To answer this question, let’s make sure that the difference between leader and tippet is understood. A leader is typically a tapered section of line ranging from 6 - 15ft long that you purchase at a fly shop. Tippet is a small section of line that is tied onto the end of a leader.
The first time you use a leader it is not essential to tie on tippet. Once you swap out your flies once or twice you’ll want to tie on tippet material. If you don’t use tippet material you will eat away your leader fast. Leaders aren’t cheap so buying tippet is to your advantage. Below we will discuss different kinds of tippet and when to use them.
Nylon tippet material is strong and fairly inexpensive. It will naturally float which makes it ideal for fishing with surface flies. It can also be used for subsurface fishing; although, it reflects sunlight under the surface of the water which can spook picky fish.
Fluorocarbon tippet is a strong material that stays nearly invisible under the water. It naturally sinks so it doesn’t work well for surface flies. Using fluorocarbon while fishing subsurface can make a big difference, especially in crystal clear waters.
Now we will talk about how much tippet is needed for different fishing tactics.
Anywhere from 8 - 18 inches of tippet can work well. Adding too much tippet will negatively affect the way the leader casts. Too little tippet can cause your fly to be too close to the knot connecting the tippet to the leader, which may spook fish.
Nymphs and Wet Flies
For nymphs, 8 - 12 inches of tippet will do fine. If you’re rigging up multiple nymphs, make sure there is roughly 8 inches in between the flies. Fish get suspicious when they see two nymphs right next to each other.
When fishing streamers it’s more common to have a sinking line or a sinking leader than a tapered leader. Tapered leaders still work; however, tapered leaders are not necessary when streamer fishing. Fish that eat streamers are aggressive, they don’t typically spend too much time investigating your fly when they eat it. A 2 - 3 ft section of tippet is all that’s needed for streamers, any more and your sinking line will be less effective at bringing your streamer down.