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> > Double Surgeons Knots Are Breaking

MshumrickAugust 8th, 2017, 8:31 am
Posts: 4I had a dilemma very recently that I invite anyone to provide some possible insight into why it happened. I am still a less experienced fisherman and would greatly appreciate any suggestions the more experienced fisherman may have regarding this issue.

I was recently fishing and had my Surgeons Knot break at the leader-tippet probably three times on different strikes from fish. I estimate the fish that were striking were maybe between 4-7 pounds, but I never got a visual on their size. I could only use the the average sizes of what another fisherman caught in the same area. He suggested some of the fish may range up to 8-10 pounds, but it is all unconfirmed. I would doubt there any fish that size just because it was only in two or three feet of water and I imagine a fish of that size would be clearly visible. The strikes were violent and the Surgeons Knot snapped on all occasions immediately when I went to set the hook.

I was using 3X leader with a 2X tippet attached by Double Surgeons Knot. The way I had been tying my Double Surgeons Knots was by making the conjoined loop and then feeding the tag end of the leader (shorter leader end going out towards my right because I use my left hand to hold the loop - i.e. my leader/fly line are on my left) twice through the loop first. Then I find the end my tippet and put it through the loop a first time, gently pulling the length of the tippet through, and then I repeat for a second time, pulling it all the way through. In theory, both the tag end of the leader and the tippet line have been passed through the loop twice, thus effectuating the Double Surgeons Knot.

However, I am wondering if I need to pass the tag end of the leader and the end of the tippet through the loop at the same time as one another to get the proper knot. Is that necessary? Or can I simply continue to do it the way I have been doing and just assume I was not using the right leader/tippet strength and go bigger with 1X and 0X? As of now, I have to feel my knot tying process is incorrect because even if there was a 10 pound trout, let alone 4-7 pound, 3X joined with 2X by a proper knot should be strong enough, right?

Anyways, if there are any comments I would greatly appreciate any thoughts. Thanks.
RleePAugust 8th, 2017, 9:12 am
NW PA - Pennsylvania's Glacial Pothole Wonderland

Posts: 319
I'm not exactly sure based on your description of the knot tying process, but something is definitely hinky here..

Assuming your leader and tippet material are both new enough to not have undergone any of the age degradation that can be a problem with nylon (ie: did you buy both within the last year or so?) I'd try these three things and see if any/all of them help:

1) Pass both your tippet and leader tag through your loop at the same time. Doing them separately could be OK and work well, but there is also the chance that doing it this way is not allowing your knot to cinch or tighten down properly. Try doing them together and see what you get.

2) Be sure to lube your knot sufficiently (saliva) just prior to completely tightening down. This reduces friction on the nylon and also helps to produce a tighter or better cinched knot.

3) Usually, this isn't necessary with the sort of diameters you are working with, but you might try a triple instead of a double surgeons. I generally use a triple for any connection from 3X to finer material and a double on any connection from 3X to heavier material. I've found it makes a significant difference.

I've now exhausted everything I know about this subject...:)

Give it a try..

Good Luck!
WbranchAugust 8th, 2017, 10:40 am
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2185
When a large fish aggressively takes a streamer I have had fish that were of less weight than the breaking strength of the tippet either break the tippet or have the knot break.

Why are you attaching a piece of 2X to a 3X leader? Normally the tippet is of a lighter (smaller) "X" number than the leader. Typically a 3X leader would get a 4X tippet and so on. In salt water there are situations where you want a heavier tippet than the main leader. That would be when the target species has sharp teeth and you don't want to use a wire leader or if the target species have the tendency to run into mangroves or piers covered in barnacles. Then many guys will attach an 18" piece of 30# or 40# monofilament to the lighter tippet with an Albright knot.

Are you moistening the double surgeon's knot before pulling it tight? Is your tippet material old or of inferior quality?
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
MshumrickAugust 8th, 2017, 11:17 am
Posts: 4Well that could be the issue then: attaching a heavier tippet than the leader. I was not anticipating using heavy material on this particular outing so I just combined the heaviest lines I had on me at the time. The heaviest leader I had was 3X and the heaviest tippet I had was 2X. So I guess my thought process was get the 2X into the water and hopefully that will be strong enough. Alternatively, I guess I could have just made a 2X leader using the 2X tippet and tying that straight onto the flies, rather than try to join the two line strengths? Then I guess that would come down to the strength of the Perfection or Surgeons Loop?
MshumrickAugust 8th, 2017, 11:20 am
Posts: 4Thank you for responding. I will try putting them through at the same time next time and see what happens. Also, in response to WBranch as well, I did moisten the knots. If for some reason this keeps happening, would a Blood Knot be an effective alternative? I can tie it but have preferred the Surgeons Knot because it is much easier in the field.
WbranchAugust 8th, 2017, 3:22 pm
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2185

If for some reason this keeps happening, would a Blood Knot be an effective alternative?

