Let's stop the tiny tippet nonsense

Go big on your tippet to give trout a fighting chance
rainbow trout montana
Photo: Earl Harper

One of the more unfortunate fads in fly fishing is the perceived need to cast to and hook trout with what amounts to micro tippet. Granted, today’s monofilament and fluorocarbon technology is pretty stellar, and 18 inches of 7x tippet is stronger now than it was even a decade ago. It’s still overkill.

Surely, the you must use light tippet to catch my trout crowd will rebut me in the comments section. That’s fine. You might, indeed, need to cast a size 24 RS2 on 7x tippet over a finicky Henry’s Fork rainbow in order to get a look. And, sure, that fish probably sees a dozen different RS2 patterns on any given October day, meaning, of course, that it’s the tippet that makes all the difference, right? Uh-huh.

When and if you do hook up, a two-foot-long rainbow on 7x tippet is going to tire and come dangerously close to exhaustion before even the most-skilled angler can bring that fish to hand. Again, I’ll check the comments section later to read the, “Nuh-uh! I catch and release big trout on 7x tippet all the time!” missives.

My point is this. Sure. You might be able to do it. You might be able to entice the strike and ethically play the fish to hand without having to spend 10 minutes keeping the fish alive before you release it with a little hope and a “good luck, buddy.” But you are the exception, not the rule. On that, we must agree.

A quarter of a century ago, when I moved to Idaho, a well-respected local angler preached to the local fly fishing club that 3x tippet should be the baseline tippet for most anglers. Were there exceptions? Certainly. But, he said, if you continue to go lighter and lighter, you need to come to grips with the fact that you’re going to kill fish—or just break a lot of them off.

I agreed then. And I agree now.

Feel free to share your theoretical fly-fishing algebra, but you absolutely do more harm to trout, particularly big trout, when you try to land them on wispy tippet. It’s just not strong enough to allow for a quick fight and a quick release — which should be the ultimate goal of any trout angler in the time of hoot-owl closures, low stream flows, 72-degree rivers and triple-digit days.

Want to be a real hero? Size up to a 4x stretch of tippet and see if you can make the perfect presentation—and perfect very often means that the trout sees your fly before the tippet, anyway. If you hook up, you’ll be doing the trout a favor in the process. A shorter fight means the fish is fresher when you point its face into the current. It might survive the fight of its life and, just maybe, live to hit another size 24 midge.

And, if you think you should go with lighter tippet when you’re fishing smaller water for smaller trout, think again. Small-stream trout generally live in more austere environments. They’re much more opportunistic and, with a few exceptions, anything but “leader shy.”

If you’re chasing foot-long cutthroats or eight-inch brookies, fight the urge to tie 6x tippet to your 4x leader. It’s unnecessary and, should you happen upon a nice trout that pushes your 3-weight fly rod to its limits, you’ll have enough strength in your string to land the fish and see it off safely.

About 10 years ago, I simply stopped buying 6x and 7x tippet. I will occasionally use 5x tippet, but very rarely. And only when I absolutely have to go deep — like when I’m Euro-nymphing, for instance — will I use fluorocarbon leaders or tippets. That stuff lasts forever, and once it's in the water, it’s there for the long haul.

The new challenge, rather than trying to see how many trophy trout you can land on skinny leaders and tippets, should be settling on a number that’s good for you and good for the trout. For many, that’s 4x. For me, 3x tippet is still my baseline (see tips Nos. 120 and 121 in the Little Black Book of Fly fishing).

With 3x, I can turn over big hoppers and stonefly patterns, and it’s not so vividly visible during an October baetis hatch that it prohibits the occasional rise. Hell, on smaller water, it’ll even work for small streamers.

The new “give them a break” mentality when it comes to our trout should extend beyond the “keep ‘em wet” mantra and the pledge to stop fishing when water temperatures hit a certain threshold. It should extend to our tackle and our technique.

Go bigger on your tippet. Be a hero and release your next big trout with a fighting chance.


Amen, brother. Amen.

I agree with the mindset of your comments but in practice longer thinner tippets are more effective. On the Upper Delaware trout are as educated as can be and 5x mono or 6x fluoro are my go to tippets (as well as 18 foot plus leaders). I draw the line and would never consider 7x. However - on the Farmington River in Ct there are times I am fishing size 28/30 dries and I use 7X. My biggest beef with people - you do NOT have to touch a trout after you land it. Keep em' wet and keep your hands off of them. a Simple little hook release while they remain netted and in the water is all that is needed....you don't need them to ever become airborne. I've watched people hold them in the air for their dopey money shot for a minute or more sometimes ? After they are already worn out from the fight this just adds to the potential they won't survive.

