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Fly Fishing 101, Part 6
Leaders and Tippets

By now you have heard both terms. It's the piece on the end of the fly line you tie the fly to, right? Well, no. Let's try to make this rather easy. The 'leader' is a length of tapered monofilament, the thick end of which is tied to the end of the fly line. The 'tippet' is a length of level monofilament, one end is tied to the thin end of the leader and the other end is tied to the fly.

Ok, first the leaders. They are about nine feet long, but can vary some. For now, don't worry about it. What they do is transfer the power of the cast gently toward the fly. You will be totally confused by the numbering system, however. Here is what happened. Since the size (diameter) of the small end is important, (it must go thru the little eye of the fly) a numbering system was devised to reflect the diameter of the small end of the leader.

At that time most monofilament of the same diameter had pretty much the same breaking pound test. Anyway, the size was more important. Figuring no one wanted to try to learn the decimal system (.005) etc., they took the number eleven and started with that. Eleven thousandth equals 0X. Ten = 1X. Nine = 2X. Eight = 3X. Seven = 4X. Six = 5X. Five = 6X. Four = 7X.

Got all that? Sure ya do. The easiest way is this; the bigger the number (6X), the smaller the end of the leader is. IT'S BACKWARDS! But, SO ARE THE FLIES; the bigger the number is, (size 28) the SMALLER THE FLIES ARE!

At least they match, somewhat; deal with it. Oh, yes, now the tippets. They are just like the leaders. A 6X tippet will have the same diameter as the small end of a 6X leader. That makes it nice to tie them together. Yup, you tie them together, at least a short piece of the tippet is tied to the end of the leader.

Why? Briefly for this reason, most of the so called 'wind knots' you get casting happen in the two feet ahead of the fly. Knots weaken things. If they are in the leader, it could get rather expensive cutting off the knots, and/or, changing flies. So you tie on about a two-foot length of tippet material. The stuff is not expensive and when it gets too short from knots, or flies, tie on a new length of the stuff.

So there it is. You have a weight forward six floating line (WF6F), a four X (4X) nine foot leader, and a two-foot length of 4X tippet tied on the end of it. Tie on the fly and go fish! ~ JC

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