Tips on tippets
  |  First Published: September 2003

A LOT of people have been asking me how to rig their fly lines, backing, leaders and tippets, so here are a few tips.

Firstly the backing volume is totally dependent on the species you’ll be chasing. For instance, when rigging up a reel for bass, trout, carp, bream, and the like, I’ll spool up a minimum of 150 metres of 15kg Bionic Braid, meaning that even the largest of these fish isn’t going to spool me and I can take it easy on fish so as to not pull hooks. Carp are the biggest and longest-running fish you’ll encounter out of the above fish and I have had 100 metres of backing out in Chaffey Dam on these mud-suckers, especially if I’m using light tippets.

If I’m rigging up a medium fly reel for fresh and coastal use, say an eight-weight, I’ll put 300 metres of 25kg Bionic Braid on as backing. Most fish won’t pull much backing and some none at all, but if you happen to hook something more substantial you may find yourself glad you overdid it. In southern freshwater-only cases, 100 metres of 25kg backing will do the job.


I can remember when I first started fly-fishing, I used to buy the tapered leaders to connect to the loop connection of the fly line. In many cases they are unnecessary and it is cheaper and more versatile to be able to make your own tapered leaders.

Use a double uni knot or blood knot to join the different strengths of line. For smaller species I’ll start with a 600mm length of 8kg Platypus Pre Test or Super 100, stepping down to 700mm of about 6kg and then, if the water is not too clear, I’ll fix about 1.2 metres of the desired tippet strength, or longer if the water is very clear.

For larger, less leader-cautious species like cod, I’ll start with around a 20kg or 25kg butt section, joined to 15kg and then a 10kg tippet section. If you are talking big fish only, you may even make the 15kg longer and do away with the tippet. The same lengths as above are fine and you can even shorten them to make for easier casting with big flies.

To connect the leader to the flyline, tie a small perfection loop in the butt section. On the casting end of your fly line, attach a braided loop which you can get from your tackle store for around $6 a pair. They come with connection instructions.

For shallow and surface stuff, I use a Rio Lumo Line, which comes with a strong prefabricated loop moulded onto the end of the line. Connect the braided loop to the reel end of the line with a double Bimini. This technique was shown to me by Mark ‘Wilbur’ Williams and is the best I have seen.

This connection is a little complex but here goes. Biminis are easy to tie once mastered and most knot books show them. Make a long 50-turn Bimini loop, about 1.2 to 1.4 metres is fine, then in the doubled section form another Bimini, this time only 35 turns. Then it’s a simple matter of loop-to-loop connecting your Biminied backing to your braided loop that you should have connected to the reel end of your fly line. If you have trouble with the Bimini, a spider hitch will suffice but may reduce knot strength.

If you are going to be casting big Dahlbergs and the like, you might like to use a flyline one size above the rod’s rating to help cast the more wind-resistant flies. Just slow the casting action down a little and you’ll find longer distance deliveries a bit easier.


It’s closed season for cod until December 1 but we back off on the river cod during late Winter to allow them to prepare for spawning. During our final crack at them I landed my biggest fly-caught cod.

I’d asked renowned fly-tyer Shawn Ash for a fly that appealed to big cod, as I don’t tie my own, and he produced from his magic box an awesome-looking specimen, grinned and said, “I thought you’d like that one.”

This fly amazed me with its castability for its size (13cm) and its ability to ‘walk the dog’ with a flick-flick retrieve. It was during one of these wrist-flicking retrieves on a local river that a dark shape the size of a Rottweiler glided out from under a big log. My mate Shane was only 10 metres away but I couldn’t raise a whisper.

I held the rod high and shook the tip from side to side to give a quivering effect to the fly. A big white hole opened up and as I watched the fly go down the hole, I thought, “Uh-oh, I’m in trouble here.” The solid hookup was confirmed with a strong sweep of my stripping hand and I could now open my mouth and alert Shane to my predicament. I think all that came out was a gibberish “Holy gooble ta gren bar shnup, biiig fiiish!”.

Despite having handled two cod around 17kg before, the Strudwick DBT 8# was locked into its biggest opponent and I was thinking I should have brought the 10-weight. A brief but intense battle was played out, with a few six-metre runs stopping just short of the snags before I locked my thumb on the fish’s bottom jaw with a yodel of victory. My personal goal of a 20kg fish was fulfilled and I can now die a happy man.

If I was to have any idea of that looming encounter I would have opted for a 15kg tippet and a heavier rod, but the 10kg Pre Test handled it surprisingly well. So what I thought was nearly impossible has become a dream come true for me. Shawn, next time you see me, mate, start running – I’ve got a big, wet kiss saved up for you and my missus wants photos.

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