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Tippet Rings: How and When to Use Them

Tippet ring

Tippet rings have become a necessary part of my fly fishing set up. They increase the life of your leader and make changing tippet sizes a breeze. Simply attach one to the end of your leader with a clinch knot, and then use another clinch knot to attach the tippet to the ring. Easy as can be.

Tippet rings come in a variety of sizes. 2mm is the most common trout size and has a breaking strength of 25 pounds. 3mm is used for steelhead and even salmon and has a breaking strength of 45 pounds. You can also get 4.5mm tippet rings for “big game” such as musky.

For fishing lighter setups, you can purchase tippet rings in 1mm, which are great for fishing smaller dry flies. When using a tippet ring for fishing dry flies, though, I lengthen the tippet substantially to reduce the effect of any increased drag the ring might incur. However, I believe this drag to be minimal and on par with the drag incurred by any knotted junction anyway.

Drawback of Tippet Rings

The main drawback to using tippet rings is that they are small and can be hard to handle. The best way I’ve found to offset this is to feed them into a swivel snap. Tie the leader or tippet to the ring while it’s still on the snap. When done, open the snap and slide off the ring. And oh yeah, always make sure to tie the line to the ring on the end closest to the snap opening. Yes, I’ve made this stupid mistake, usually when I’m in a hurry or in low light!

Fortunately, most companies have caught onto this trick and sell the rings already on a snap. If for some reason you’re buying rings that come loose in a package, I cannot emphasize enough the value of placing them onto a snap.

Tippet rings on a swivel snap.
If the tippet rings don't come on a swivel snap, the first thing I do it put them on one. This will save a lot of frustration trying to handle these tiny rings on the water.

Another potential drawback is that they can be so reliable that you take them for granted and forget to change them after prolonged use. Or at least check them for wear. They can bang off of rocks and structure just like everything else and become worn. Every now and then it doesn’t hurt to retie them, especially if using lighter diameter leaders and tippets.

Some Euronymphers frown on using tippet rings because they have the potential to interrupt strike sensitivity, maybe even cause a slight delay in how the strike is identified. I’m not sold on this argument. Sure, it is a metal object located between you and the fly, but as with drag, it’s diameter is often no bigger than a typical blood knot or other type of leader and tippet connection.

Benefits of Tippet Rings

Overall, I find tippet rings to provide a stronger and more reliable connection than just about any direct line to line connection. They’re also very convenient and make tippet changes quick and painless. I seldom retie a 2mm or larger tippet ring used on a 5x or heavier leader until I’m ready to change the leader itself.

In cold weather, when I can’t seem to get my fingers to do what I want them to do, it’s nice to tie on a tippet ring before heading out, while my hands are still warm. Once on the water, I then select the tippet I want to use in that particular situation and tie it to the ring directly across from the leader with a clinch knot, too.

Technically, you could attach a second tippet to the tippet ring as a tag for a two-fly rig. However, this isn’t ideal because the tag could slide to the bottom of the ring and twist around the main tippet much easier than using a triple surgeon’s knot to tie in a tag directly above your point fly in a perpendicular position. Also, I generally use 2-3 feet of tippet material, and a tag or dropper fly should be a lot closer to the point fly than that in most situations anyway.

Tippet rings on a swivel snap
I often tie the leader and the tippet to the ring before even sliding it off of the swivel snap. Just be sure to tie to the one closest to the opening!

When Should You Use a Tippet Ring?

Any time is a good time to use a tippet ring. I see no serious drawbacks to them. If you’re really concerned about any impact they might have on dry fly drifts, then perhaps using a line-to-line connection is the way to go. But speaking from experience, I have used even 2mm tippet rings when fishing size 20 Baetis Emergers over incredibly spooky fish and have still caught a lot of fish. If you’re experiencing drag or refusals of any kind, chances are it’s because of your pattern selection or tippet size, not because of the tippet ring.

Are tippet rings one more piece of “equipment” to carry? Yes. But they’re relatively inexpensive, usually a quarter to fifty cents apiece, depending on the brand. I haven’t noticed any substantial differences in quality between brands either, so if you’re paying more than that, you’re likely paying for the name, not for any extra quality.

Once I started using tippet rings, there was no turning back. Their simplicity and time saved on the water make them invaluable.

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2 thoughts on “Tippet Rings: How and When to Use Them”

  1. Your last line sums it up “Once I started using tippet rings, there was no turning back. Their simplicity and time saved on the water make them invaluable.” I have not been fishing long but used these from the start: they are still on my leader and will be replaced if need be.

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