thanks guys!

  8. Sweet post. Good explanation and description. I am fan of Scientific Anglers. It was my fist fly rod kit and I have remain loyal to them when ever I can.

    The Average Joe Fisherman


Clif reserves the right to delete your comment if he is so inclined, but he is a pretty liberal guy so post away and see what happens.