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Flyfishing Tippet and Leaders Explained

The leader is the clear (stealthy) connection between the thick, highly visible fly line, and the fly. In most cases the leader is tapered, so it consists of a thick butt section down to a thin tippet that attaches to the fly. The taper encourages a leader to unroll evenly because the thicker line pushes the lighter line in front of it.

Here's an exploded view of a typical tapered leader.


Tippet is simply the term used for the end of our leader. As we are continually adding flies or getting tangles, the leader shortens. What we don’t want to do is cut into the tapered section of our leader, as that will affect its ability to unroll. So to prolong the life of our leader we add extra tippet to the end. We also might add a long length of tippet to the end when extra stealth is required. A bright blue sky day with calm water would be a situation where lengthening the leader with tippet is an advantage.

For now, to keep things simple, you want your total leader length to be between 8 and 10 feet. That is, if you’ve shortened it to less than 8 feet, then it’s time to add some tippet to the end and increase the length to around 10 feet. The reason we’re talking in imperial measurements is this allows you to use the length of your fly rod as a gauge as to how long your leader is. If you have a 9ft fly rod and the leader is the same length, you’re ready to start fishing.

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