The ‘X’ rating system for fly fishing leader and tippet is confusing at first, but doesn’t need to be. I’d like to touch on this a bit to help relieve some of the confusion that many newcomers to fly fishing have with the fly fishing leader and tippet material.
Manufacturers use a simple rating system, denoted by the ‘X’, that describes the breaking strength and diameter of the fly fishing leader and tippet material. The typical scale that these run on an area range from 03X down to 8X, with 03X being the thickest and strongest and 8X being the thinnest and lightest. So basically the ‘X’ size of the leader determines how strong and how thick or thin the leader and tippet are.
Here’s a simple chart showing typical fly fishing leader and tippet sizes on the ‘X’ Rating scale:
Tippet Size Tippet Diameter Pound Test Fish Size
03X .015″ 25 lbs. Big Game Species
02X .013″ 20 lbs. Large Salmon (IGFA Limit is 20 lbs.)
01X .012″ 18.5 lbs. Striped Bass
0X .011″ 15.5 lbs. Salmon, Steelhead
1X .010″ 13.5 lbs. Bonefish, Redfish, Permit
2X .009″ 11.5 lbs. Large & Smallmouth Bass
3X .008″ 8.5 lbs. Bass & Large Trout
4X .007″ 6.0 lbs. Trout
5X .006″ 4.75 lbs. Trout & Panfish
6X .005″ 3.5 lbs. Trout – Easily Spooked Fish
7X .004″ 2.5 lbs. Trout & Panfish / Delicate Presentations
8X .003″ 1.75 lbs. Trout & Panfish / Small Flies
A common rule that helps to determine what ‘X’ size tippet to use to attach your fly is to take the size of the fly, say a Size 16 Parachute Adams for example, and divide that fly size by 3. In this example our fly is a size 16, divided by 3 gives you 5.3333. That would work out to be approximately a 5X tippet size. Say your fly is a size 4 streamer… 4 divided by 3 gives you 1.333, which would in turn be approximately a size 1X tippet. It’s a simple and easy to use rule to help you determine the proper tippet to use while out on the water.
Fly fishing leader and tippet doesn’t need to be a complex part while learning the fly fishing basics. I hope that this article has given you a basic understanding of what leader and tippet are, how they are used in fly fishing, and why you need them. If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to ask below in the comments or drop me a line on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.