Whether you are a newbie or an old head to fly fishing there is one thing that will always be a constant; fly fishing costs money. Unless you really pay a lot of attention to finances, fly fishing will not seem altogether to be an expensive sport at first glance. Besides the initial purchase of a quality fly line, rod, reel and a few other necessities, most of your common purchases that you will have to incur will be flies, leaders, and tippets.
While these items don’t look to be that expensive at the point of purchase, they will in fact cost you a pretty penny over a course of a year. Fortunately, this cost will only happen if you let it happen. In my previous post Flies! Flies! Flies! I went over how you can save a tremendous amount of money by not purchasing flies you will never use and the benefits of tying your own flies. In this post I will help you contend with the rising cost of leaders and tippets.
For the sake of this argument, let us say on average you fish every weekend during the year. You are using a loop to loop connection for your fly line to your leader and a blood knot for your leader to tippet connection. On average you will go through at least one leader per month using a blood knot connection ($5.00 per leader) and you will go through a roll of tippet line every month and a half ($10.00 per roll). This adds up to an average of $140 that you will spend, per year, fly fishing. However these numbers can go up and down depending on the type of leaders and tippets you use. Unfortunately there is no way of getting around the fact that you will need both a leader and a tippet in order to fly fish.
So, if you absolutely have to have a leader and tippet to fly fish; what can you do save money? Putting it simply, you need to forget using traditional knots (i.e. blood knots) to connect your leader to your tippet. First: if you get snagged or hook a fish and it breaks you off, using traditional knots you have a chance that your leader will be what breaks when it happens. Second: every time you have to replace your whole tippet using traditional knots you will also be losing a portion of leader, eventually this leads to the diameter of the leader being too large and making it unusable.
Instead of using traditional knots, try using tippet rings or loop to loop connections to connect the leader to the tippet. Tippet rings attach right to the end of your leader, then you attach your tippet straight to them. The down side is that they normally break off on the leader side when you get snagged, and they are very hard to get tied on to both your leader and your tippet. Personally I do not recommend tippet rings. My solution is to use a loop to loop connection with your leader and tippet, like you would use with your fly line and leader. By doing this you will save the life of your leader from constant shortening when changing out tippets. Also it is a very strong knot; when you do get snagged or avfish snaps your line, the break usually happens right at the connection or somewhere on the tippet. Over the past year of using this type of connection I have only had to change out my leaders twice, which using my average cost of leaders has saved me $50.
Now that we have cut a big portion out the leader budget for the year; where can we save money on tippets? This question was very hard for me, I always use a dual nymph rig when fly fishing. Before I was putting each fly 10-12 inches apart from each other, so if I got snagged I would lose the first fly altogether and enough tippet between flies that I was forced to only use the single nymph. My solution was spacing of the fly; I use at least 16 inches in between nymphs so that if I do get snagged I will still have enough tippet to run the second nymph. Also I force myself to read the waters I am fishing to see if I am justified in running a dual nymph rig. The final thing that will save you money on tippets is a strike indicator. Yes I know, a lot of people do not like this method, but hear me out. When you’re using a strike indicator you are able to adjust the depth of your fly in the water. If you are constantly snagging, adjust your strike indicator down a couple of inches until it is no longer snagging. The nymph will still be on the bottom of the river/creek where trout tend to feed the most, but it will no longer be snagging, which will save you on tippet material. Honestly, for me, doing small changes like these have brought me down to an average of 3 rolls of tippet per year, which is $50 savings in my budget.
My only other piece of advice is concerning strike indicators; if you haven’t tried out the New Zealand Strike Indicator system then you should. They are simply a joy to work with, they don’t ruin your leader, they don’t feel bulky while casting, they float like a cork, and one bag of their wool has lasted me over two years now. I will never go back to previous strike indicators because of how well the New Zealand Strike Indicator has worked.
Ending as I have said in my previous posts, ultimately it is up to you. If you are diehard when it comes to your style of fly fishing then stick with it, but if you want to try a way to save money on fly fishing try out these ideas and see if they work for you.