If you’re like me you probably have a pile of nippers in your bag or at the bottom of a drawer. Nippers are one of those underrated tools, that you don’t think about until you forget it. They are necessary for the obvious, some even have other tools to help tie knots or sharpen hooks.
I have found that not all nippers are created equal, they all have their purpose, but some are better than others. The first set of nippers you got is most likely from sort of kit, that came with hemostats and a leader straightener. They do the job for fine tippets and last for about 6 months of fishing or until you lose them. These lower-end pairs typically won’t cut larger tippets or thicker parts of your leader well. So, you start to shop for a new pair, an upgrade so to speak, except now there are so many brands (Abel, Simms, Dr. Slick, Orvis, Hatch, etc.) and styles, as well as price points. It can be difficult to figure out where to start. Prices vary from $10 to over $100, from brand to brand, and so do the materials. The type of fishing you do can help you decide what kind to buy. Fine tippets like the ones used for trout fishing don’t necessarily require top-of-the-line nippers. But say you’re trying to cleanly cut 80-lb fluoro as you’d need for muskie. If you fish for a variety of species, requiring a variety of line sizes, the higher-end nippers are probably for you simply due to their overall performance across lines.
Wintertime has its challenges, cold fingers or wearing gloves makes it difficult to grip small nippers, so a pair with rubber coating vs metal would be a better choice. The amount of hand pressure can also dictate the kind to choose if you can’t squeeze hard enough to cut through the line, then you may want to go for a pair that features a lever, like the one on your nail clippers in your bathroom.
The type of environment will also help you decide on what kind of nipper to purchase, if you fish the salt, you may need to buy more corrosion-resistant pair with replaceable cutters or good pliers that feature cutters. Here is a video from Mad River Outfitters, with the nippers showdown and compared from our friends at Mad River Outfitters.
So next time your nippers don’t work, let the type of fishing you do dictate the kind you need and buy the best one you can afford. You don’t want to see that fish swim away while you are messing around your fly trying to cut off the tag end.