The Best Fly-Fishing Nippers for 2024: Options for Every Budget

Nippers are an essential fly fishing tool.

Ideal for cutting tippet, leader, and line, nippers are easy to take for granted until you realize you don’t have them. And while nail clippers can be had for just pennies, well-made nippers are far more effective, by design. 

If you’re looking for the best fly-fishing nippers to round out your gear, you've come to the right place. Below, you’ll find reviews of some of our favorite nippers, as well as a buying guide to get you up to speed quickly.

Quick glance at the best fly fishing nippers:

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Best Fly Fishing Nippers Reviewed

Abel Nippers - Best Premium Fly-Fishing Nippers

Abel Nipper - Black/Gloss Black Includes Lanyard

Amazon 

Material: aluminum and stainless steel

Length: ?

Sometimes, more expensive is just that - more expensive - with no discernable increase in quality or performance. And then there are Abel’s nippers, a premium product that delivers on every dollar.

The body of these nippers is machined from anodized 7075 aluminum. This is strong, light, corrodible material. This is paired with removable, replaceable, and resharpenable blades of 440C stainless, heat treated to HRC 58.

440C is a great cutlery steel that holds an edge for a very long time at HRC 58. And you can rest assured that nothing out there - nothing - will outcut an Abel nipper.

Braid? Check. Tough leader like Maxima? Check. Fluorocarbon and mono of all kinds? Yes, that, too.

Abel has carefully thought out the design of these nippers, including a magnetic element to hold flies and a cleverly-shielded eye-clearing spike that’s part of the lanyard bail.

Simply put, from materials to design, Abel makes a compelling case for these nippers as the best possible product out there, and fly-anglers who demand the very best need look no further.

And while the price-tag these nippers wear is astronomically high, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime purchase.

Pros:

  • Very corrosion resistant
  • The best blades you’ll find anywhere
  • Replaceable and resharpenable blades
  • Very good eye-clearing spike
  • Textured aluminum for better grip
  • Lanyard loop

Cons:

  • Expensive!

Dr. Slick Knot-Tying Nippers - Best Budget Fly-Fishing Nippers

Dr. Slick Nipper w/Pin, File & Knot Tyer, 2', High Grade Japanese Stainless Steel, Satin

Amazon 

Material: stainless steel

Length: 2”

I love it when a tool offers me more than one function, and Dr. Slick’s Knot-Tying Nippers do just that, saving both space and time.This clever design adds an eye-clearing spike, a hook file, and a nail-knot tying tool to the basic nipper blades, offering lots of tools in a very small package.

The nipper blades are sharp and hard, easily biting through the tough Maxima leader. They make effortless work of tippet, as you’d expect, and are easy to snug up close to a fly, cut the tag of your tippet, and leave the fly undamaged. 

The nail-knot tool is genius. It’s easy to use, and even a novice can be tying tight, strong knots in just minutes.

The eye-cleaning spike works just as intended, and it’s shrouded by the heel of the nippers, keeping your hands safe. 

The fly sharpening file is embedded in the bottom, and while I wouldn’t want to use it to sharpen an entire box of streamers, it gets the job done in a pinch.

Add to all this that the base of the nail-knot tool doubles as a lanyard hole, and Dr. Slick has put together an amazing tool. About the only niggle we have with these nippers is that the slick stainless steel can be tough to handle with slimy or bloody hands.

Pros:

  • Very corrosion resistant
  • Sharp nippers cut tough leader easily
  • Excellent nail-knot tool
  • Excellent eye-cleaning tool
  • OK hook sharpener
  • Lanyard hole

Cons:

  • Can be a little slick in your fingers

Loon Outdoors Nip N Sip XL - Best Fly-Fishing Nippers for Arthritic Hands

Material: stainless steel

Length: ?

If your hands have seen better days, and injuries, arthritis, or disability has made manipulating small tools difficult, look no further than Loon’s Nip N Sip.

