The X marks tippet strength!
article and graphics by Bill Byrd, Jr.
Do you understand the X system that has been in fly fishing forever? If someone says to you, "I'm changing to a 5X tippet," what does that person mean? Maybe this article will help.
For a long number of years, manufacturers have used a simple rating system that describes both the diameter and breaking strength of tippet material. The basic scale has run from the heaviest 0X to the lightest 8x, but now 12X tippets are being used in Japan on some very small flies and some very light fly rods including Sage's new TXL 3/0-weights. So I've included some new X-ratings on this table.
In the past some fly fishers have even suggested what size flies should be tied on what X value tippet. You have to use your own head on this issue, but the table below may give you a starting point and some reference.
In the table below if you look at 5X tippets it suggests that 5X tippets could be best fished on a 1 or 2 weight fly rod with size 14 to size 20 flies. It should have a diameter of .006 inches (6 thousandths of an inch). Again this is ONLY a suggestion.
Suggested rod weights, tippet ratings, and flies.
|Rod weight||X rating||tippet diameter||pound test||suggested fly size|
|5-7 weight||0X||.011 inches||9.0 pounds||size-4 to size-6|
|5-7 weight||1X||.010 inches||7.2 pounds||size-4 to size-8|
|3-4 weight||2X||.009 inches||6.3 pounds||size-4 to size-10|
|3-4 weight||3X||.008 inches||5.2 pounds||size-6 to size-12|
|1-2 weight||4X||.007 inches||4.3 pounds||size-6 to size-14|
|1-2 weight||5X||.006 inches||3.3 pounds||size-14 to size-20|
|1-2 weight||6X||.005 inches||2.1 pounds||size-18 to size-26|
|0 weight||5X-7X||.006-.004 inches||3.3-1.2 pounds||size-20 to size-28|
|0 weight||6X-8X||.005-.003 inches||2.1-1.0 pounds||size-20 to size-28|
|00 weight||7X-11X||.004-.001 inches||1.2-.4 pounds||size-26 to size-32|
|000 weight||8X-12X||.003-.0009 inches||1.0-.3 pounds||size-28 to size-32|
These pound test and diameter values will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, and with different materials. I have found the hard way that the real test value of some manufacturers leader and tippet materials may vary GREATLY from their labeled or published specifications. Be aware that all tippet values from all manufacturers can be certified by submitting samples to IGFA for testing.