Do You Need a Tippet for Fly Fishing

Do You Need A Tippet For Fly Fishing?

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. more info

If you plan on going fly fishing, you’ve probably started gathering your gear and tackle. Yes, a good rod, a nice reel, some beautiful flies, and maybe some rubber wading boots are all called for, but there is more, specifically the tippet.

So do you need a tippet for fly fishing? While using a tippet is beneficial and recommended, no, it is not 100% necessary to use it. A tippet will help decrease splash upon touchdown, and it helps provide for a much stealthier presentation too, but this is not to say that you won’t catch anything if you don’t use tippet.

fly fishing tippet

What Is A Tippet Used For In Fly Fishing?

A tippet is a special type of line, the thinnest gauge of line that you will have on your fly fishing rig.

When you go fly fishing, you should have backing or a backing line that is attached to the reel, which is then attached to your actual fly line, which is then attached to a leader, then to the tippet, and then finally to the fly.

In other words, the tippet is the length of line, a special very thin gauge line, that connects the leader line to the fly, the actual lure.

Let’s keep in mind that the gauge of the tippet should not be thicker than the thinnest part of your tapered leader line, and it is generally between two and four feet in length.

Now, you might be wondering why there are so many different kinds of lines involved in a good fly fishing setup.

It all has to do with functionality. So, what does a tippet actually do? What are its benefits?

A Stealthy Presentation

One of the biggest advantages of using a tippet is that it allows for a stealthy presentation.

Remember, that tippet is designed to be very thin and nearly invisible. For any fish in the water, that line is invisible.

It makes it much easier to fish for various species that tend to be somewhat wary of what they eat.

If a fish cannot see the fishing line, they’re much less likely to be spooked away, and therefore you are much more likely to catch something.

Less Of A Splash

Another reason why using a tippet when fly fishing is a good idea is because there is less of a splash when the fly and the line makes contact with the water.

Due to the smaller size and lighter weight of the tippet, when compared to the leader and the fly line, it makes less of a splash when it enters the water, and is therefore less likely to scare away fish.

Can Help The Fly Sink Faster

What is also advantageous about using a tippet when fly fishing is that when you are nymphing, or using a fly that looks like a nymph (insect larvae), it can help the nymph fly to sink to deeper waters faster.

Because tippet line is thinner than normal leader and fly line, it suffers from less water resistance, and therefore sinks faster, something that can be beneficial when fishing for prey deeper down.

Good for Casting

The other reason why using a tippet in fly fishing can be beneficial is because it allows for a more precise and accurate casting technique.

Simply put, a tippet can help increase your casting accuracy, particularly over short distances.

In fact, using proper form and achieving good accuracy when casting your fly without tippet can be very difficult.

It’s Durable

Another reason why you may want to consider using a tippet when fly fishing is because it is usually tougher than the fly line and the leader line.

This can come in handy if you are fighting a big fish with pointy teeth that is likely to tear through regular leader or fly fishing line.

Is A Tippet Necessary?

If you are a newbie and you have trouble maintaining proper casting form and achieving good accuracy, then it may be necessary for you to use a tippet as well.

That said, if your casting technique is good, you may not need one. The point here is that whether or not tippet is necessary really depends on what your own skill level is and how often you plan on hooking a fish.

Sure, you can get lucky and land some good fish without tippet, but it’s certainly much easier if you use it.

If making life easier and catching more fish is the name of the game, then a tippet could be considered necessary.

It really depends on who you ask. That said, you can use normal fishing line as a tippet, as long as you use the right line.

Can You Use Regular Fishing Line As A Tippet?

The fact of the matter is that if you really have to, yes, you can use regular fishing line as a tippet.

Just remember that the whole point of a tippet is to be small and lightweight, very tough, and invisible for fish. Therefore, what kind of regular fishing line is used as tippet is crucial to your success.

First off, if you plan on using regular fishing line as tippet, you will need to make sure that the diameter of the fishing line being used as a tippet is less than that of the leader line.

Your tippet line absolutely needs to be thinner, or at least no thicker, than the front end of the leader line.

Remember, it’s all about being lightweight and stealthy. Moreover, on that same note, if you plan on using regular fishing line as a tippet, make sure that it is designed for stealth, which means that it should be clear, so that fish cannot see it.

Now, when it comes to whether you should use monofilament or fluorocarbon line as a tippet, that is up to you.

On one hand, monofilament line is inexpensive, reliable, and features good shock absorption, but on the other hand, fluorocarbon line, while being more expensive, has much better abrasion resistance, it sinks much faster, it’s denser, and it’s often much harder to see as well.

Therefore, if you plan on using regular fishing line as tippet, some small gauge fluorocarbon line is probably your best bet.

How Much Leader and Tippet Should I Use?

You might think that the length of your leader line and the tippet is only dependant on how much line you can jam onto a single fly reel spool, but this is not so.

How long your leader and tippet lines are depends on a few different factors. Generally speaking, the longer the leader line is, the longer the tippet should be.

A good starting point for most people is to use a leader that is 9 or 10 feet long, with a tippet that is between 3 and 5 feet in length.

If you are using a leader that is around 7 feet long, use a tippet that is between 2 and 3 feet long, and if you are using a leader that is 15 feet long, use a tippet that is 5 feet long.

As mentioned above, how long or short your leader and tippet lines are depends on a few factors, so let’s take a quick look at these right now.

  • Water Clarity – If the water is extremely clear, you want to stick with longer leaders and tippets. The clear the water is, the further fish can see, and therefore, the stealthier your fishing presentation needs to be.
  • The Type of Fish – The length of your leader and tippet will also depend on the type of fish you are aiming to catch. If you are aiming for skittish fish that are easily spooked, you will want a longer leader and tippet so that there is less splash and a stealthier presentation.
  • Stream or River Size & Required Casting Distance – Something else to consider is how large the stream or river is that you are fishing in, compared to the distance at which you need to cast. The smaller the area you are fishing in, and the less distance you need to be able to achieve, the shorter the leader and tippet should be.
  • Weather Conditions – You also need to pay attention to weather conditions. While using a long leader and tippet is great for long distance casting, it doesn’t work so well in windy conditions. On windy days, shorter tippets and leaders are best.
  • Your Casting Skill – How long your leader and tippet is will also depend on how skilled you are at using a fly line. Shorter lines are often easier for newbies to deal with.


What Does 5X Tippet Mean?

The X rating on tippet line simply refers to how thick it is. For instance, 5X tippet is 0.006” in diameter, whereas 8X tippet is 0.003” in diameter.

Keep in mind that the X rating has an inverse relationship with the diameter. The higher the X rating is, the thinner the tippet.

Is Tippet Expensive?

Tippet is not overly expensive, but it does depend on the type of tippet you get. For one, yet, specialized tippet is going to cost more than normal fishing line.

However, within the types of tippets out there, remember that fluorocarbon tippets can be up to four times more expensive than their monofilament counterparts.



The bottom line here is that while you can certainly go fly fishing without a tippet, doing so is not recommended.

As you can see, there are many different benefits associated with using a tippet when fly fishing, and it can definitely help to improve your chances of catching some good size fish.