To be fair, catching them in the first place adds to the potential they won't survive. Don't you think it's a bit weird, even a bit sadistic, to drag in an unwilling fish just to immediately take the hook out and let it go? Seems like someone should enjoy the interaction.

No, Brandon. I get plenty of satisfaction from immediately taking out the hook and letting them go. And they are always unwilling, whether exhausted or not.

In reading the article and the first 40 comments I am surprised no one is thinking about the difference in fight time between netting the fish by yourself and having a buddy do it. I fish alone 95% of the time here in NZ (south island), and it takes twice as long to net fish when by myself. So most of my fights are 10-15 min, due to the fish averaging 4.75 pound (about 25 inches, or 23 if in fat condition). I use 4x tippet until mid summer, then 5x. Yes, I am concerned about fish exhaustion, but I seldom see fish bodies in the river or river bed. Our rivers are crystal clear and we mostly sight fish, so I would see them.
Also no mention in the comments of what happens to a small fly when it is tied to heavy fluro (or nylon), as it can't move freely. Am I to assume that everyone uses a perfection loop or similar knot to avoid this? I can't imagine having a small fly tied to a 3x or even 4x with a blood knot, you might as weld it to a wire

Wow. I used to feel very much as you did. But I have changed my thinking. Wanna know why? Context. Context, dude. I am now fishing mostly in no-kill waters in Catalonia, where 3-9 pound rainbows and browns are not at all uncommon. Eating dries in frog water. This river has been fished for decades by its guardians, some of whom have been recognized as the best flycasters in the world in international competitions. They care about the fish and the habitat. And these fish will not eat on anything smaller than 6x. And these guardians fish 6x, 7x, and even 8x (.083mm). And I've been converted. And the fish are not stressed if handled well. I caught the same 26" rainbow twice in eight days, healthy as could be, on 7x tippet. But they are in slack water, no current to speak of, and in a tailwater with a very cool temperature. Other situations and other locations, I agree completely with your thinking, especially in heat-stressed waters. I don't fish at all when water temps make fish survival dicey after any kind of angling. I applaud you for your plain-speaking opinion, your willingness to stir a pot, which is commendable. But I disagree with your thesis applied as a universality. By the way, please post a video of passing 3x tippet through a size 18 or 20 fly!

Come bring your 4x and fish with me on my home waters and catch nothing.

Jis saying

Love it! I get all sorts of frowns when I give someone a spool of 3x tippet for trout. 2x for stoneflies, 4x for midges/bwos on the Deschutes. My rule is if I can fit the tippet in the hook eye, it's good to go.

I agree with you totally

Thank God!!! Finally someone talking sense! A hungry fish is a hungry fish. 7x tippet is for those who want to lose fish.

I have some 7x tippet in my sling bag. I've never used it and after reading this, it will go in the recycling bin. Thanks for helping protect our fish!

I agree 100% with the philosophy. Decades ago, it was always small fly or "educated fish" equals tiny tippet in my approach to fly fishing. It's just how I learned and the community of fishermen from which I learned. I'd never actually questioned it. Over the years as I improved as an angler, my percentage of larger fish hooked increased significantly. That led to situations the author alludes to as well as the frustration of simply losing flies due to the light line and big fish or snags. Then about 15 - 20 years ago I realized something. It's far better to start out with the heaviest tippet you can get away with and work down if absolutely necessary. Absolutely necessary became clear to me to usually just mean "can't get the darn tippet through the eye of the hook of this tiny fly so have no choice but to go smaller." If the water's surface is glassy, has micro currents, and/or the fish are supposedly "educated," is fishing heavier tippet a little more challenging? Yeah, probably. But conversely, using 7X -- or 6X or 5X -- because you're incapable of getting a good drag free drift with 4X or 3X is just a crutch masking your weaknesses as an angler. After a transition period, I became comfortable with my new philosophy. These days it's unusual for me to go lighter than 4X (even on tricos, midges, etc.), and often I'll start at 3X or even 2X. Abandon the tiny tippets as the author suggests. You'll land more big fish when you hook them. You'll lose less flies. You won't have to carry as many (or lay out the expense for as many) different tippet spools. And as the author states, the fish you return to the water will be thankful that you didn't play them until near death.

