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What is the difference between tippet and plain old mono or fluorocarbon? Can't I just use fluorocarbon and save some cash?

Setup

Tippet comes in small rolls such as this:

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Whereas you can buy a roll of fluorocarbon cheaper:

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  • 1
    Not all flurocarbons are the same. If you buy something marked as tippet, you know is designed to be thin, light and flexible and present the fly well. Fluorocarbon can be stiff. Also for many fishermen 50 or 100 yards on a roll is many life times supply. On top of it, its marketing. Fly Fishing is not cheap, many fisherman just don't care what it costs, especially if it improves ()or merely claims to) the chance of landing a fish. – user5330 May 9 '17 at 20:22
  • I wonder if, in practice, it doesn't matter at all. – Dan Andrews May 9 '17 at 20:33
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    When you compare the same diameter of fluorocarbon line with fluorocarbon tippet, the tippet material is stronger. That means you can use a thinner tippet of the same strength and get a more supple tippet that will give a more natural drift - does it matter? Not to me, my cast is so bad any presentation that does not scare all the fish for 100's of meters is a bonus, for more skilled and serious fishermen who actually go fishing to catch fish, probably it does make a practical difference. . – user5330 May 10 '17 at 3:27
  • Fluorocarbon has its advantages and disadvantages. It has more abrasion resistance and is less visible underwater, but it stretches less and is stiffer. In some situations you may prefer a supple tippet material (like when fishing small dry flies where you want a drag-free natural movement) and in others you want a material that stretches more because it can absorb more shock (beyond what your rod already can). Fluorocarbon being stiffer also means that some knots are harder to tie and may hold less. – Kenji May 11 '17 at 16:42
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You CAN use the fluorocarbon for tippet. In fact many high quality tippets ARE made of fluorocarbon.

What you get by buying the smaller roll of tippet is portability and the ability to conveniently carry several different sizes.

When fly fishing you will need to adjust your tippet according to the size/type of fly you are using and to how leader shy the fish are.

A heavier/bulkier fly will require heavier tippet just to permit a well controlled delivery. If you are throwing very small dry flies you might need 7x or smaller tippet to reduce the line's effect on the fly as it floats in the water or to minimize the chance of spooking a trout.

In a given outing I regularly change my tippet (at the end of my leader) 3-4 times. Sometimes I'll increase the leader length by adding a bit of 4x, and then tying on 5x, and then some 6x - the idea is to drop down sizes as you go so that each subsequent section requires less energy to turn over - giving a smoother delivery.

Carrying large rolls of fluorocarbon isn't practical on the stream or bay. Also you may not be able to find large rolls of very fine tippet.

4

Yes. You can use whatever you want for the tippet. There is no fly fishing police that enforce tippet rules. Not like the police who enforce the fishing license rules, the barb-less hooks rules, or the targeting fish out of season rules.

Granted, your choices of tippet material may produce differing results but nothing works in every situation. Give it try and see what happens. If you're not happy with the results, try something else.

  • There is nothing magical about tippet material, like stiffer or anything? At those diameters, I can't imagine it would make much difference anyway. – Dan Andrews May 10 '17 at 21:11
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The other two answers are correct. You can use plain old nylon or fluorocarbon monofilament lines and save cash (with the pitfalls mentioned by the others).

Keep in mind, however, that specialised tippet brands sometimes use better materials or do fancy things to their lines like coating them with UV or abrasion resistant materials, so you may want to go for them if you want good quality. It is possible to buy large bulky spools of specialised fly fishing tippet (like Stroft, incidentally one of the best in the market) from some brands, so you still get to save money.

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