|Many of the newcomers to fly fishing often ask the
question, "What does the "X" designation mean in a fly leader and how do
I know what size to use?" This certainly can be confusing and many
of the experienced fly fishers don't often understand the relationship.
It is very important, so I want to help you understand it. What is
following is a short story done by a very good friend of mine. His name
is Mike Laskowski and he has been involved with fly fishing for over 25
years, including ownership and operation of a very successful fly shop
in western Pennsylvania. He is a super fly tyer and an expert rod
builder. Here is the "tackle tip" that he explains very well.
ALGEBRA ON A TROUT STREAM?
by Mike Laskowski
With all the new, super strong leaders and leader material on the
market, some people are having trouble using the right tippet for the
size fly they are fishing, and blaming it on the new fangled leaders.
Some of the old leaders
and leader material still on the market are 2 lb. test with a 4x tippet
size. The newer materials are 2lb. test with a 7x tippet size.
A 4x tippet will cast a size 12 fly, but a 7x tippet will cause all
kinds of problems. Yet they are both 2 lb. test !
Choosing the right tippet
for your fly shouldn't be determined by lb. test. It is best
determined by the diameter of the tippet. You don't have to carry
a pocket calculator with you to figure out which size tippet to use, if
you follow a few simple rules.
Let's start with leader
basics. The tippet is the business end of the leader. This
is the end you attach your fly to. A tippet is given an "X" number
which is determined by its diameter, such as 1X, 2X, 3X, etc. This
number, which is in thousandths, is easy to decipher using a simple
formula: 11 - X = DIAMETER.
Take for instance a 5X
tippet. Using the formula, 11 - 5 = 6. That means the
5X tippet is .006 in diameter.
The tippet must be
attached to the fly you are using. There is a formula for this
too. Divide the hook size you are using by 3. For example,
if you are using a size 12 fly: 12 divided 3 = 4, so you would use
a 4X tippet.
There is some leeway due
to different types of flies, wind, and water conditions. If you
are using a sparsely tied spinner in a flat calm, you could easily go 1X
Signs of using too light
of a tippet are the fly spinning and twisting your leader, breaking off
flies while casting, and poor turnover of the leader. If any of
these are happening to you, go to the next size heavier tippet.