I work in a fly shop. We sell flies. I love it when guy's come in to buy 6x or 7x tippet. I immediately know they aren't skilled enough to fish that light of tippet. I know they will be back to buy more flies.

100% agree! 3X to the dry and the dropper - or 4X to the dropper(s) if I want a better drift. I’ve had friends tell me they don’t even *have* any 3X. What?

There’s another added benefit - it’s easier to get your flies out of trees and snags and you’ll leave fewer flies where nobody wants them.

Western guys and their big stoneflies…

I like the rational thought. Fly fishing trends have gone to a ridiculous marketing of gear and peripherals. Ray Bergman would be an ally of you return to sanity.

Agree 100%.

I never understood the light, thin tippet when I go fly fishing.

All my SH lines are 1X or heavier.
All my spey lines are 15lb or heavier.

Never did believe in playing fish for any more than a few minutes.

Catch and release in healthy form is my motto.

Here in Florida some anglers persist on fishing 4 & 5wts for speckled trout. Does it work? Does it kill fish 7 months out 12? Yup. Do they care?

Interesting. I use 5x, 6x, 7x alot. I play fish quickly with those tippets; constant steady pressure and I get them in and off in short order. Barbless hooks, a net to keep them in water and no photo shoots. If I'm losing fish, it's not visible during the course of my day.
I do see guys that handle the fish an overly amount of time after the hook is out, especially so in videos as they pose and wax poetic over their catch. I do not do that.

I couldn't agree more on the tippet part, but you'll never convince me to use Fluorocarbon! As you said, that stuff is there for ever & ever! I don't know who the genius was that told us it's a great idea to put that crap in the water and let it be there for 10,000 years or more, but they should be buried next to Edsel! Let's use the same enthusiasm for keeping the fish alive and do a bit more to keep our streams cleaner also! As far as I'm concerned Fluoro should be banned from the water.

Nylon isn’t much different as it too lasts for years in the water. How about putting all your waste pieces in your POCKET until you get home to recycle it?

I respectfully disagree, most Nylon monofilament fishing lines when exposed to UV begin to break down in as little as a few months and can become of little threat to the environment in as little as one or two years. The average is about 5 to 10 years in depths of less than 20 feet underwater. Fluorocarbon fishing lines can remain in our environment for as much as 100,000 years with an average viable life of 10,000 years. I don’t think we should be popularizing it’s use with that kind of threat to our environment. The differential in the environmental threat is too wide to compare Nylon To Fluorocarbon. I agree we should all be picking up our bits and discarded pieces of all our fishing lines but that’s a small amount compared to what gets broken off and remains in the water.

The thinner, the less drag and the more natural drift.

This is nonsense. If you are that concerned for trout... don't stick metal through their mouths risking infection, and don't disturb their habitat at all, and don't write for magazines that help promote the sport that might trouble them. 7x is usually too much for anything other than tiniest of hatches... but fishing with 6x needn't kill fish at all. Sure you may break off most of your 20+ but that means you never touched them even with gloved hands. And it means they were back in freedom sooner. So using your logic... 6x is a great way to go. You'll hook more. Tug is the drug. And you'll quick release many of them. Silly article.

Thank you for writing this article and bringing folks and frankly the industry to their senses.
The thinking should be to start with a heavier test tippet and size down if you see boils under a dry fly or flashes down by the subsurface offerings.
I've seen so many striper chasers hook and fight a fish, thinking wow it must be a nice one, and when they lip and lift the fish, it's hanging like a wet rag.
Again thanks for giving folks some food gor thought

Wow, new to trout fishing in Wisconsin. In doing so, have gained the respect for trout. Thats a good bit of insight. Ill take your advice!!!

100% Spot On commentary!!!!!!!!!! Thank you for this.

It's about time someone has spoken out against the ridiculous, micro-leader trend/fad.
Using 6X - 8X is an unnecessary crutch which too many anglers mistakenly rely on, to the detriment of the fish (and casting skills). I realize that the legion of mono-rig, tight-liners want to get deep quick by slicing through the water while trying for that perfect dead drift so you can vacuum every dink off the river bottom, but it would be helpful to think more about the health of wild trout than your personal fish counts.

