Understanding Tippet for Dry Flies.

Posted by & filed under News.

As we enter September with cooler days and nights, the water temperature begins to drop, and the trout once again start to feed high in the surface. Add the appearance of the Daddy Longlegs and large late season buzzers, September can offer some fantastic dry fly sport. Fish that have grown on over the summer months look to exploit the additional food items and encouraged by the cooler water temperatures, they go hard on the feed.

A common question we often get asked in the lodges of all 3 fisheries is what tippet do you use for dries or what would you recommend? So much so, I have decided to cover the choice of tippets and when we would use the different types in this blog.

Firstly, let us investigate the benefits of Fluorocarbon tippet material. Fluorocarbon is a denser material than tradition nylon and Co-polymers and therefore naturally sinks. Fluorocarbon also has nearly the same refraction index as water so in virtually invisible to the fish.

A spool of Fluoroflex Plus tippet in 8.5lb.

Therefore, this makes Fluorocarbon most people’s go to material when fishing dries, particularly when they are fished for a short time on the surface and fan casted around the boat. The leader sinks into the film disguising it from the fish and beds the flies nicely on the surface. However, one drawback to fluorocarbon is that it can cause small flies to be dragged under the surface either when recasting or when they have been left on the water’s surface too long. Personally I find that Fluorocarbon is perfect for large flies; daddies, hoppers and Big reds. Additionally, it can also be used with crippled midge type patterns if they are not left too long on the surface. My own personal choice for Fluorocarbon for dries is the RIO Fluoroflex Plus in either 8.5lb or 7lb depending on the size and style of flies I am using. With large daddies, hoppers & Midas, I will use the 8.5lb and for small flies such as crippled midge I will scale down to the 7lb. The lighter the tipper the thinner the diameter and therefore the less dense so will not drag the small flies under as easily.

A crippled midge sitting perfect in film using RIO 7lb Fluoroflex Plus.

However, there are occasions when Fluorocarbon is not suitable for fishing dry flies and can disadvantageous to your catch rate. When using CDC patterns I have found that Fluorocarbon is not suitable unless it is in very fine diameters such as 5lb 5X as the dense fluorocarbon of wider diameters, when lifted off the water to recast, can bed in so deep into the surface that the flies will dip under the surface causing the CDC to become water logged and therefore less buoyant. This is where Co-polymer is fantastic, as it is not as dense as Fluorocarbon so does not sink at the same rate. In fact, it is so light that it often floats suspended by the surface film. This makes it perfect for keeping light flies or CDC patterns afloat.

A pair of CDC’s sitting nice and high due to the Co-Polymer.

However, it does require a Mud degreaser to ensure it does not float on top of the surface film making it very visible to the trout. Fluorocarbon also benefits hugely from the use of a Mud degreaser as this will tone down the shiny surface that some Fluorocarbons have which often makes the difference when fishing dries in tough conditions. Personally, I feel the degreasing of tippet is one of the most overlooked aspects of dry fly fishing where such a simple thing can make such a difference to your catch rate.

A tub of Fulling Mill Mud used to degrease the tippet.

Another occasion when Co-polymer can be advantageous to Fluorocarbon is to minimise the effects of what is known as drag. Irrespective of weather and water they may be occasions when you seem to get are a lot of aborted offers or refusals to your flies. This may be due to the Fluorocarbon tippet causing the flies to drag, any river anglers know drag will result in refused takes. Drag is something that is very rarely thought about by lake anglers. Drag is when the flies move quicker or slower than the current on the river and can be tested by observing the speed of floating debris in relation to the speed of your flies; is your fly moving quicker than the debris..? If the answer is yes, the fly is being affected by drag and moving in an unnatural manner. On a lake drag can be caused by keeping your line too tight to the flies when drifting which holds them back against the waves; therefore dragging. Additionally, Fluorocarbon tippet can also cause drag by digging in so well into the surface that the flies become trapped in position in the surface film by the pull of the sinking fluorocarbon. Some days this is fantastic and just how the fish want it. However, on other days they do not, and you get fish rising to the flies only for them to realise that the flies are not acting naturally on the surface and turn away. On these days changing to Co-polymer can be like turning the lights on, suddenly you are getting head and tail rises over the top of the flies as they drift naturally around high in the surface film. To help even more a 5ft floating poly-leader can also be used to help keep the leader even higher. Next time you are out on the water, watch the natural insects on the water and see how the react to the waves and currents and make a note whether are your flies doing the same…?


Spool of RIO Powerflex Plus Co-polymer.

This idea of drag caused by fluorocarbon was something I had never thought of for years just sticking to Fluorocarbon. Until I shared a boat with dry fly expert Gareth Jones, where I rose a lot more fish but everyone Gareth rose, he caught. It was not until the next day when we had the usual talk to discuss the whys of the day, he mentioned that is was likely due to the leader. That the small amount of drag can cause a lot of interest to flies but not necessarily positive takes.

Fish taking a CDC postivily fished on Co-Polymer.

Another key advantage that co-polymer has over fluorocarbon is the strength to diameter ratio. Co-polymer is stronger for a similar diameter than fluorocarbon, so you can fish finer diameters which will help with the positive takes. When it comes to Co-polymer, I tend to go for diameters rather than breaking strain, preferring to look at the X rating which is a universal system for tippet diameters, the higher the number, the thinner the tippet. Personally, I tend to opt for around Co-polymer in 4X or 5X as its stronger than the fluorocarbon equivalent.

I hope you have found this blog interesting and it will give you a little more knowledge and tips on when you should use fluorocarbon and when to use Co-polymer.

To coincide with this blog we have done an offer for FREE SHIPPING on all RIO Fluorocarbon and RIO Powerflex Plus, along with the option of purchasing Fulling Mill Mud with the Tippet at 1/2 price. Please follow this link to the special offers page to take advantage of this great deal.



Tom Bird