Little Things Matter: On The Water Tippet

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Photo by Louis Cahill

By Bob Reece

Successful anglers are built out of sounds habits. 

Those habits focus not only on the large aspects of fly fishing but also on the small.  Within the realm of those petite practices is being aware of the status of your tippet when you’re on the water. 

Your tippet is often the weakest link between a fly that hooks fish and the line that runs through your rod.  Due to this fact, it is critical to check the state of that material as you move through a day of fly fishing.   A lack of due diligence often results in frustration and sometimes heart breaking experiences.  

On a summer adventure with friends, we had been working through an isolated drainage known for its larger than average brown trout.  While fairly open, the typical stream side vegetation of willow and alder were very much present.  During the morning I watched my friend pop his tippet and fly loose from several different alder bushes.  As we arrived at a large run below a waterfall, I asked him if he wanted to tie on a new section of tippet.  My offer was declined.  

After one round of rock, paper, scissors; he won the first cast into the run.  On his second drift a large brown, over two feet long, happily ate his foam offering.  My friend paused and set the hook perfectly.  Sadness and open mouths followed seconds later when his tippet snapped a few feet up from the fly.  With a little inspection, it was easy to see the abrasion to the material that had built up over the course of the morning.

Situations like this can be avoided by checking your tippet material throughout your time on the water. 

By running your index finger and thumb over the material, any abrasions or rough spots can be easily detected.  If these imperfections turn up, it’s well worth the time to cut that section out and blood knot it together or attach a completely new section of tippet.  

In addition to wear and tear, it’s also important to slow down and take your time when knotting your tippet.  I cannot count the times that I’ve seen friends and clients hustle through the knot tying process, only to see those knots fail.  This is especially true when there are visible fish feeding or a particularly large fish is in view.  Taking the extra thirty seconds or minute to properly tie a knot can make a huge difference.  In addition to tying it properly, I always give the knot a firm and extended tug.  I would much rather have a faulty knot break in my hand than on a fish.  

Exceptional fly fishing experiences are not entirely a result of chance.  As you head out for your next adventure on the water, add to your tool box of sound habits.  Those effective habits with increase the quality of your performance and your fish-to-net success.  

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8 thoughts on “Little Things Matter: On The Water Tippet

  1. “If these imperfections turn up, it’s well worth the time to cut that section out and blood knot it together or attach a completely new section of tippet.”

    The two most common tippet spicing knots are the reason many anglers, like your friend, decline to replace suspect tippets.

    Try the Infinity Tippet Knot instead and the mental anguish that prevents many from re-tying will disappear! This is one little thing that makes a really bif difference.

    And never forget that the Fish Gods take extra pleasure in punishing the lazy angler!

    • Thank you for the video! I like the ease of the knot. I would throw out there thought that not all knots are of equal strength. The blood knot does take a little practice to get the hang of, but it’s strength makes it worth it. It has greater strength than any other tippet knot that I’ve tested against it. This knot strength is less of an issue with supple light weight rods. However, with long distance hook sets or heavier rod weights, that knot strength often makes the difference between landed and lost fish. .

    • RB …Have you tried using the infinity knot for tying the segments together of a custom made leader, e.g. from Maxima Chameleon? Or, is it best used as the last connection to the tippet as you’ve described? Thanks for the tip.

  2. Why are anglers so reluctant to replace suspect tippet? Traditional but cumbersome tippet knots (Blood and Surgeon’s) are a pain to re-tie, so the path of least resistance is very tempting.

    Switch to the Infinity Tippet Knot and you will never go back! Strong, reliable – and oh so easy (and fast) to tie – even with fine 6x or 7x. I have never hesitated to replace worn tippet material since learning this knot – and I have landed fish because of it that otherwise would have been lost.

    The Fish Gods take extra pleasure in punishing us whenever we get lazy. As soon as the thought runs through your brain, “Maybe I should change this tippet . . oh its just a wind knot” be prepared for their full wrath – like that lost 20+”.

    Yes, it’s the little things, like knots that help rather than hinder.

  3. I used to be just like your friend. Reluctant to replace suspect tippets. The traditional splicing knots (Blood and Surgeon’s) were cumbersome to use while on the water under actual fishing conditions. It was always easier to ignore a small wind knot or a slight abrasion and just keep on fishing. Like your friend, the Fish Gods usually made me pay the price for my laziness. Then I discovered the Infinity Tippet Knot and that feeling of avoidance no longer stops me from making a quick tippet change. Strong, reliable, and oh so fast and easy, the Infinity Tippet Knot is an absolute game changer.

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