THE MYSTERY OF THE "X" IN YOUR TIPPET
It was a passing thought that I had many times over the years but never took the time to look into it. What does
the "X" on packages of tippet and leaders stand for? This was one of the things that I thought every fly fisher but me knew.
As I came to discover, however, most other anglers didn't know the answer to this either, and prompted some research on my
A little history on some of our first mass produced tippet material. For some time early in the century, leaders
were tied out of a silk strand that came from a caterpillar in Spain. The caterpillars were killed and then processed in chemicals
to toughen their silk sacks. The silk sacks or "gut" were then removed from the caterpillar ( usually two caterpillar). This
packet of silk was then stretched out, usually reaching a length of 12"-15". Lengths of silk longer than this were scarce,
and brought a premium price.
The silk strands were uneven in diameter and needed to be uniform in diameter for use in building a leader. The
way this evening process was accomplished was by using diamonds to cut away the excess material. The diamond that had a round
hole drilled in it and was polished on one side to form a cutting edge on the hole. The silk strand was then soaked in a solution
to soften it, and then drawn through the hole in the diamond with all excess silk being cut away.
This uniform piece of "silk cat gut" (gut from a caterpillar, and not a house cat) was considered to be 1x in size
because it had been drawn through a diamond one time or 1x. Next it was drawn through a diamond with a smaller hole to reduce
the diameter even further. This piece of silk was now a 2x in diameter, or drawn through diamonds 2 times. This was continued
until a 5x tippet size was reached, the smallest most fly fishers felt was usable at the time.