Using Tippet Rings- Preserving Leaders/Facilitate Adding Tippet Material : Skinny Water Charters Blog
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Using Tippet Rings- Preserving Leaders/Facilitate Adding Tippet Material

by Captain Jim Barr on 03/23/17

I tie my own leaders for fishing in salt water, and when fishing for Largemouth and Smallmouth bass in fresh water. If I'm fishing for trout, I buy commercial leaders from RIO Products.

For saltwater applications I use a straight-forward leader formula that has served me well. As for leader material, I use your basic Berkeley Trilene monofilament in 50, 40, 30, 25, 20, 15 and 12 lb test. I mix-up the leader sections a bit to create different length and heavier/lighter leaders/tippets depending upon where I'm fishing and for what species. I will use fluorocarbon material for my tippet sections with the exception of top water situations like when fishing cinder worm and small sand eel patterns, but again, nothing fancy, typically I turn to Berkeley for their "Vanish" brand of fluorocarbon. Good stuff and cheap.

I found a leader formula years ago that seems to work well. I tie 10 1/2 foot leaders that consist of a Butt section, two Intermediate Sections, and finally the Tippet (end) section. Here's the formula:
1. Determine overall length of the leader.
2. Butt section should be slightly less than 1/2 the leader's entire length.
3. 1st Intermediate section= 1/2 the length of the Butt section.
4. 2nd Intermediate section= 1/2 the length of the 1st Intermediate section.
5. Tippet= 2 feet

If I have lots of time when building leaders, I will join each section of leader material using a Blood Knot. (I may even smooth Loon UV Knot Sense over the connection 
Loon UV Knot Sense
If I don't have much time, I will simply join each section using the Double Surgeons Knot.

OK, so what's the skinny on Tippet Rings you ask? 

When you repeatedly tie on and cut off flies in your leader's tippet section the length of the leader and tippet gradually shorten, requiring you to add additional lengths of tippet material typically using a double surgeons knot. In trout fishing when you are using commercially produced leaders in varying lengths and "X" factors, it's easy to lose track of the taper and the gauge of the material. When starting out with a new leader you can measure (or attempt to eye-ball) the diameter of the leader about two feet back from it's end, clip it and tie in a Tippet Ring, then re-tie the clipped tippet section onto the tippet ring and then your fly. Then when you have tied on a number of fly patterns, clipped them off and re-tied additional flies, you can readily see the diminishing length of your tippet section as it relates to the position of the ring. To maintain your original tippet length and diameter, you simply strip off a section of tippet material from the appropriately sized spool and retie it with a clinch or improved clinch knot. When using this process you will preserve those expensive commercial leaders. 

An alternative that works well when using heavy commercial leaders when fishing saltwater or when using heavy leaders for largemouth bass is to utilize the same process as described above, but instead of using a Tippet Ring, use a tiny, high quality barrel swivel, such as the Spro Power Swivel ( . They will help immensely when casting large air resistant flies like Crease flies, poppers and hair bugs. These patterns spin as they are cast and the tiny barrel swivel will keep the leader (and fly line) from twisting and putting kinks in your leader/line system.

The following video illustrates the process of rigging tippet rings. I use them in saltwater for stripers, bluefish and false albacore. 

RIO Products makes tippet rings for trout and steelhead, the steelhead versions work great for our saltwater species.

** In the photo to the left, you will see what looks like a snap swivel. As you saw in the video, the tippet rings are very tiny and are packaged by stringing them on the snap swivel. When tying them on your leader you leave them on the swivel until the ring is firmly tied on the leader, otherwise you will surely donate them to the ground or water.

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