“How heavy of leader should I be running?”, this is a very common question that comes up often in emails from readers as well as guests on the boat during guided fly fishing trips. Everyone has a different way of doing it, but I like to keep it very simple by finishing my leaders with 6 pound test in almost all situations. This is usually following sections of either 2x or 3x for the butt section, which allows for easier turnover and in the event of breaking off you will not likely lose more than just your tippet.
Why? I believe that 4x tippet, which usually falls somewhere in the 5.5-6 pound range in breaking strength, is a very happy medium for Stillwater fishing. The fish do not have current to run with, and when you factor in their weight displacement in the water along with the shock absorption provided by the rod blank, you are hard pressed to break off fish that exceed 6 pounds in weight.
“But I get more strikes with lighter tippet.”
Yes, there are situations where you will get more eats with a lighter diameter tippet, and as long as you are playing the fish as quickly as possible this will not pose an issue. Where you will run into problems is hooking larger fish with lighter tippet, as you will have to be much more diligent in not breaking them off that it may lead to over-stressing the fish.