Go LONG (12'-18') and go STRONG (3x - 4x) for drag free drifts to even the most finicky trout and you will never go back to torturing fish while "fighting" them on 6X or lighter. I fish the tailwaters of the UD system and last season I never fished lighter than 4X (Rio Powerflex Plus), fishing from below, with good success. I was first inspired by George Harvey who wrote that he could fish 3X with small Trico patterns and have no trouble getting drag free drifts - and it wasn't even hyperbole. My one suggestion is to give up your clinch knot and the ridiculous footprint it forms and replace it with the Double Davy knot.

And once you go LONG and STRONG with your TIPPET, then learn how to properly fight a large trout using low rod angles that will allow you to steer trout while forcing them to quickly tire out their swimming muscles.

Let's also stop the, fighting big trout with your rod tip nonsense!

Great advice. In my waters, I've have never felt the need to go beyond 4x and generally stick with 3x (which provides plenty of challenge if I hook up a rare steelie.) I've used 5x a handful of times in other waters, but working on my presentation is a better challenge than struggling to land on light lines. Thanks.

There are hundreds of thousands of miles of water that hold trout in the US. If you're fishing somewhere that you can ONLY get a look on a midge, for God's sake, get in the car and go somewhere else. Tiny flies and tiny tippet is for big egos, not big trout.

Expensive trucks covered in gear brand stickers, perfect beards, and no girlfriend, I know these bro-hard 7x trout clowns.

I agree with this content. A related part of this that I’ve noticed is the propensity of newbies using 5 and 6X leaders!! For nymphing, I generally use 3X and add smaller tippet from there. It’ll cast so much better and be very versatile, but it’s hard to convince some folks.

I never use anything smaller than 5x. Even when using rods as small as my 2 wt I catch plenty of fish on size 18 drys consistently. Anything smaller than 5x has very inconsistent knot strength and seems to lose it's strength after a few months. When using 6x I either have to over play the fish or many break off. I learned to just stop using it and I don't feel like I miss out on strikes.

Isn't fluorocarbon more likely to end up in the water if you're nymph fishing? Snags and such?

5X is my standard for catching the pigs in beaver pools on dry flies. I'll switch up to 6X for smaller flies 20-24, switch down to 4X for larger dries. I very rarely fish for trout with nymphs, and never with streamers. I go for larger species if I'm going subsurface (not an option in some states). I'd rather watch grass grow than fish for trout Kelly Galloup style.

Your comments are right on the money. We put the fish under enough stress just by catching them. The longer the fight, the less likely to survive. I’m ditching my 6x. I rarely use it anyway because I’m 66 and can’t see well enough to tie on flies smaller than size 20 and even those are a struggle. I don’t baby fish and I carry a net to end the fight as quickly as possible. And I don’t fish in water over 68 degrees.

My feelings exactly. I heartily agree. I feel that if you have to use super small tippet, the place is over fished. I’ve never used tippet smaller than 4x. I have had numerous 50-100 fish days. Never needed small tippet.

Totally agree mate. I'd rather see the fish rising again everytime.

I've got similar feelings about the fighting (and netting) bigger fish with a 4wt rod I acquired for a specific application. I'll be leaning into this for starters, going no smaller than 5x TroutHunter nylon when absolutely necessary.

Glad to hear. I hate working with 6x anyway... And I'd prefer to have less janging around on my tippet holder.... Carrying 3,4,5,6 nylon and fluoro gets ridiculous. I'm with you, won't buy any more....

Bravo...someone finally called B.S. on the "light tippet is more sporting" myth! Anyone who has bothered to look at what's actually happening can see that the longer it takes to land a fish, the more likely that fish is to die from exhaustion, or to break off and have to live with a fly in its mouth, which can also cause maiming, infection and sometimes death. I haven't fished 5x or lighter in years and although I've caught fewer numbers, the fish I do catch get landed fast and released fast. It's absurd to see people who use barbless hooks, wear rubber-soled boots and donate to every conservation nonprofit who asks, continuing to fish light tippet (especially flouro) that indirectly kills fish and pollutes the waters. Mr. Hunt has very correctly noted that the "emperor has no clothes" in this realm...

To complement your story…good fly beats finesse..large flies work on pressured fish often…caught many large “bows” on steelhead patterns,… however exception streams like Fall River..Hat creek..Slough creek..and San Juan..light gear (midge fishing)..very acceptable as water temps below 55 enable survival rates…

You are essentially stabbing fish in the face. Catching trout at all increases mortality rate. To argue, that 3x is somehow more humane than 7x is incredibly debatable. "Fighting" fish effectively should be your focus. I see anglers all the time hooked up, not moving, not engaging the butt of the rod. What contributes to mortality after a fight is how stressed that fish was before or if they can recover from that lactic acid load, ie water temp or if it was caught recently. so if it's very pressured waters and borderline temps, then maybe consider laying off.

