3 Times You Might Try Using a Heavier Tippet
Updated: Nov 6, 2021
A typical fly fishing leader consists of three sections: the butt, midsection, and tippet. Other times, a much more simple leader can be used that may have less of a gradual taper or less pieces. Regardless of what the design is, the one section that is arguably of most concern to most anglers is the tippet. After all, this is the part that connects directly to the fly and will be most immediately in view of the fish. It is also the most prone to damage and break-offs.
Besides the style and size of the fly being used, the tippet size is also determined by water and even sky conditions. Although a lightweight or more modestly-sized tippet may be the very best choice on a given day, fighting a big fish or fishing around a lot of snaggy cover can be pretty nerve-wracking. Often times you simply have to fish lighter line if you want to have any type of consistent success, but other times the tippet size can be bumped up without any negative effects. A heavier tippet can really provide some added comfort and confidence while fighting fish or even while simply just casting around.
With all of that said, here are some instances when I'd feel comfortable tying on a heavier tippet than what I would normally select...
In Colored Water- The clarity of the water is probably the most obvious thing most anglers look at when thinking about what tippet to use. When water is stained or downright dirty, it allows more freedom in tippet selection. Whether the water is always stained or it's temporarily caused by runoff or wave action, this is the perfect time to leave the lightest tippet behind. If you fish with fluorocarbon a lot, it's also an opportunity to bust out the cheaper monofilament or copolymer and save that expensive fluoro for when you really need it.
At Night- Night fishing is another ideal time to consider moving up the tippet size. Unless you're fishing around something like bright dock lights, line won't have nearly the visibility as it will during daylight hours. Late and early in the day when the light is much dimmer (but not totally dark) would be another time to consider a line change. It also makes sense to go with the heavier line during these times because big fish often get way more active from the early evening through the following morning. If the chance for hooking a trophy increases, wouldn't you feel more comfortable using stouter line?
When using a Big Fly- You can often get away with using heavier tippet with a big fly, even in clear water. Fishing a big streamer is a perfect example. A fly like this draws a lot of attention and you could say "overpowers" the tippet; meaning the fish get very focused on just the fly. Have you ever seen conventional bass anglers fishing large swimbaits? Bass usually aren't the most line shy fish around, but these baits are often fished slowly in clear water and on way heavier line than what would be used with smaller offerings. Of course heavy line is needed to cast those baits and to tackle larger fish in general, but the size of those lures draws so much attention it makes that bigger line size less of an issue. The same applies for big flies!
Upgrading the tippet can provide added peace-of-mind when targeting big fish or fishing around structure or cover that's snaggy and abrasive. To clarify, when I talk about using heavier tippet, I don't always mean a drastic jump in line size. Often times, I'll make a small to modest adjustment, such as going from 8 up to 10 or 12 pound depending on conditions and fly size. Don't get stuck in a rut when it comes to tippet selection—learn to adjust!
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