Fluorocarbon Tippet & Knot Comparison

I spend a lot of time, money and effort to go fishing. My nearest trout stream is ninety minutes by highway drive from my home. My favorite fishing area is four hours by car and beyond that, I often drive or fly to Colorado which is an eight to twelve hour drive and often, quite a hike at the end of the road. I have fished for trout in the Waimea Canyon streams of Kauai and have fished with many experts in Japan on a couple of trips in the various mountain streams of their area. I've used two types of tippet on my trips and what follows are my reasons why I choose what I do.

For all of the time and energy that I take to pick out my target stream, I have had even more time to think about my equipment and compare it to all the other equipment that I've used. I use a technique of minimalism to maximize the quality of my kit. 

With all my experience choosing equipment, the long drive, the plane trip and the effort of getting to where I want to go, the last thing I want to happen is to catch the fish of a lifetime only to have my tippet let go...

Tippet choices are important to successful fishing. Nylon and Fluorocarbon are readily available in many sizes. I choose fluorocarbon for my tenkara rigging. It sinks and is nearly invisible in water as well as it hold knots well. In addition, it is stable in that it does not readily degrade with age or sunlight. Often a spool will last over a season so I continue to use it till it is gone without concern that it will become weaker. I choose a tippet that does not alarm the fish, if I know there are fish and they do not take, I will step down a tippet size until I am catching. .

.8 or 5x is my go to tippet size.

The rod I use basically determines the size tippet I choose.

For example, one of my tenkara choices is a travel rod that I throw in a bag not really as a primary rod but to have if the opportunity presents itself. Opportunistic tenkara fishing is one of my favorite types of fishing. I'm on a trip with my family and I come upon a stream, my travel kit is in my backpack and takes a minute or two to be rigged. The rod I choose is strong but fragile, I don't want oversized tippet if I get into a large fish, I want it to break if I catch a fish too big for the rod.

The lines I design are contrary to most tenkara fishers. I design a line for the shortest length of tippet. I want control over my kebari/fly. I want a naturally presented kebari but the shortest length of tippet to feel the take. Shortest being fifty centimeters or about eighteen to twenty inches, that's where I cut out the tippet and start over. 

I design my lines for one meter of tippet or less.

Over the years, I've used all kinds of knots. I keep returning to the basic 5 to 6 turn clinch knot to attach to the tippet ring on my mainline and the same knot to tye on my kebari. Often I use a silk bead cord eyed Japanese bait hook Sakasa kebari or a Ishigaki pattern on a Tiemco, Gamakatsu or a Owner eyed hook. I also use a tippet ring on the terminal end of my custom designed lines. The tippet ring works very well to give the clinch knot an even surface to break. If I I have to pull off my line because it is stuck, ninety percent of the time, my tippet breaks at the tippet ring. This is what I want to happen. One hundred percent of my fish are caught with a tippet ring and not once ever has my tippet ring failed. They work very well, I suggest you try them.

I use a clinch knot for the tippet ring and to tye on the kebari.

In the last 35 years, I have used many different brands of tippet. Rio, Orvis, Varivas, Scientific Anglers, Seaguar and Trouthunter.

Seaguar GranMax FX and Trouthunter are my favorites for several seasons.

I don't see that changing.

GrandMax FX and Trouthunter are available on fifty meter spools. That's nearly a hundred tippet changes for me. Enough to last through a regular season as I often re-use my tippet from day to day. If I know that I am fishing over rocks in a stream and I'm playing fish around them, I check the tippet for abrasion and replace it if I see evidence in the form of fray or discoloration.

I want my tippet to stay strong until I don't. 

I quit fly fishing more than ten years ago now to learn tenkara from the Japanese. I quit fly fishing, I did not give up my knowledge of where the fish where, the dynamics of casting or the skill in playing fish. Tenkara is a specialized technique and purpose built equipment for that technique yet many of the skills in Western fly fishing apply. I am not fly fishing with a western rod, I am using my knowledge of fishing a stream using tenkara techniques and equipment.

There is no tenkara specific tippet and if there was, I probably would not use it unless it was better than GranMax FX or Trouthunter. There is a single application where I use a non-specific tenkara line for Honryu tenkara techniques because there is not a Japanese tenkara line that does a better job. I do not adhere to a specific recipe in my tenkara, I choose Japanese tenkara techniques because they are superior to western fly fishing in mountain streams and in some applications on a river. The Japanese have refined their tenkara equipment and techniques over the decades and have shared their knowledge readily in their language and through ambassadors such as Hisao Ishigaki, Masami Sakakibara and Yuzo Sebata. There are many other experts in social media that also comprise the body of Japanese tenkara anglers.

Given that, I use the knowledge of our western fly fishers that test all kinds of tippet in a scientific method that is easily replicated multiple times in order to find the properties of each tippet. 

Below you will find a few links that may be of some assistance to you.

02X : 4.0 Go
01X : 3.5
0X : 3.0
1X : 2.5
2X : 2.0
3X : 1.5
4X : 1.0
5X : 0.8
6X : 0.6
7X : 0.4
8X : 0.3
9X : 0.25
10X : 0.2

Yellowstone Angler Tippet Shootout - Knot Comparison

Animation of Tying a Clinch Knot

Tippet Rings

This is a Karasu 400 with 5x or .8 tippet with a silk bead cord eye Wrong Kebari. Big fish that resulted in the hook pulling out. The tippet held strong.


  1. Adam, nice article! I too use a tippet ring, clinch knot and TroutHunter tippet. We have some things in common. I don't catch many big fish, so breakage from fish size is usually not an issue for me. On most of my streams, I too prefer a shorter tippet for fly control and better direct connection with the fly. Again, nice article.

  2. Great article Adam. I almost always use Varivas fluorocarbon and a tippet ring. If both you and Tom use TroutHunter tippet I may have to reconsider my choice. I also use the clinch because that's what my dad taught me.

  3. Thanks guys. Much respect to you.

    Funny, the clinch knot is one of the weakest knots but I know it, fast to tye and I can do it with gloves on if necessary.