In the past, I have been quite critical regarding the poor quality of some tippet materials we have bought. Generally these materials are not cheap, and thereís nothing more irritating to an angler than random gear failure through no fault of their own.
Recently, Keith and I were given by Feather Merchants a few spools of the New Umpqua SuperFluoro Fluorocarbon tippet materials and leaders to try.
Even though the weather forecast wasnít flash, we decided to take the risk and drive several hundred kilometers to our favorite stream for a few days fishing. On arrival, we quickly discovered not only was the forecast right about the gale force northerly wind, which howls directly downstream, but our beautiful river was carrying about twice its normal flow from melting snow in its upper catchments.
Not to be put off by all these negative signs, we unpacked our gear and assembled our rods. Because of the conditions, Keith decided to stick with his normal ten foot ten pound Trout Umpqua leader, adding a four foot length of SuperFluoro 4X seven pound .007 tippet. He considered the heavier butt section on the traditional Trout 2X leaders with the diameter of .023 would be better at turning over a heavy nymph into that wicked wind than the SuperFluoro leaders. These were nine foot 3X eight and a half pound with a butt diameter of .018.
I on the other hand, went the whole hog and tied on the new nine foot, eight and a half pound Fluorocarbon leader, adding a four foot section of seven pound SuperFluorocarbon tippet.
Now, you will be thinking seven pound tippet sounds like a bit of an over kill, but with the quality of the trout we expect to catch, the wind, and the high fast water left us in no doubt seven pound tippet was totally appropriate.
We both tied on size 14 dark tungsten bead heads and it wasnít long before we hooked into some very good trout. Our normal practice is to retie the fly after each fish. On this day however, I just gave the knot a good tug, it still felt strong so kept on fishing without retying until I had successively landed four trout that averaged better than six pounds each. By now, we were very impressed with this new tippet material, however I decided not to press my luck and retied the fly with a fresh knot.
By the dayís end we had landed a dozen very large brown trout without a single failure. To put this in perspective, one has to appreciate that while playing large trout in fast water, all the stresses and strains have to be absorbed somewhere, generally at the weakest knot, and in my humble opinion this SuperFluoro tippet had passed its first test well.
Day two and the weather was unchanged, so we kept with the previous dayís tactics. We had just started to walk up river when we spotted a feeding trout mid stream in fast water. While formulating a plan of attack, we stood on the high bank looking down at the trout dashing left and right intercepting nymphs. It was when Keith was moving into position to execute our plan that disaster struck, his new Kilwell Presentation # 907 rod broke several inches from the tip when he began stripping line out.
Plan B: "OK Keith use my rod then." This offer was taken up and he soon had this fish up the bank, at four pounds not quite as good as the previous day's trout, but a good one never the less.
It took about 30 minutes before we spotted another and now it was my turn. I covered the trout with the nymph which was accepted immediately, the fish exploding for the fast flowing water on the opposite bank. Unsuccessful in its bid for freedom there, it then bolted upstream determinedly trying to get under and around every boulder it encountered.
I must add here, that from the moment the line tightened I was very conscious of the fact that we hadnít retied the knot after landing Keithís fish.
A little nervous at the thought, I still kept the pressure on and a few minutes later this beautiful strong well conditioned 8 lb brown was in the net. We quickly removed the hook and released it back to its environment. I can honestly say this was the best battle Iíve had for a long time. So exhilarated was I by the pleasure of landing this beauty, I simply handed the rod to Keith saying, "How good is this tippet?" while I ran the leader through my fingers feeling the damage caused by the trout dragging around the boulders. "Check this Keith, God only knows how that line didnít break".
For some unknown reason we didnít replace the tippet section, and just kept walking upstream. Perhaps we were distracted with the thought of how we were going to cross this wild rough side stream in front of us, which turned out to be no problem at all.
No sooner had we crossed it, simultaneously we both spotted the trout of the trip. We froze to the spot for a minute only moving our eyes while watching this huge trophy trout happily feeding about 40 feet upstream and 15 feet out from our bank. Eventually, Keithís hunched figure stalked into position while stripping line from my Loop reel, his eyes fixed on the trout as he estimated the amount of line required. His first cast was a beauty, several feet above it and well to the left. The nymph plopped into the calm water like a small stone falling from the sky, the ripples from it quickly spreading into the troutís window. Then it hit me, "Oh hell we havenít replaced that tippet section." But by now it was too late as the line was already opposite the monster fish. I watched the trout move to its left and its huge white mouth open then close.
"Yes" I yelled, Keithís reaction was instaneous and the trout was firmly hooked, my Sage rod in his right hand fully bent.
Those of you who have hooked trophy trout will know they rarely jump out of the water and generally donít move as fast as a good condition 6 or 7 pounder, however their power is like a bulldozer on a mission and this monster was no exception. I watched apprehensively as Keith took a firmer grip on the line with his left hand trying vainly to slow its progress. It swam unhurriedly for the safety of the roots of a beech tree growing on the far bank. I could see its sides flashing under the bank as it writhed and strained to free, Keithís hand now fully clamped on the line.
"Ping!" and the rod sprang back. The trout had won this battle but we both wondered whether if only we had taken the time to replace that damaged tippet section the result could have been a very different one.
In conclusion, we found the Umpqua SuperFluoro Fluorocarbon 4X seven pound .007 tippet tested at an honest seven pounds, and the knot strength was best when tied wet. The only failure we had was clearly created by our failure to replace a damaged section when we knew well that we should have. By the way it actually broke at the knot.
Regardless of how good you think your tippet is, remember to always retie the tippet knots after each good fish.