I've evolved on this topic -- as my presentation has become better, my leaders have gotten longer (now at least 12 feet), and my patience has increased. My experience: I am able to catch large, difficult browns with good frequency, mid-day, using small dry flies on 4x or 4.5x tippet. I have heard **MANY** fellow fly-fishers remark that you simply cannot catch big browns on dries on the Upper Delaware with 4x in the daytime, rather needing to go with 5x, 6x or 7x. Not true. I have plenty of proof to the converse using 4x or 4.5x. Most important is how you position yourself ** before** the cast, how you present the fly to the fish, whether you tie your own, unique pattern variations, and how patient you are so that you limit the number of casts needed to achieve a great drift. This the formula for success in my experience. Tight lines!

I never fish heavier than 5x tippet and can't think of more than a few times where I've really had any significant fight at all from a trout and those have been in situations where tippet wouldn't have hastened the fight because the difficulty was driven by me being in a poor position to land a fish. As a species, they really aren't strong fighters and the thrill to me is more of the targeting, stalking, and enticing of the strike. If I were targeting 24"+ bull or tiger trout, then I'd probably size up, but I haven't found myself in that situation yet and the large fish I have caught have been brought in and released relatively quickly.

Hear! Hear!
Go big or go home.......tippet wise

Reading this article was an absolutely waste of my entire time. Do what you can to put a few fish in the net and have a great day. And don't let some asshole like the author take anything away from a solid day on the water.

This is a bit much. It is very dependent on the location and presentation. In the winter I fish the San Juan and sometimes leeches, San Juan worms or egg patterns are ok and appropriate with larger tippets. But when the fish are keyed in on size 22 and smaller midges (which is a lot), you have to go small. It is amazing how strong these fluorocarbon tippets are, I find, especially with Euro rods with a soft tip. One can put a lot of pressure on the fish to land it quickly. In the summer and fall, I do prefer larger flies and larger tippets on the freestone rivers. But fly fishing is all about exploration and finding what works for each location, and each fisherman. So this one size fits all theory just doesn't work. IMHO.

I use as heavy a tippet as I can get away with. Usually 1x or 2x for streamers 5 or 5.5X for dries. I don't consider 5x to be especially light tippet. On a static pull 5x Trouthunter can probably take more pressure than most people would want to put on a rod. Use what you're comfortable with. I consider 7X to be a bit silly for playing a big fish but I've landed many a 20"+ Upper Delaware Brown on 6X pretty quickly. I do think it's funny that people want to throw shade at someone who maybe uses light tippet to head hunt 3 or 4 nice fish in a day but the "50+ fish a day" Euro nymph bros get a pass. Who's doing more damage?

"I do think it's funny that people want to throw shade at someone who maybe uses light tippet to head hunt 3 or 4 nice fish in a day but the "50+ fish a day" Euro nymph bros get a pass. Who's doing more damage?"

Point well made, Zach.

I agree 100 percent!! I nymph fish the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that has extremely skittish, wild trout. I use 4x tippet 95% of the time, 3x in dingy water, 2x with streamers and 5x in low, clear water on rare occasions. My goal is to catch fish, not fight them. I have averaged 26/trip since keeping records in 1989 (so 4x or bigger works). It’s small enough to catch numbers and strong enough to catch a 27 inch 9 pound brown.
Going smaller isn’t necessary on my waters.

Jim Parks

Thank you,Thank you for saying this aloud and in an article. I have professed this for some time and get so frustrated listening to stories by anglers bragging how they landed this monster fish on 6x even 7x tippet. In my mind I'm thinking, "and killed it." Not much glory in that. The fly-first presentation is hugely beneficial but gets little attention. Thanks for mentioning it.
On a final note, and maybe I shouldn't bring it up in this forum, but even when I fish tenkara, I still use 3x tippet most of the time but always between 4x and 2x. I rarely if ever use 5x or 6x and cringe at the thought of tying with 7x. No one is ripping.lips either. I just want to bring the fish in quickly and safely. I want that fish to survive, hell, thrive and as you said, grow bigger. If your tenkara rod breaks on 3x tippet, get better rod. I fish with a reel as well. Thank you for writing this article. It needs to be talked about more.

