At a Glance: Leaders, Tippet & Backing
Leaders, tippet, and backing are the specialized fishing lines which attach to opposite ends of a fly line to extend the length of the fly line or to finish it off for an optimal fly presentation. Leaders are short pieces of line, typically no longer than the length of the rod being used, and add stealth to otherwise highly visible fly lines due to the clear leader line. Most fly leaders are tapered monofilament or fluorocarbon where the end that attaches to the fly line is quite thick, tapering down to a fine line at the tip where you would tie to the fly hook. Fly fishing uses tapered leaders to allow for the line to turn over and make a soft landing with the fly. As flies are changed or broken off, the very end section of tapered leaders can easily be replaced with tippet material to extend the life and effectiveness of the leader. Tippet is an even shorter piece of line which can replace or just simply finish off a leader. Tippet material is often very soft and supple. Leaders and tippet strength can either be listed breaking strength- pounds as other fishing lines are - or by X-ratings. The X-rating will help determine the size of the flies to use with each. By multiplying the X-rating by 3, you will know that a 4X leader works well with size 12 flies, and so on. Leaders and tippet can be made of monofilament, fluorocarbon, copolymer, wire, and even lead and tungsten core lines for their ability to sink without added weights. Fly line backing is usually a braided line, used underneath the fly line on a fly reel. Putting a backing line on a reel first fills the spool, which increases the retrieve rate as line fills the spool while winding the handle. A full spool also means fewer and larger coils of the fly line which can be retained as spool-memory in the fly line itself if wound onto a very small spindle. The true benefit of backing, though, is the additional line for fighting large fish. The lengths of any given fly line are typically 80 ft - 115 ft and in wide rivers or coastal shorelines, this is not enough line to successfully fight large fish hooked to relatively light leaders. Backing line is typically much thinner than the fly lines and provides that extra amount for a big fish to tire itself out to be landed properly. Whether targeting freshwater or saltwater species, FishUSA leads the competition in offering leaders, tippet, and backing for every fly angler.
The top brands of leaders, tippet and backing at FishUSA include Seaguar, Maxima, RIO, Climax and Cortland.