Oversized and textured to provide a secure grip, these nippers are as sharp as they are easy to use. They’ll easily cut tough leader, and despite their wide jaws, can get in tight to a fly and snip the tag right where you need it.

They come with a lanyard - a nice touch - and the heel of these nippers includes a bottle opener.

Made from stainless steel, these nippers are durable, and a quick rinse in freshwater should keep them going for years in the salt.

Pros:

  • Very corrosion resistant
  • Sharp nippers cut tough leader easily
  • Oversized for easier grip and use
  • Textured for better grip
  • Bottle opener tool on the heel

Cons:

  • ???

Loon Outdoors Fly Fishing Classic Nipper

Loon Fly Fishing Classic Nipper with Comfy Grip

Amazon 

Material: stainless steel

Length: 2 ⅛”

Loon’s Fly-Fishing Classic Nipper is an excellent tool, offering sharp blades, a padded grip, and no-nonsense design.

Made from stainless steel, these nippers aren’t going to rust in fresh water, and even minimal care in the salt will keep them looking pristine.

The nippers themselves are double-bladed, ensuring excellent cutting power on leader.

The eye-clearing tool is sharp and tough, just as it should be.

And the addition of a soft, textured material to the stainless steel improves grip with bloody or slimy fingers. It also doubles as an easy-to-find marker should you drop your nippers in the stream.

A lanyard hole is drilled through this Loon nipper, making it a cinch to attach to your vest.

Pros:

  • Very corrosion resistant
  • Sharp nippers cut tough leader easily
  • Excellent nail-knot tool
  • Excellent eye-cleaning tool
  • Lanyard hole

Cons:

  • ???

Loon Outdoors Rogue Nipper with Knot Tool

Loon Outdoors Rogue Nipper with Knot Tool

Amazon 

Material: stainless steel

Length: 2 ⅛”

Among other options, Loon Outdoors also offers their Rogue Nippers with a nail-knot tool. This simple, clean design is all business, and the stainless steel blades cut tippet, leader, and line cleanly.

As you’d expect, they carry an eye-clearing spike on the heel, shielding it to protect your hands from accidental injury. And the steel nail-knot tool makes tying this essential connection a breeze.

Like the Dr. Slick’s we reviewed above, these Loons can be slippery when your hands are filthy, but other than that, they’re a reasonably-priced tool that delivers great performance.

Pros:

  • Very corrosion resistant
  • Sharp nippers cut tough leader easily
  • Excellent nail-knot tool
  • Excellent eye-cleaning tool
  • Lanyard hole

Cons:

  • ???

Umpqua River Grip Nipper

Umpqua Fly Fishing Rivergrip Nipper Blue

Amazon 

Material: stainless steel

Length: ?

Umpqua is a well-respected name in the fly-angling world, and their products are typically excellent. That’s certainly the case with their River Grip nippers, and for the price, they’re an exceptional buy.

Made from durable stainless steel, these nippers sport sharp blades on the business end and an effective eye-clearing spike on the heel. One pinch should sever fly lines of all kinds, and there’s no question that tough leader is no match for the River Grip.

In addition to a lanyard hole, Umpqua has coated these nippers in a textured, no-slip material that makes delicate handling a snap even when your fingers are filthy.

Pros:

  • Very corrosion resistant
  • Sharp nippers cut tough leader easily
  • Very good eye-clearing spike
  • Textured for better grip
  • Lanyard hole

Cons:

  • ???

Umpqua River Grip Big Nipper Tungsten Carbide

Umpqua River Grip Big Nip TC Orange

Amazon 

Material: stainless steel and tungsten carbide 

Length: ?

Tungsten carbide is much harder than steel of any kind, while also resisting corrosion and rust. And when machined to a sharp edge, nippers that use tungsten carbide jaws cut better, and stay sharper, than stainless alternatives.

The difficulty of machining tungsten carbide increases the cost of nippers made from this material, and getting perfect, sharp jaws isn’t as simple a process as it is with steel.

