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Fly Fishing Leader and Tippet

Fly Fishing Leader and Tippet | It looks like she used the right tippet. Photo courtesy of Duranglers923 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301 • 970-385-4081 

The ‘X’ 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

Practical Use 

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.


This subject 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+

Source: The Fly Fishing Basics


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