Just over a decade ago, there was only one choice of leader and tippet material for anglers to use. Monofilament got the job done then and still works today. With the introduction of fluorocarbon into the fishing industry, fly fishermen now have a second option for adding tippet to leaders or building their own leaders. Factory tied leaders in this newer material also became available in fly shops everywhere. Both materials work well and have different advantages in various fly fishing applications. Fly fisherman should definitely consider carrying both materials on their tippet spools.
Monofilament Fly Fishing Leaders and Tippet
Nylon monofilament or “mono” as it is usually referred to, is still widely used in all types of fly fishing from trout and steelhead to bass poppers and traditional salmon flies. The first big advantage that monofilament has is cost. Mono leaders and tippets generally run about one third of the cost of their fluorocarbon counterparts.
Monofilament is the better choice when angers are fishing any type of floating dry flies or poppers. Monofilament floats well, especially when treated with a floatant paste. This is important because fluorocarbon tippet sinks and will, at best, fall below the surface—creating drag and pulling dry flies (especially smaller patterns) completely under and into the water.
Monofilament also stretches more and is more supple than fluorocarbon. Stretch is a quality preferred by some anglers. Mono is known for it’s shock absorbing qualities. Suppleness allows flies to move more freely in the water. This can lead to a more realistic presentation and more aggressive strikes from many fish species.
Fluorocarbon Fly Fishing Leaders & Tippet
Fluorocarbon’s rise in popularity in the last decade is well deserved. It definitely has some distinct advantages that monofilament lacks. While the higher cost of fluorocarbon is worth considering, in some cases this extra expense is more than justified. Both leaders and tippet are widely available.
This material was originally designed for saltwater bait and spin fishing. Used for large, strong fish that often have teeth, sharp gill plates or live around sharp coral heads. The reason “flouro” was developed for that type of fishing lies in the inherent qualities fluorocarbon exhibits. It is stiffer than mono and more abrasion resistant. It also generally has a higher strength rating than similar diameter nylon mono. This can lead to better hook sets and less fish breaking off. Abrasion resistance is important where coral, rocks or logs may rub the tippet or when fighting fish like a tarpon or snook, where tough shock tippet is necessary.
Fluoro is often preferred when fly fishing with subsurface streamer or nymph patterns. Fluoro is heavier and denser than nylon mono, which helps to keep flies down deep effectively. In order to save a few bucks, some anglers will purchase mono leaders and add fluoro tippet for this type of fishing.
Another distinct feature of fluoro is that it is much less visible to fish in the water than other leader or tippet types. Sharing the same light refracting properties as water, when flourocarbon is submerged it becomes almost invisible.
Choosing a Fly Fishing Material
Before your next fly fishing trip, consider what type of fishing you’ll be doing and what species of fish you will be targeting. This will help determine whether mono or fluoro leaders and tippet will be the right choice.
As always, if advice on leaders and tippet is required, the experts at Vail Valley Anglers will be more than happy to help. Give us a call and make sure to check out fly leaders and fly tippet online!
Brody Henderson, Senior Guide and Web Content Writer