I have this simple little tool hanging on my waders I use all the time. I totally take them for granted yet, they are a piece of equipment that is a necessity for fly fishing. While fishing with a friend the other day he asked me “which are best for fly fishing, clippers or nippers?” I have to get some and wondered what you thought” Having used them both over the years, here’s what I told him I found.
Hands down, the nippers, why? Ease of operation. Their design is sleek and simple. Only one hand is needed to operate them. A simple squeeze between your finger and thumb and you’re done. They don’t get in the way either because there is no lever sticking out as you have with the clippers. Additionally, the pin is a handy tool that usually comes with nippers. Between these two choices, the reason I choose the nippers over the clippers is their simplicity. I find that is the best asset.
But there is more to these essential little tools besides simplicity. Price point, quality, and built-in accessories all need to be considered before you decide which you’ll choose. So let’s take a look at the basics.
What is the Difference Between the Two?
These simple ingenious little machines are like a cross between a pair of scissors, a knife and wire cutters. The basic two types commonly used are “spring-loaded” called clippers and “pressure clips” called nippers.
Clippers are the familiar spring-loaded type that is pretty common for the maintenance of toe and fingernails. Clippers have a little “lever” that flips up and swivels around to create a “lever-action” for cutting. For nail clipping, they are a good choice because the lever provides more torque to cut through hard nails.
Nippers are “pressure type” instruments. Two blades are pressed together using your thumb and finger and the amount of force being applied does the cutting.
I use to use the spring-levered ones simply because they were and still are, relatively inexpensive. A favorite promotional product, they were everywhere around the house. If I lost a pair they were easily replaced.
But, I found with this type of clipper, I needed both hands to get them open for use. Realistically, on a stream, you’re always holding something and both hands never seemed to be available to flip open a spring lever. To compensate I would leave them open. However, this caused them to get caught on things and often it was my fly line during a cast. Additionally, I would fumble around trying to get a good hold on them for cutting. That led me to the alternative, nippers.
When I found nippers, I liked them right away. Comparing nippers to the clippers, nippers are easier to hold and operate. Pinched between thumb and finger, squeeze, and boom, the line’s cut and you are done. Nippers are sleek and simple and best of all for me, they don’t get in the way.
How Do Nippers Or Clippers Help Your Fly Fishing?
When I was a kid, clippers weren’t part of the “gear” I carried. In those days I had a built-in tool called “teeth”. Oh yeah, the best clippers you could find except, using them is a bad idea. Can’t you just hear your Mom “you’ll ruin your teeth”! There is truth to that statement. Besides your teeth fray the line which makes it hard to get the tippet through small eyelets. There is nothing more frustrating and time-consuming than trying to get a frayed tippet through a hook eye. Those little strands of tippet material make sliding through the eye very tough. A clean-cut by the nippers allows the cut end of the line to easily go through the tiny eye of a size 22 hook for example.
Here’s a Helpful Little Trick
In addition, some flies have a bit of tying materials surrounding the eye blocking the hole. A sharply cut tippet helps as it can be pushed through that material sometimes. One other little trick for clearing material away from the eye to is to put the eye of the hook between the cutting blades of the nippers, gently squeeze and push the material back towards the shank. Sometimes this is enough to clear the eye to get the tippet through.
Also, when it comes to tying knots, I’m pretty finicky about trimming the tag end of a knot. I like the tag end to be closely trimmed to the knot rather than sticking up in the air. I feel a fly looks more natural if the knot is cleanly tied and the tippet appears as it is “blended” the hook. Good sharp nippers help with this a lot because you can get real close to the knot. Is it possible trout don’t pick up your offering because of a tag end sticking out? Great question, and honestly, I don’t know. But just the same, I’m trimming my knots close.
Think about the number of fly changes you make during a day’s fishing. To be able to clean your eyelets of material, have a clean-cut sharp tippet to put through the eyelet and then clean up the knots of loose ends in a matter of less than a minute means your actual fishing time is increased. The time saved by using nippers or clippers for fly fishing, priceless.
What Is The Pin And Why Do I Need It?
I’d love to tell you when I tie flies I do everything perfectly and sometimes I get pretty close, but truth is, no I don’t. One of the offshoots of not being perfect is leaving head cement clogging the eyelet. I try to make sure the eyelets are clean once I have finished tying the fly but, well, anyway.