Umpqua’s Big Grip tungsten carbide nippers use stainless for the body of the nippers, with tungsten carbide inserted jaws. If you get a sharp pair, they cut beautifully, but if they’re not perfectly machined, they’ll be dull.

Unfortunately, that’s hit or miss.

For anglers who lack dexterity in their hands, these over-sized nippers coated with a non-slip material are easier to use than slick, small, all-metal alternatives, but overall, I prefer the Loon Outdoors Nip N Sip XL.

Umpqua supplies these nippers with a sharp, shielded eye-clearing spike and a bail that makes attachment simple.

Overall, if you get a sharp pair, these are awesome nippers. If you don’t, you’ll need to rebuy.

Pros:

  • Very corrosion resistant
  • If sharp, nippers cut tough leader easily
  • Very good eye-clearing spike
  • Textured for better grip
  • Lanyard bail

Cons:

  • Sharpness varies from nipper to nipper

Simms Guide Nipper

Material: aluminum arms with stainless steel jaws

Length: ?

Simms knows fly fishing, and their nippers are an excellent mid-range option for anglers who want the best.

The body of these nippers is manufactured from light, strong, corrosion-resistant aluminum. And it’s clear that Simms took their time designing these carefully machined nippers. For instance, Simms locates an eye-clearing spike on the side, placing a lanyard loop on the heel.

And rather than coating, Simms uses textured machining that results in an excellent grip, even when your hands are slimy or bloody.

The working end of these nippers are machined from stainless steel. These blades are strong and sharp from the factory, and they make cutting leader child’s play.

The cutting blades on the Simms nippers are machined from 17-4 H900 stainless steel hardened to Rockwell C 44. As steel cognoscenti will know, 17-4 H900 is not a cutlery-grade steel, though it is very resistant to corrosion and easy to machine. Moreover, a hardness of HRC 44 is very soft where cutting implements are concerned, far below where knives fall on the hardness scale.

The result is that these blades, while better than less-expensive nippers, don’t last forever.

The only downside to this product is that, like all nippers, these will dull over time. And when dull, you’ve invested quite a bit into a nipper that won’t work unless professionally resharpened.

It’s up to you if that’s a deal-breaker, but we tend to stick with cheaper nippers and replace them as needed.

Pros:

  • Very corrosion resistant
  • Nippers cut tough leader easily
  • Very good eye-clearing spike
  • Textured for better grip
  • Lanyard loop

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Jaws aren’t replaceable or easy to sharpen on your own

Buying Guide: What Makes One Nipper Better than Another?

Nippers vs. teeth vs. nail clippers

Are nippers strictly necessary?

Well, no.

Like every angler who’s ever gotten a line wet, I’ve succumbed to the temptation to use my teeth to cut line, and like many, risked a an expensive chip in the process!

Never use your teeth to cut line! It’s just not worth it.

But regular, inexpensive nail clippers work well to sever leader material like Maxima. They’ll also cut tippet and fly line with ease.

They cost next to nothing, and are typically made from an inexpensive stainless that resists corrosion pretty well. But they’re not a perfect fly-fishing solution.

Nail clippers use a simple spring design, requiring that they be opened with two hands to be used. Yes, you can leave them open on a lanyard, but they can catch your line as you cast. They’re also slicker than snot when your hands are dirty. Finally, the concave blade shape isn’t the best option for clipping line close to fly.

By contrast, nippers are one-handed affairs that won’t cause trouble. And when they include additional tools like nail-knot tying devices, they’re extra handy.

Non-corrosive material

Fishing can be tough on your gear and tools, and from rain, to spray, to submersion, you want nippers that are as rust-proof as possible. 

This is especially true in salt-water environments, and materials like stainless steel and aluminum are a must.

Even then, you’ll want to rinse your nippers in freshwater at the end of the day.

Sharp cutting blades

Sharp blades are a must, and you want to cut rather than pinch tough material like leader and delicate nylon tippet. 

