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Mike's scientific tippet test 10/15/2014

After loosing 3 fish at Pinewood (to bad tippet he says) Mike did the following analysis:

Okay, so to answer the question: "Do we really suck, or does equipment maybe matter at least a little bit?", I conducted a test on my 5X tippet.  The tippet is Climax 98 "Superior Knot Strength", 5X - .006" diameter, 5.2# test, purchased sometime before our trip to the Pan last year.

Test set up was a fresh piece of tippet for each trial, each end clamped in rubber jaws, and a drop height of 6".  The results are:

Weight(g)    Weight(lbs)            Result
     50               .11                       OK
   194               .19                       OK
   244               .53                       OK
   382               .84                       Failed

A .84 pound weight broke the tippet about 1/4 of the way from the clamp point, so that's a very similar result to field conditions.

Next step is to convert the failed weight trial to an actual line stress weight.  To do that, I put a piece of foam on my gram scale table and added the 1000g tare weight to the scale arm.  By trial and error, I discovered that my 382 gram test weight would center the scale arm right at 1000g (how convenient)!  If you convert 1000 grams to pounds, you get 2.2 pounds!

Eureka - - - that means old tippet has less than 1/2 the break strength it should.  So, 3 important conclusions to draw from this:

1. The statement that you should buy new tippet at the start of each fishing season is correct, and this test engineer will certainly follow that rule from here on!
2. I will admit that I landed no fish yesterday, but had I not had a "wardrobe malfunction", I would have caught 3 (maybe, kinda, sorta, who knows?)
3. The above notwithstanding, how do we account for the fact that Al's tippet is probably the oldest of all?

Any thoughts?


To which Augie replied:

Kudos for the scientific curiosity!  Looks like you've developed a viable qualitative technique.

Naturally, I need to point out that the  'drop test' imparts a different type of stress than a true tensile strength test which would apply force at a constant (slow) rate thereby eliminating the effect of acceleration. However, I believe your overall results to be valid.

Even though we never know how long tippet material has been in the store, if you replace it every year and buy it at the same place you can be pretty sure the new one will be a year younger than the old one.  It seems strange that both you and Chester had tippet problems on the exact same day.  I'll check the Almanac to see if there have been any recent solar flares or EMP's.

As for the 3 lost fish,'s always good to discover the 'cause'.  Kind of like the radio glitches we all get just before a crash.

Now as for Al's situation.  I'm at a complete loss.  He just seems to defy all the normal 'rules of thumb'.  Five year old tippet, 10 year old glow's uncanny.  I mean who catches 15 fish on the same fly over a period of 6 months?????  And, as he never changes the fly, he never changes the tippet!!!!!  Some people are just blessed.


And Al concluded the following:

Regardless of all you guys scientific testing and superior wisdom...

I follow the basic rule
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

If the fish are biting on the fly, why change it?
If the rod catches fish, why would I need a new one?
If the reel hold the line, why do I need a new one?

I actually hold the fish up by the tippet in the net when removing the fly and have only broke the fly off once.  (The only time my tippet failed is when Mike retrieved my fly for me.)

My tippet is the Cortland Precision Fluorocarbon from Wal-Mart. (5X .006 4.0 lb.) I need to by a new spool as mine is completely empty.

By the way, the leader on my line is the original one which came with the Redington rod combo. Now one season old.

OK, enough of that. I got cows to milk, crops to grow and sales to make...