So now here I am on the water, I pick out the fly I need and bingo, can’t get the tippet through the eye which is full of head cement. In the past, I would use another fly to poke through the hole but I can tell you this is a bad idea. You waste too much time opening the fly box and trying to handle too many things at once along with running the risk of losing a fly.
The easy solution to this problem is to buy nippers that come with a pin. The pin’s main use is for clearing the head cement out of the eyelet of that “perfectly” tied fly. It’s quick and easy and sure is handy for that purpose. But it is also helpful when the inevitable tangled leader happens. I have even used it to undo a few knots and untangle a leader without damaging the leader. I wouldn’t have a pair of clippers that didn’t have a pin, it’s that handy.
Why Is An Attachment Ring Important?
One more feature I look for on a pair of nippers is the attachment ring. This is used to tie a string or lanyard to the nippers for hanging on your vest or waders. I like an attachment ring that covers the pin but swivels out of the way when the pin is in use. This way the point of the pin is always covered, due to the way the nippers hang on the string or lanyard. It’s a simple thing, but believe me, you’ll be thankful. If you’ve ever been stuck by a pin you know what I mean
Some nippers provide you with a hole in them for you to attach a lanyard or string through. Personally, I don’t care for these because of the way they hang. Is this really a big deal? Probably not but that’s a choice you get to make as you find the ones you prefer.
So What’s The Cost?
Nippers have come a long way since the earlier days of my discovering how useful they are. They are made from differing materials like aluminum with cutters made from tungsten carbide, Anodize textured finishes in many different styles and colors. So as you can imagine, they range in price too. You can buy nippers anywhere from a couple of bucks to $120 bucks. How much you’re willing to spend depends on what you want and need? High-quality nippers won’t need to be replaced as often, lasting several seasons. Generally, they are more corrosion resistant and depending on the supplier, offer replaceable blades. Lower costing nippers are easy to replace if they get lost. They, of course, will have less versatility and fewer features.
How to decide what is best to buy?
I spend a lot of time on the water so the upfront cost of the high-quality nippers for fly fishing will be worth it in the long run. I like the peace of mind that comes from knowing my equipment is reliable, durable and lasts. However, if you only get out on the water a few times a season, it would make more sense to buy cost-effective nippers. They are easily replaced if lost or if they get dull. Finally, I would take into consideration the following:
- The Pin. Having a sharp prong for clearing head cement, untangling knots and few other good uses it will provide, is important to me.
- Nippers being “spring-loaded” so that you can just grab and snip rather than a lever-action is key and the point of this post.
- A swivel ring, which covers the pin, for an easy way to attach a lanyard to your vest or waders for easy access.
A simple truth, nippers will dull over time and will need to be replaced. If you fish a lot and I do, changing flies and mending leader puts a pair of nippers through their paces. Typically for me, nippers generally last because I purchase quality nippers. Do I spend hundreds of dollars on nippers? Quite frankly, no. I look for the middle ground of what I need and what I need them to do.
Like all tools, the right tool saves time and gets the job do right. All of my equipment and nippers are no different, are there to aid me in my pursuit of catching trout. I want to spend my time casting to a riser or mending a line to get the perfect drift. I surely don’t want to spend precious time fumbling around with a tool that “sort of” does the job or cause additional problems. Also, I don’t like to carry much stuff, so it is important to me that each thing I carry does several things to help minimize the number of items I carry.
It’s a personal choice of course when it comes to choosing nippers for fly fishing. There is no right or wrong as to which nippers you decide to buy, it’s really about how they suit your needs. Not everybody has the means to equip themselves with the “best and finest” so you need to pick your spending accordingly. When it comes to nippers for fly fishing, they are an essential tool to have on the water. For me, they are a must-have. But that said, how much you spend well, the choice many times revolves around this little saying, “spend a little many times, or spend a lot a few times”.
What Is The Nail Knot Tool?
Tying the nail knot by hand is very difficult; so many guys who tie this use a nail knot-tying tool. It is a deceptively simple, and clever device and comes on many nippers. The tool allows for tying any size monofilament, fluorocarbon line or fishing braid to any size fishhook or fishing lure in just seconds. It can’t slip or come untied because the untied end is gripped by all the turns of the knot.
What is The Best Way to Attach Nippers?
A zinger (sometimes referred to as a retractor) is a retractable lanyard that clips to the fly fisherman vest or gear bag and is used to keep fly fishing tools accessible. A zinger’s retractable cord is commonly attached to hemostats, nippers or other accessories.
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