A Case for Fishing Heavier Tippet
Matt Hodgson photo
A lot of times when we see newer anglers losing fish, it’s because their tippet is unnecessarily small for the fish they are targeting. In fact, about an hour ago, someone came into the shop and was explaining how they kept on losing fish one day on the Old Man last summer. It was one of their first days out on the water and they just kept breaking off. Sounds frustrating, but we’ve all been there. We discussed that it could be due to any number of reasons, but I then learned that he was fishing with 5x tippet. When I first started fly fishing about 8 years ago, I remember making the same mistake. Maybe it was due to a lack of research, or improper direction at one of the big box ‘fishing’ stores, but I too made the common mistake of going too light. Hell, when I first started targeting bull trout, I was chucking big double bunnies on 3x. Simply not the right play.
But if you’re reading this, you probably understand that fly-fishing has quite the learning curve initially. Something that all of us at the shop have learned over the years, is that we like to fish thick tippet. Of course there are times when you need to go “thin to win”, but the majority of the time we try to fish as thick as we can get away with. As a general rule (especially true on the Bow): if it’s just barely thin enough to get through the eye of the hook, fish it. There are a few reasons why we tend to steer towards thicker tippet, and why we recommend guests of the shop to do the same.
The obvious reason is that we are using stronger line, making it’s breaking strength a lot higher. Ideally, this can allow us to breathe a little bit when we have a fish on and not be completely frightened that it will break us off. Secondly, it means that we are going to lose less flies. Whether it’s from breaking off on subsurface features (rocks and logs), trees behind us (that never happens), or fish.
Probably the most important reason for fishing thicker tippet is the fact that we can land fish more quickly. By pulling harder on fish with our stronger tippet, we can get them to the net in less time. This means that we aren’t playing fish to exhaustion and greatly increasing a fish’s chance of survival post-release. It’s important to remember that after fish are released, they can be susceptible to predators if they are exhausted.
For more important information on handling fish, check out our blog post on: safe fish handling techniques.