George Harvey is smiling down on you.

I get the articles content and on a certain level agree with the premise that the author proposes. I agree that by using a heavier tippet I probably could "horse" a trout to the net sooner and perhaps I need to revisit the need for a longer leaders (so I have more s curves and a little longer drag free drift) for dry fly fishing. I'll keep these things in mind going further, especially in warmer months.

However, I think that like most "organizations" [fly fishing as a whole and fly tackle vendors being likened to an organization] the tone is set at the top and if you want to change behavior for the masses it has to come from the top. In other words if it's leaders espouse a belief within the organization, as a whole, the organization generally adopts, complies and promotes it as well. I think that those "key people" that we follow [you know the guys you buy the books and videos from, come to see at the annual fly fishing shows, and who come speak to your fly fishing club] need to commit to this so that it self-propagates. However, I don't see that happening anytime soon, especially as they are "sponsored" by the same tackle vendors that are out selling, and advertising that you need this 6X, 6.5X, 7X, 7.5X and 8X this stuff.

When I think about $49.00 for a 100 yard spool of flouro tippet and how one could literally spend as much as a good medium to high-end fly rod just to load up on tippet, all I can think of is which one gives a better profit margin...I'm guessing the tippet. So I ask really what's the incentive for the manufacturer or the "sponsored expert" we follow/listen to to tell us not to buy or use anything thinner than 4X-5X. Until we see more of that in real life or books/videos it probably won't happen. That's the reality of things.

For now, it will need to be an individual effort. I do thank you for expanding my mind with your article and will consider going up a size or two to see what "happens" the next time I fish. If nothing else you've planted that seed in my mind and hopefully in many others.

I have quite a few anecdotes on using bigger tippet. Friend of mine regularly catches browns 6lbs and up from a spring creek using hoppers or streamers. I couldnt understand how he is able to land those big fish on 4x or 5x tippet so I asked him one day... what tippet are you using? He replied "0x".

Last year I did my annual bonefish trip to the Bahamas. Guide I fished with for the first time asked what tippet I had on. I replied "16lb fluoro". He said "put on 20lb". In a five day trip I used 20lb all the time time .. landed 3 bones over 10lbs included a 14lb new best for me. Guide said he had been guiding 29 years and only had a handful of 14's to the boat.

I fish for big browns and big bows... I use 4x with nymphs and dries, 3x with hoppers and streamers. I have some 5x in my bag... might use it couple times a year with small nymphs.

One size does not fit all situations. When I lived in North Carolina I could quickly land, keep wet, and release and trout in the state on 6x. I moved to Oregon and had to bump up to 4x.

100% agree. Been at this for 40 years while living in the US trout mecca. I cringe when I watch the crowd "play" any size fish till the fight is gone from the fish -- that's a dead fish. Anything under 20" should be to hand in about 30 seconds. 4X is my standard but fish 3X when I know I'll be into the >20 inch crowd. Thanks for bringing this point up -- it's absolutely the #1 killer of fish.

Great article and thanks for raising this issue. Get them on and get them off!

Great article and I agree totally. We can only guess how many fish end up surviving after they have been landed. Even though they may appear to swim off happily after being "revived" for a little bit, we don't know how that fish is doing later on. The uncomfortable truth is that it may be floating belly up downstream. It's convenient to tell ourselves the story that "he'll be alright" after seeing the landed fish swim away, but...it's just a story we want to believe. I want to believe it too. I view the author's recommendations to be consistent with the values of conservation. Using larger tippet allows the angler to get the fish in faster. That exhausts the fish less and hopefully leads to a higher likelihood of the fish being able to feed and tread water when we are done for the day and are driving home.

I used 7x tippet. Once. After 30 min of trying to thread it and constantly breaking the knot, I decided that 30" brown would take 5x or nothing.
Since then, I've adopted Lefty's rule: Use the biggest tippet that will thread through the flies eye.

I don't even have anything smaller than 6X in my vest. I don't fish anything smaller than a #20 these days; eyesight. George Harvey wrote about tippet size a long time ago, made sense then and makes sense today.

