In just one short minute, cover the characteristics of monofilament versus fluorocarbon and when to use each. Get access to more detail in addition to our Skill Spotlight video.
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As the last connection between you and the fish, your leader and tippet material selection is a critical decision. Your choice affects not only whether the fish will strike in the first place, but also whether your connection will hold.
The Bottom Line – Both Nylon and Fluorocarbon Have A Place In Your Vest
Alright, let’s just get this out of the way. The competition between mono and fluorocarbon is over-hyped. There’s a need for both in your vest. Especially if you are asking, “how do I fish with a dropper rig?” or “How do I fish with two flies?”
- Nylon Monofilament – is more buoyant (less dense material), more flexible, ties snug knots more easily, is far less expensive. However, at the same time it is more visible, and weaker (for a given diameter).
- Flourocarbon – is way less visible, stronger, more resistant to abrasion; denser (sinks faster in fact). However, it results in more bulky knots, and is way more expensive.
- For what is often an entire article of discussion, you can thank BassGrab for this very nice chart. Put another way:
- Monofilament – optimal for small to medium sized dry flies, and your wallet.
- Flourocarbon – optimal for wet flies, streamers, and droppers (per our video, also OK for super-buoyant dry flies).
So, when can you use them together? Here’s an example of how to tie a dropper off a large dry fly, using both materials to optimize the rig:
This diagram addresses “what is a dry dropper rig?” However, if you instead ask “how do you set up a nymph rig?” In that case tie the exact same setup, instead with two nymphs (larger one first and smaller one below it), using all fluorocarbon.
We prefer to go 1x higher (narrower diameter) for the 2nd fly, so if you have a break-off you don’t lose both flies only the lower.
The “improved rig” prevents what can happens when you play a fish on the upper fly. If you snag the lower
fly or even get a 2nd strike, the 2nd fly will pull the first one right out of the mouth. Equals lost fish.
So to summarize:
If you’re fishing a particular day dry flies exclusively, use mono for your tippet for buoyancy. Use the narrowest diameter you can, err on the longer, thinner side to land (most) fish you’ll hook. That way you’ll minimize the chances of spooking critical-eyed fish with the mono.
The exception is, if your dry fly is strongly-buoyant, such as patterns like the Chubby Chernobyl and others like beetles and hopper patterns with foam bodies. In these cases you can use fluorocarbon, not only for stealth, but also because it’s stronger at a given thickness.
This is especially convenient if you plan on fishing both dries and under water, as you won’t need to change your tippet out as much.
On the other hand, if you’re fishing predominantly underwater, then use fluorocarbon. You’ll hook up with more fish because they can’t see it. And, you’ll land more at a given diameter tippet because it’s stronger. Not only is it more abrasion-proof, but you can get away with a thicker tippet which comes in handy when you need to pull free from snags.
Believe it or not, there are people who walk out of the fly shop with the wrong material tippet in hand. Don’t be one – I’ve observed this in person – or you’ll wind up wondering why you aren’t catching, or landing, fish!
Related Article: 12 Best Tippet Tips
By Mark Velicer
An avid fly fisher for over 40 years, Mark has lived and fly fished WA, MI, CA, PA and NY along with countless trips to other places. He can’t get enough of the water; white water kayaking, rafting, drift boating, and hiking to alpine lakes.