What is a Tippet Ring and How to Use Them In Fly Fishing?

Learn about tippet rings and how to use them to connect your leader to your tippet in fly fishing or to make up a dry dropper rig

In this article we explain what a tippet ring is and how to use them in fly fishing.

We’ve got detailed instructions and graphics to explain all about tippet rings and how to use them

Read on to find out how tippet rings can create a secure connection to your fly fishing leader and save you money!

What is a Tippet Ring?

A tippet ring is a small metal ring that is used to join the leader to the tippet or two sections of tippet.

Each of the sections to be joined is tied directly onto the ring (I use a Pitzen knot) which serves as a join between the two.

The tippet ring allows you to join the two sections securely without “wasting” line.

What do I mean by wasting? Well, say you want to change to a different thickness of tippet or replace a tippet that’s been pulled through a snag, without a tippet ring every time you cut the old tippet off and rejoin a new section, it eats up a small bit of the leader.

Gradually over time, the leader will get shorter and shorter and eventually this will impact on how it casts.

But with a tippet ring you can switch tippets without having to alter or shorten the leader in any way. This will save you money!

It is worth noting that using tippet rings means tying more knots to set up your leader and tippet and can slow things down.

How to set up a Tippet Ring for Fly-Fishing

Tippet Ring Set up
Tippet Ring Set up

Using tippet rings in fly fishing is really simple. First take your leader (or section of tippet if joining two sections) and tie it on to the tippet ring just as you would if it were the eye of a hook.

I like the Pitzen knot for this – it is simple, strong and you tell when it is tied correctly as it pulls up snug.

Then take the other piece of tippet and tie that on to the tippet ring too and you have got an effective join.

It’s that simple. The hardest thing with tippet rings is handling them, because they are so small.

I find it best to put them on a safety pin or snap swivel, which I hang off my lanyard. This makes it easy to grab a single one without dropping it. Sometimes I like to tie the first section of line to the tippet ring before I take it off the safety pin as this guarantees I won’t lose it (they are very easy to drop on account of how small they are).

If you are like me (short sighted), the use of multifocal lenses helps a lot here. I use prescription polarized sunglasses with a progressive multifocal lens. See our article on prescription polarized sunglasses for more info.

Using a Tippet Ring to Make a Dropper

Tippet Ring Set up dry dropper
Tippet Ring Set Up: Dry Dropper Rig

The other advantage that tippet rings offer is they are a good, secure way to make a dry-dropper rig. You can use the tippet ring to join the leader to your tippet and simply tie in a short dropper off the tippet ring too.

This offers more strength to creating the dropper via the tag from a double or triple surgeon’s knot or the Orvis Tippet knot. It also better than tying your nymph off the bend of the dry fly hook, which is prone to failure when using barbless hooks and can make it harder to get a good hookset on the dry fly.

Do Tippet Rings Sink?

Tippet Ring Close up
Tippet Ring Close up: See how small they are?

Yes, because they are made of steel tippet rings have negative buoyancy and certainly do sink if you drop them in water without line attached.

However when used as a joiner with monofilament line (which floats) the line itself has sufficient floatation to not be weighed down by the tippet ring. You’ll find that your leader will float just as well with a tippet ring as it would with a knot-based join.

Do Tippet Rings Float?

No, not without mono line attached. They are made of steel and have a negative density in water, so even considering the surface tension of water, they will sink to the bottom of the river if they are dropped in water.

Do Tippet Rings Spook Fish?

No, I don’t that tippet rings spook fish. When you are trout fishing you are normally using a tippet of a few feet, so the tippet ring is a fair way from the fly.

Also, if you are using the correct size tippet ring, it’s not that much bulkier than a triple surgeon’s knot or an Orvis tippet knot or Double Blood Knot (your main options for joining leader to tippet).

And finally, tippet rings come in matte black color or finish that won’t reflect the sunlight.

What Sizes Do Tippet Rings Come In?

Tippet ring sizes are measured in millimetres of diameter and they come in four main sizes: 1mm, 2mm, 3mm and 4.5mm.

The smaller sizes (1mm and 2mm) are good for small trout and panfish and in truth the 2mm could handle largemouth bass and other more powerful fish. 

Buy Tippet Rings Here at Trident Fly Fishing or Bass Pro

For dry fly fishing the small sizes are better to ensure the leader floats. For nymph rigs, streamer fishing and other wet fly applications the leader sinks so this isn’t as important.

For anglers tackling steelhead or salmon (or saltwater species) it makes sense to use tippet rings in the 2mm or 3mm size to be on the safe side.

SizeUsed for…Strength
1mmUltralight fly fishing15lb
2mmTrout fishing20lb
3mmSteelhead and salmon fishing45ln
4mmSaltwater fly fishing65lb

How Much Do Tippet Rings Cost?

Tippet rings usually cost around $8 to $10 for a pack of 10. Trident sells the Cortland tippet rings in three sizes (1mm, 2mm and 3mm), which come with a snap swivel to put them on for safekeeping.

Advantages of Using Tippet Rings

In summary, here are the main pros to using tippet rings:

  • They are a cost effective way to prolong the life of a leader
  • They are a stronger way to create droppers for a dry dropper rig – useful for targeting big fish on light tippet
  • You only need to know one simple knot

Disadvantages of Using Tippet Rings?

Here are the main cons to using tippet rings:

  • They slow down the process of changing tippet – a triple surgeon’s knot or Orvis tippet knot is super quick to tie and you can join two leader to tippet with just one knot instead of two
  • They are even slower for tying a dry dropper rig as you need to tie three knots vs one knot (if you are happy to use the tag end as a dropper)
  • They are easy to lose or drop, particularly if your close-up vision isn’t great.

How to not Lose the Tippet Rings

As mentioned earlier, you need to put the tippet rings on a holder of some kind – either the snap swivel that often comes with them in the packet or a safety pin.

To have them in a container loose is just courting disaster. You’ll like drop some or all of them. If you drop them in the river, they’ll sink, and if you are on the bank you’ll struggle to see the dark colored rings against the soil or rocks.

I always attach one knot to the tippet ring before I open the snap swivel or safety pin to finish rigging up. This guarantees you won’t lose the tippet ring and saves a lot of frustration.

What is the best knot to tie the leader or tippet on to a tippet ring?

PITZEN KNOT 02 copy

The best knot to tie you tippet or leader to a tippet ring is the same knot you use to tie on your flies: this could be a Clinch Knot, Improved Clinch Knot or a Davy Knot.

But for me there is only one choice (unless you want a loop knot) for this – the Pitzen knot.

The Pitzen knot is amazingly strong, simple to tie and it is obvious when it is tied correctly as it pulls up tight with a little clunk you can feel.

The Pitzen knot is also known as the 16/20 knot because King Salmon anglers use it to try to get the benchmark of catching a 20lb salmon on 16lb tippet! That’s how strong it is.

Check out the graphic or the video below to learn the tippet knot (it will take you about two minutes and five repetitions to learn how to tie it).

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AUTHOR
Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He's appeared in fishing movies, founded a successful fishing site and spends every spare moment on the water. He's into kayak fishing, ultralight lure fishing and pretty much any other kind of fishing out there.
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