Tippets and Rigging

IMG_4735“So specifically how do you rig your line,” I asked.

When I first started fishing with Rim some 25 years ago, he said, “Let’s start from the fly back up to the line.  In the last five years have gone mostly to a rig composed of two flies.  This is hardly a new idea, as teams of wet flies have been used since the beginning of fly fishing.  I use a knotless leader, which eliminates an unnecessary number of knots, which reduces failures and hangups.  The best leaders for nymphing are soft and supple.  I use an Umpqua 7 and 1/2 foot 6X leader.  To pair with my .027 diameter line, I cut off eighteen inches from the butt section of seven and one-half foot 6X leader, to obtain approximately a .017 diameter section of leader.  If I did not the taper of the leader at the butt would be as great as the fly line.  I generally apply the rule of leader being two thirds diameter of fly line at the connection point.  I attach the leader directly to fly line with a needle nail knot.  A traditional butt section is unnecessary.  Always be sure to straighten the curls out of the leader before you begin fishing.  You can do this by gently stretching the leader.”

I asked for clarification on this cutting of the leader, “Why do you have to cut off some of the butt section from the leader?”

“Since most, if not all, of the well known rod manufacturers are now producing light weight rods in the zero to three weight categories, perhaps the leader manufacturers will follow with suitably designed leaders.  The fact remains in the leader market that most leaders were designed to be attached to a five weight line.  To my knowledge, Umpqua produces the smallest butt diameter leaders currently available in the market.”


Quizzically I asked, “There are no commercially available leaders that have a small butt section diameter?”

“I would surely like to see a commercial production of a ten foot nymph leader with a .015-.017 butt section with two thirds of the leader length being the finer diameter tippet section tapering down to 6X and one third of the length being the thicker butt section.  As commercially available, a ten foot tapered leader was of no benefit to me over a seven and one-half foot leader, as the ten footer just provided more of the butt section.  Again, I prefer a rapid tapering from the butt section to the tippet section of the leader.”

He continued, “In nymphing, the longest tippet practical is usually the best.  However, the length of practicality is fairly short.  So, to the end of the leader I would add two feet of 6X tippet.    At this point attach the upper fly.  To the shank of the hook, add eighteen inches of 7X tippet.  Attach the point fly, which for me is always the RS2, to the end of this tippet.”

I watched at he attached a twist of soft lead about eighteen inches above the upper fly, rolling it very thin to have it firmly on the line.


Do you ever vary the distance of the lead from the fly?”

“The distance of the lead from the upper fly may need to be changed depending upon the fishing conditions.  For instance, when you are fishing the small pockets you may want to have a shorter distance.  For flat water you may want to have a larger distance.”

Notes on knots–The knots used are the overhand slip knot to attach the backing to the fly reel, the needle knot for attaching the backing to the fly line (where most people use an Albright knot here).  The needle knot is used again for attaching the fly line to the tippet (where most would use a nail knot). and then the blood knot for attaching tippet to the fly line and either a clinch knot or improved clinch knot to tie on each fly (the second fly is attached to the bend of the first hook).

Some modifications have come along in the last 20 years, including many new manufacturers and, of course, the addition of fluorocarbon to nylon materials.  In general, we have found that fluorocarbon doesn’t increase catching rates, and it has the added fault of being less breaking strength for the diameter.  The Frog Hair George Harvey Leader is one of Rim’s current favorites, though it is becoming difficult to find, so he is using other ones as well.

Rim has also started using a tippet ring at the end of the leader, which preserves the leader from breaking off at the blood knot.  It is also convenient for keeping the lead affixed.  He gets 2mm tippet rings in bulk for a nominal cost from https://www.artbeads.com/jewelry-supplies/sterling-silver-fine-closed-jump-ring-0-5×2-15mm/ .


I use Coats Dual Duty Plus Craft and Button thread to tie a loop around each ring, which then help me on the stream from loosing the rings and also help with tying the tippet unto the ring.


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9 Replies to “Tippets and Rigging”

  1. I understand there is only one weight in the rig which is above the upper fly and the weight distance is adjusted according to whether its pocket/drift nymphing. With at least 18 inches or less distance between the upper and point fly I believe the point fly would drift towards the surface and too far from the bottom where the fish are locatged to be effective. I would like to hear your comments. Thank you.

    1. Correct about the spacing, but the spacing isn’t adjusted for pockets, etc., only the amount of lead is adjusted, which also controls the depth. In 95% of all situations, we want enough lead to get to the bottom quickly, but not so much that it is getting hung up on the bottom. There are rare occasions when fish are feeding exclusively near the surface (those are just the ones you can see), but there are often even more feeding near the bottom.

  2. Does Rim now use a soft weight that I can still buy?

    The first or upper fly is now usually one with a bead head? If so, does Rim say why he likes that fly to be weighed?

  3. I fish at Hot Creek where the stream varies from moderately deep at fast to deep and moderately slow to shallow (2-3 feet) moderately fast and shallow and slow. The 14 beadheads have been terrific and works on the Browns. When I say terrific I mean 5 fish in the morning and 5 in the afternoon three days in a row. But at times the RS2s work better. Three days is all I fish, fishing the same places because Hot Creek is only a half mile or maybe a mile at most.

    I thought i would get your idea of the length between the fly and the upper fly with the weight above the upper fly.
    Its hard to fish three three fly which always results in tangling with any wind.

    I also thought I would get your idea about weights which I believe is extremely important.
    I don’t know how the fly gets down to the fish with your method.

    Wilbur Shigehara

    1. I think this page with the link below answers the questions about rigging. It’s usually always 18″ of 6X tippet from the lead weight to the upper fly and then 18″ more of 7X tippet to the lower fly. Please let me know if this doesn’t fully answer your question. Tight lines.

  4. Some people prefer to use lead between two flies tied in tandem. Have you experimented with that kind of rigging? If so, what are your conclusions?

    1. If you’ve ever fished a three fly rig, you could attest to the fact the middle fly is in the worst position to actually catch fish, a fact that many others have discovered and noted such as Theodore Gordon. Similarly, Rim said to me that by putting the lead in the middle of two flies you hamper both of the flies’ natural movements, reducing the number of takes.

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