Materials like aluminum are great for the body, but steel or tungsten carbide are necessary for the blades.

Stainless steel is an alloy of carbon with a variety of additives like manganese and chromium. This renders stainless more resistant to corrosion, making it ideal for nipper blades. 

Depending on the precise alloy, stainless steel can be hardened to a greater or lesser extent. This hardness can be charted by the Rockwell system, with higher letters and numbers indicating greater degrees of hardness.

Stainless steel knife blades like the ones in your kitchen or pocket are typically hardened to Rockwell C (HRC) 55 or higher, with numbers in the high 50s being common. Simms nippers, made from 17-4 H900 stainless steel hardened to Rockwell C 44 are far better than lower-priced alternatives, but fall far short of cutlery-grade cutting ability.

By contrast, Abel’s nippers are manufactured from 440C, an excellent cutlery steel, and hardened to HRC 58, allowing them to hold a sharp edge for a very long time.

A non-corrosive alternative to stainless steel is tungsten carbide, a dense, heavy, super-hard alloy that ranges from HRC 69 to HRC 81, depending on how it’s heat treated. Ideally, that means that a properly sharpened cutting edge made from this material will stay sharp longer than even the best steels.

But tungsten carbide can be a challenge to machine properly, and if the nipper blades aren’t meticulously made, they can be quite dull. Tungsten carbide is also extremely brittle, and micro-chipping and fractures bedevil this material when it’s used for blade making.

Generally speaking, I prefer high-grade stainless to tungsten carbide, and I think you will, too.

Eye-clearing spikes

Getting and keeping fly eyes clear can be as simple as using a second hook, but that risks dulling the point of the fly you’re using as a tool.

The better bet is to buy nippers with a fly-clearing spike.

These need to be sharp, hard, and well-protected from accidental contact.

Grip

Fish slime makes smooth, untextured nippers slippery.

When your hands are slimy, bloody, or just wet, grip can be an issue. That's especially true on slick stainless steel or aluminum nippers.

Adding textures through coatings or machining can vastly improve the usability of nippers.

Size

Arthritic hands can make manipulating small nippers a real chore.

Arthritis, injury, and disability of many kinds can affect our hand and finger dexterity, making small tools difficult to manage. 

If your hands just can’t manipulate small objects well, a nipper with a larger grip may be the right solution for you.

Additional tools

Nippers with additional tools like knot-tying attachments make a lot of sense to me. By doubling their utility, it’s easy to justify buying a nipper that lets you tie nail knots almost effortlessly.

Final Thoughts

We can’t tell you which nippers are right for you, but there are some real stand-outs on our shortlist.

If you’re looking for nippers that pack a lot of tools into a small package, Dr. Slick’s Knot-Tying Nippers are a great option. The nippers themselves are sharp and more than up to the task of cutting fly lines of all types. Add to this that Dr. Slick includes an eye-clearing spike, a hook sharpener, and a nail-knot tying tool, and the overall utility of these nippers is hard to beat.

For anglers with limited hand and finger dexterity, Loon Outdoors’s Nip N Sip XL will make a world of difference. An oversized body that’s coated with a non-slip texture makes these sharp nippers among the easiest to manipulate, and there’s probably no better choice if you’ve had trouble handling standard-size nippers.

Finally, if money is no option and you want the very best nippers available, Abel is the place to look. Uncompromising performance and quality are the watchwords with these incredible nippers, and they feature razor-sharp, home-sharpenable (and replaceable) blades. A pair of Abel nippers is an investment that will outlast your lifetime.

As always, we’re here to answer any questions you might have, so please leave a comment below!

About The Author
John Baltes
If it has fins, John has probably tried to catch it from a kayak. A native of Louisiana, he now lives in Sarajevo, where he's adjusting to life in the mountains. From the rivers of Bosnia to the coast of Croatia, you can find him fishing when he's not camping, hiking, or hunting.