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Fluorocarbon Tippet – Is It Necessary?

Fluorocarbon tippet is the choice of many fly fishers. It has several properties that make it the superior tippet choice. However, it is way more expensive than regular nylon tippet, and this can shy people away from it. Depending on what type of fish you’re targeting, you may not need fluorocarbon at all.

So is fluorocarbon tippet necessary? Well, it depends on where you’re fishing. For technical trout water, it is often the best choice – as it is more invisible to the fish. For bass fisheries and other warm water species, it usually isn’t necessary.

This post will cover the pros and cons of fluorocarbon tippet, and help you make an educated decision about it. It is a great tool to have, but you may not really need it.

Fluorocarbon Is “Invisible” Underwater

Fluorocarbon doesn’t reflect light as much as nylon does. This means that when you’re fishing it, it is basically invisible to the fish. This can help you get more bites and fool fish easier. It also means that you can get away with fishing heavier tippet, because often times fish won’t know the difference (since it’s invisible).

For trout and other wary species, fluorocarbon is usually the #1 choice of anglers. It gives us the upper hand when trying to fool these fish. On some western trout rivers, it is extremely hard to even catch fish if you’re not using fluorocarbon.

However, this invisibility doesn’t always matter. For species like bass and northern pike, you can get bites with fishing regular nylon tippet. Their vision isn’t good enough to decipher the difference between tippets. It really comes down to the species you’re fishing for and how pressured they are. For really pressured fisheries, the fish get spooky and become hard to catch. This is when fluorocarbon can give you an advantage.

Fluorocarbon Doesn’t Go Bad Over Time

Nylon tippets have a shelf life. The older they get and the more they’re in the sun, they tend to lose strength over time. Fluorocarbon really doesn’t degrade over time. You can hold onto the same spool for years and it will still be strong.

UV rays don’t damage fluorocarbon much. You don’t have to worry about keeping your spools out of the sun light. Since us fly fishers are outside so much, it is nice to not worry about our tippet spools going bad. I have had the same couple spools for a while now, and I still trust their integrity. The same can’t be said for nylon tippet. Nylon tippet has a shelf life and will lose it’s strength over time. UV rays speed up this process.

Fluorocarbon Is More Durable

Fluorocarbon is more durable than other tippets. It can withstand abuse and still remain strong. Even if your tippet rubs on rocks and other debris, it can still hook and land a fish without a problem.

Obviously, you’ll want to replace your tippet if it really gets damaged. I am just saying that fluorocarbon can take more abuse before it goes bad. This makes it a great choice for nymphing, since our tippet is always rubbing along the bottom of the river.

Fluorocarbon Tends To Sink

Fluorocarbon doesn’t float on the surface like nylon tippet. It tends to break the surface and sink a bit. This is great for subsurface fishing when we want to get our flies down.

Obviously, fluorocarbon doesn’t sink that fast. It just has a tendency to go below the surface – because it is a denser material. This doesn’t mean that you can’t fish dry flies with it, though. I often use fluorocarbon tippet for my dry fly fishing and it works well. You’ll only run into issues if you’re using a full fluorocarbon leader, because that will sink relatively quickly. I like to run nylon leaders and add a bit of fluorocarbon tippet. It will not sink your dry fly.

Cons Of Fluorocarbon

  • It is often 3x the price of nylon tippet. While a spool of nylon may be $5, fluorocarbon spools run at least $15. This can shy people away from it because they don’t want to spend the money
  • You must be a good knot tyer. If you don’t wet your knots and tie them well, fluorocarbon can be very weak.
  • Fluorocarbon is less supple than nylon. This stiffness can make it harder for anglers to use. If you’re looking for a very flexible tippet, go with nylon.
  • The fact that fluorocarbon sinks can be tough for topwater anglers. For folks fishing lots of dry flies or popper flies, they may want to choose nylon instead of fluorocarbon.

For Fly fishing, certain brands have really dominated the tippet market. All of them make solid tippets nowadays. These brands are listed below.

  • Rio Products
  • Scientific Anglers (SA)
  • Trout Hunter
  • Umpqua
  • Orvis

I have used Trout Hunter for a long time, and it holds up well for any trout fishing application. I have recently tried the Umpqua Deceiver X line of tippets. It is more budget friendly (less cost per foot). I haven’t had any issues with it, and it’s easier on the wallet.

For trout fluorocarbon sizes, be prepared to spend between $15 – $30 a spool. Since trout fisherman need an assortment of sizes, you can see how this gets expensive.

Umpqua Deceiver X is going to be in that $15 dollar range. While Trout Hunter and some other tippets will be closer to $30 a spool. Some spools come with 30 yards of tippet, while others will have 50 yards or more. Rio makes guide spools which have 110 yards of tippet.

I like to calculate the cost per foot of tippet to see what i’m spending. Simply divide the price by the amount of feet you get. Below is a chart I made breaking down “cost per foot pricing”.

As you can see, cost per foot pricing can vary a lot. Some higher cost per foot tippets are made with different technology. Umpqua’s Phantom X has multiple layers and is supposed to be more durable. People think of Trout Hunter as super expensive, but you see that it’s a modest 15 cents per foot. Cost per foot is really the best way to compare these.

It is good to play around with different fluorocarbons to see what you like best. If you enjoy fishing a less expensive model, then that’ll save you some cash.

If you live near a pressured fishery where the fish are picky, consider trying fluorocarbon tippet. It just may entice a bite from that big fish!