Tippet Rings: Rigging with a Secret Weapon
Updated: Dec 22, 2020
At the beginning of the year I wrote an article for AvidMax about 4 Reasons Why You Should Be Using Tippet Rings. If you're new to using tippet rings this is a great primer about why you should hunt out these little rings in your local fly shop. Tippet rings can drastically reduce knot tying time, save leaders when you get tangled, rapidly switch between different styles of fishing (ex: nymphing to dry fly), and even allow split shot on your rig while keeping it out of the way.
But tippet rings are so useful, I figured we should revisit them because there is an underlying reason to use them that I didn't have time to address in that article.
Basically, If you're fishing with multiple flies, a tippet ring unlocks the opportunity for both flies to move naturally and still maintain direct contact with your leader. You're probably used to chaining flies together, eye-to-hook bend, or even eye-to-eye, but when you're fishing these chained rigs, both of your flies are essentially fishing the same water, as they are likely around the same depth and following the same currents. When you enlist a tippet ring as the point of contact for both of your flies, each is allowed to move independently in your rig, and can cover different slices of the water column, while maintaining direct contact to your leader.
I'd string up a leader to a tippet ring to a long stretch of tippet to a heavy fly, in order pull the rig deeper. Might I suggest a jigged nymph or stonefly. Then back at the tippet ring I'd add a new 6-8" piece of tippet and attach a smaller nymph, preferably to match likely hatching insects. This allows me to appropriately pick flies that match where insects might be expected in a river, as opposed to forcing both flies into either too deep or too shallow of drifts. A stonefly nymph is probably best fished deep, but (at times) a BWO emerger might be best fished mid-column.
Before I go any further.... I'm not suggesting that the eye to hook bend or eye to eye styles are bad, in the right hands they're deadly. Tippet rings just give you more options while requiring less re-rigging. Imagine changing out the middle fly in a three fly eye-to-hook bend rig; you need to reattach both ends once you've selected a new fly to incorporate. However, with tippet rings you only need to re-attach the new fly once, because of it's independence in the setup.
This whole concept might be easy to understand if you're familiar with European style nymphing (ESN). You use a jigged point fly to pull down your rig to the bottom, at which point you gently lead your team of flies through likely water. But this type of rigging isn't some secret European technique, or restricted for competitive anglers. There is absolutely no reason that you can't use heavy point flies, and droppers under an indicator. This style of rig will extend your leader more efficiently underwater and provide a better connection to your indicator while you wait for a strike. The example below highlights a thin long euroleader that works great with tippet rings at the dropper and anchor joint, plus the thin long tippet sinks quickly and uniformly, unlike a tapered leader on a typical western bobber rig.
The concept of the point and dropper rig is a lot less obvious if you're fishing stillwater, or swinging wetflies, but still applies. You may need more tippet to separate each fly, or even illicit multiple tippet rings in your leader setup (when I figured this out my mind melted). Still, the principle is the same. If you're moving flies in the water, you need each to act independently to truly give the illusion of a drag free drift.
Here are three rigging examples for how to use tippet rings to improve fly movement, and probably three rigs you haven't seen before.
Rivers: Honestly this Provo River Bounce rig is bonkers, but it highlights how you can use multiple tippet rings in the same rig and that you can even dropshot your splitshot off of a tippet ring. Dropshotting has proven especially useful when fishing multiple small midges on ESN rigs while maintaining independent movement for each fly. It also keeps the muck off of your flies when fishing deep.
Lakes: Did you know that you don't have to just chain chironomids under an indicator on lakes. You can enlist tippet rings in this rig and slightly creep your flies back. Any wave or wind gust can contribute to the rig's enticing movement. If you're feeling up for it, take the indicator off (in the U.K. indicators are called bungs) and slowly pull in your rig for a direct connection to your flies. This also works on sinking lines and multiple wooly buggers when you need to get deeper.
Swinging: Notice how the point fly is furthest from the tippet ring, and the lighter fly is closer to the tippet ring. Both still swim independently as a result.
Now what about tangling? You'd think this would wreak havoc on your setup and if you're a bad caster you're probably right. But if you can keep your tags short then you really won't run into many issues. Occasionally you might find the tags candy-caned around your leader but these are usually easy to unravel if it bothers you. Now you can even find micro-swivels to use in the place of tippet rings which probably alleviate any twisting.
Images courtesy of:
The Fly Fishing Forum. https://www.theflyfishingforum.com/forums/index.php?threads/drop-shot-nymphing.369729/