Merwin: Lose Your Fear of Light Tippets

Right now in much of trout country, it’s small-fly and light-leader time. Sure, there are exceptions, like throwing streamers or … Continued

Right now in much of trout country, it’s small-fly and light-leader time. Sure, there are exceptions, like throwing streamers or fishing a hopper pattern. But August also means Trico spinner falls, small terrestrials such as ants, and often hatches of tiny Blue-Winged Olives on cloudy afternoons. All of those bugs can be size 20 or smaller.

Light leader tippets are essential but intimidate many people. Here are a couple of tips that will help.

First, and to conquer the intimidation factor, rig your fly rod and tie a size 20 fly to the end of your 6X tippet. Hook the fly into a low-hanging branch or bush. Then back away about 30 feet so 20 feet of line are outside the rod tip, plus the extended leader.

Now pull steadily and gently with the rod raised or to the side. Pull harder. You will be amazed at how strong the connection feels and should gain some confidence there by.

A sudden yank instead of a steady pull will snap the leader tippet, or course, which brings me to a second suggestion.

Setting the hook without breaking off the fish is also a problem for many not accustomed to light tippets. (I use 6X very often with small flies, 7X once in a while, and 8X almost–but not quite–never.) It’s important to strike with a firm lift instead of a leader-snapping wrist strike.

When you set the hook, do NOT rotate your rod-hand wrist to the rear. Many people are used to that wrist roll in responding to a strike, but it’s all wrong. In rolling your wrist rearward, your rod-hand thumb might move through an arc of five or six inches. At the same time, however, the tip of your 9-foot rod moves through an arc of five or six feet and at much greater speed. That speed is enough to snap your 6X at the fly knot. Dang! Busted off another one.

Instead, set the hook by lifting your rod-hand forearm firmly up and rearward. Do not bend your wrist at all; keep it locked. In that event, your hand moves about 8 inches up and to the rear. Because your wrist remains locked, that’s how much the rod tip moves also, and at the same speed. You’ll get hooked up without breaking off. And chances are you’ll stay that way.