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Carp Tippet and Leader

Leaders and Tippet for Carp Fly Fishing

Leaders for Fly Fishing for CarpRecently I have had many requests on what leader and tippet to use for carp.  This post will help you choose what type of leader and tippet material to use for Fly Fishing for Carp.  I will split up my choices into different scenarios.  It is not as simple as choosing one size and that is it.   There is a method to my madness, and this method will lead to you catching more fish, consistently (consistency is the key!).

Scenario #1 – Long Presentations in Rivers
This is the most common scenario for fly fishers fishing the South Platte in Denver.  I define this scenario by the following: casts ranging from 30-60 feet, casting overhead and casting to tailing or cruising fish.

Carp Fly Fishing TippetFor this scenario I like to use a really long leader and heavy tippet.  The leader is often 12-15 feet long and I do this so the fly line never hits the fish.  Casting the flies past the fish (so they do not spook the fish) means that the fly line will be closer to the fish.  The ideal cast to a tailing fish is when the fly lands 3-5 feet behind the fish and the fly line is still 8-10 feet away.  The tippet I use for the large fish in the river is 15-20LB Fluorocarbon.  Yep, you heard correct.  Carp are not tippet shy and using fine tippet will end in disaster.  I have several friends who use less than 15-20LB (such as 1X-3X), and they do just fine on smaller to medium carp (but they do break off big ones from time to time).  My reasoning is, if they do not care if it is 20LB, then why not use it?  I have landed several fish in the 20-30LB range, and I have complete confidence in landing those fish on the heavy tippet.  That would not be the case on 3 or 4X.  Now there are some situations when lighter tippet should be used.  Smaller unweighted flies and dry flies should use some lighter tippet.  I usually use 2X on these patterns, and never do lighter than that!  Many stillwater anglers also use lighter tippet.  Fish in stillwater and not using any current to their advantage, so 1X-3X is usually fine in lakes.

Carp Fly FishingScenario #2 – Short Presentations in Rivers
Carp Fishing LeadersI do not always use a really long leader, there are times when a shorter leader is better.  Long leaders are really hard to cast, especially when roll casting.  Roll Casting is an important tool in Fly Fishing for Carp.  Roll Casting allows for a quick, quiet and stealthy presentation to fish moderately close to you.  I am normally Roll Casting to fish 10-35 feet away, and this is a very deadly technique.

For Roll Casting, I still use the heavy tippet material.  That does not change in the rivers, ever.  What I do change is my leader length.  Most anglers, especially me, cannot effectively Roll Cast a 15+ foot leader.  So I scale it back to a 9-10 foot leader.  Roll Casting allows you to be more accurate, so the leader does not need to be as long.

Scenario #3 – Stillwater
Mirror CarpFly Fishing for Carp in Lakes is much different than carp in rivers.  I do change things up a bit depending on the situation.  I do use lighter tippet in lakes.  This is because the water can be clearer, the flies smaller and the fish are not in current (so they do not break you off as easy).  Damsel flies, Callibaetis, Nymphs and Seed Flies are generally smaller, and the tippet also needs to be smaller.  Generally, I start off with 2X-3X Fluorocarbon if I need to go small in lakes.  I rarely drop down to 4X, but only if I am fishing dry flies or seed flies on top.

Carp Fly Fishing Tippet Knots
Carp Loop Knot on TippetHands down, the best tippet knot, for heavy tippet, is the Figure Eight Tarpon Loop Knot.  This knot is much stronger than the clinch, rapala and other traditional loop knots.  Capt. Joel Dickey in the Florida Keys showed me this knot, and it is the BEST!  This knot never fails when tied correctly.  It is so strong that it will bend hooks and turn over rocks.  I used to fish the rapala knot for a loop knot, and it does break.  Check out the video below on how to tie the Figure Eight Tarpon Loop Knot. For light tippet and fishing dry flies for carp, use the standard Clinch Knot>>

Leader and Tippet Material for Carp
Fluorocarbon is the best choice of material for carp fishing.  There are several reasons for this.  Fluorocarbon sinks, which helps your flies get down.  Fluorocarbon is also extremely abrasion resistant, so carp cannot rub off on structure or snags.  Fluorocarbon is also less visible to fish, any little advantage helps!

Saltwater Leaders are a great choice for carp fishing.  Saltwater Leaders are the closest thing to the right taper for casting heavy flies long distances.  Carp act very similar to Bonefish, so Bonefish leaders are the natural choice!

The Best Fly Lines for Carp are the RIO Carp Fly Line>> and the RIO Grand Fly Line>>

Best Leader and Tippet Choices For Carp
.013, .014 and .015 RIO Fluoroflex Tippet>>
0X-4X RIO Fluoroflex Tippet>>
16 and 20LB RIO Fluoro Bonefish Leaders>>
10-12 Foot 12LB Bonefish Leaders>>

Want to learn more about carp?  Check out the following articles:
South Platte Denver Information>>
The 10 Carp Commandments>>
Why are Carp So Hard To Catch>>
Why Fly Fish for Carp>>
What is Urban Fishing all About>>
Choosing the Right Carp Fly>>

Fly Fishing For Carp in Denver Video

Visit our Online Fly Shop>>
Buy Carp Flies Online>>

4 Responses to Carp Tippet and Leader

  1. Good synopsis on leaders for different situations. I spend most of my carpin on ponds, have little access to our big rivers. I too like heavy stuff but I use 1X 90% of the time. I find that really heavy tippet, even with a loop knot, will determine the fly’s attiude, turning a fly designed to ride hook up otherwise. So 1X for me. I do not like Flourocarbon for it’s knot strength, personal opinion, most people seem to use it. Mine are essentially hand tied, beggining as std. leaders but ending with knots, all the better to help hold my indicators, which I do use unapologetically. They aslo hold moss-well. I’ll remember what you’ve said though, esp for the DSP!


  2. I remember watching a episode of In-Fishermen and they were fly fishing for carp in Lake Michigan. The water was gin clear and the guide was tying his own leaders. 2-3 feet of 20lb fluorocarbon then 3-4 feet of 12lb fluorocarbon. Is this something you would recommend for lakes?

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