After reading a lot of these comments, there are many that reflect my philosophy. If you are fishing the Ranch on the Henry's Fork in summer, fishing a dry fly with the typical 14-16 hook during a baetis, PMD, Caddis hatch, most anglers begin with 5X and if they get refusals go down from there. For me personally my sweet spot is 5.5X. A few weeks ago fishing near Ashton I was fishing a size 24 midge with 6.5X and I did get an eat and landed a big rainbow. On the middle Provo in Utah, I'm fishing 26's and sometimes I get refusals on 6.5X, so I drop down to 8X, but the fish are smaller. so I land them quickly. My point is the tippet most experienced anglers use is correct for the situation based upon experience and also experimentation. Your point about killing a fish in 72 degree water is largely preposterous. No one should be fishing for trout in 72 degree water! Leave the Henry's Fork and find a good tailwater like the South Fork and fish the top section where the water is cool all summer long! Conversely if you are using fine tippet in the winter, there is plenty oxygen for the fish in that 40 degree water. Experienced anglers know how to fight fish and land them quickly, regardless of the tippet strength. Inexperienced fishermen tend to break fish off if their tippet is too light. Problem solved! And I also agree with another post here who pointed out handling fish is a much bigger threat to their life than taking a little extra time in the fight. I rarely touch a fish when I am wading. They stay in the net nice and wet while I'm removing the fly. -Bolderado

Amen, well written. I guess the concept of lengthening your tippet takes a back seat in place of using smaller tippet. Personally, I detest tying knots with 6x plus.

I would tend to ask about what rod you are using. Rods typically used for streams in the west definitely are going to need babying. But even then, one's ability to put on more than 4 lb of pressure is difficult. I fish spring creeks with a short full flex rod and have no trouble getting larger fish in fast. When I went out for salmon in Alaska the guide had to instruct me to ease off on the pressure in order to keep them from getting off.

Good article. I cant remember ever using 7x or 8x. 6x very seldome. 4&5 is my norm. But I am far more concerned by the maiming of trout through the use of treble hooks and barbe hooks that some folks use and rip the mouths of trout rather than cut a fly off. Trebles should be outlawed.. Not only do they tear mouths up, but they are also more likely to snag and rip a trouts body open allowing infection to kill. I cant tell you how many trout I have found dead with thir faces ripped half off or torn bodies. As for flyfishermen , Crimp your barbs or go barbless. If you do put a hook into bone cut the fly off rather than tea up that fish's mouth or face.

Thanks so much for writing about this topic. Excellent writing, and you are spot on in your analysis. I have been a Montana fly fishing outfitter and guide for almost 50 years, and the "tiny tippet" deal is one of my pet peeves. What many anglers do not understand is that the single, biggest factor in reducing trout mortality from being caught is reducing the "interval", the time between hooking a trout and landing and releasing. The longer this interval is, the higher the mortality rate, and lactic acidosis is the killer. Like we do whenever we are put in a physically stressful situation, think running a 26 mile, 385 yard marathon race, lactic acid build up will occur. This same condition, lactic acidosis, occurs from fighting a trout for too long. When I am guiding, I cringe when my angler starts adding light tippet to his leader. The result of utilizing very light i.e. 6x-7x tippets will always increase the "interval" unnecessarily and jeopardize the trout's survival. If I have an angler that is utilizing very light tippet and is nursing a large trout to net, I have a standard line I use. I simply say, "Let's get 'em landed! We don't need to teach them how to swim!" What is incidious about lactic acidosis, is that it takes some time for it to dissipate. Liver and kidneys clear lactic acid, but if there is too much lactic acid, the organs cannot keep up. So, even if an overplayed trout is held in the current and swims away, there is still a VERY HIGH probability that the fish will die. Do I use 6x? Sure, but when I do, I lean into the fish and do everything I can to shorten the hooking-to-release interval. Leaning into a larger trout on a light tippet has cost me a fish or two, but I know that if my goal is to shorten this interval, and understand the benefits to the trout far surpass my deflated ego when a big one gets away....

While you are here (and everything about this article is spot on...been fly fishing for 50 years) can you please write something about getting rid of the "timer fish selfies"??? I hate watching a trout all folded in a net, while the angler gets his/her phone ready, finds the camera, sets the timer...takes a couple of minutes to find a "balancing place" for the phone (rock, bank etc), then take a practice selfie, then the real thing. Only for that fish to go swim away and die. Its awful for fish, and nobody seems to be talking about it.

I definitely buy into this.

No problem here. I agree with you. The lowest I go is 5x and not that often.

Great perspective. I would add to the picture taking crowd (unfortunately including some of today’s “guides”) to please quit holding the fish in the middle with their weight pressing on internal organs. Thank you.