Actually I prefer a blood knot to a surgeon's knot any day of the week. Over my fly fishing life I would venture to say I have tied at least 15,000 blood knots and only a few hundred double surgeon's knots. You can get away with a little more disparity in diameters with a blood knot. For example I might tie on a piece of 6X tippet to a 4X leader as the night approaches because I am in a hurry. I only employ a double surgeon's knot when the trout are rising well and there is only about 20 minutes before total darkness. As you mentioned it is easier to tie the surgeons knot when time is of the essence. However I much prefer a blood knot. Practice tying them at home and in time you will be able to tie them faster on the stream.

I have no idea if a blood knot has better knot strength than a double surgeon's knot or vice versa. It just happens I learned to tie the blood knot first about 60 years ago and have only been tying the surgeon's knot for about 10 years.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
CrepuscularAugust 9th, 2017, 4:56 am
Boiling Springs, PA

Posts: 910
RleeP pretty much covered the tying steps. The only thing about a double or triple surgeon's knot is that you must have it completely seated, or any slippage will cause it to break. It is important to tighten not only the tippet and leader portions but also the tag ends. All four pieces of leader/tippet material must be pulled tight. If you are going to use Fluorocarbon always use a triple. I typically use a triple with nylon as well like RleeP suggested.With some practice you can learn to tie a blood knot pretty quickly.

MartinlfAugust 9th, 2017, 7:31 am
Palmyra PA

Posts: 2733
Lee and Eric have covered the most relevant points in regard to the original post. With a good blood or surgeon's knot, a 3X leader tied to a 2X tippet should not be any weaker than a 3X leader tied to a 3X or smaller tippet. When using the surgeon's, I always triple mine, though I generally prefer a 7-turn ligature knot for the lighter tippets I typically use (4X and down). It is a pain to tie, however, and must be checked when joining different brands of tippet. Art Scheck describes its advantages in his book Fly-Fish Better. You have to wet it with water--spit is too thick--and tighten it carefully. I've never had one fail when tied right with similar tippet diameters in the same material. It's especially good in light diameter lines, when Trico fishing, etc.
I don't do much streamer fishing, so I don't know how it would perform in heavier tippets, but I believe the structure would cushion shock well. Here's a diagram.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
MshumrickAugust 9th, 2017, 9:37 am
Posts: 4Okay. This has all been very helpful. I appreciate the input. On a related note, if I am still having an issue with the Surgeons Knot, or even the Blood Knot, and I need a quick remedy with what I have on the water, would using the tippet as a leader (making a Perfection or Surgeons Loop and attaching it direct to the fly line) be effective? Maybe by using 0X-2X tippet to attach to the fly line?
RogueratAugust 9th, 2017, 10:40 am
Posts: 378
you might try the Orvis knot for tippet-to-leader, looks like the surgeon's knot with slight differences and I find it pretty fast to tie onstream.

lots of animated videos on this one, as well as the other standard fishing knots- Google the topic and tie awaaay...


'Less is more...'

Ludwig Mies Vande Rohe
MartinlfAugust 12th, 2017, 12:21 am
Palmyra PA

Posts: 2733
if I am still having an issue with the Surgeons Knot, or even the Blood Knot, and I need a quick remedy with what I have on the water, would using the tippet as a leader (making a Perfection or Surgeons Loop and attaching it direct to the fly line) be effective?

That might work, but you'd need to be sure you avoid a girth hitch. I'd think it would be better to use a standard 3X leader and cut its tip back to the 0X-2X size so you have the thicker butt where you go loop to loop to your fly line. Or use a 0X-2X leader.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
Feathers5August 14th, 2017, 5:31 am
Posts: 287I don't believe we've addressed the fact that the tippet may have become old and brittle. After continued break-offs I threw the tippet away, bought a new one, and my problem was solved. Something to think about, I guess.
PABrownieAugust 15th, 2017, 8:46 am
Gallitzin PA

Posts: 35
Simple solution - use a tripple surgeons. I listened to a podcast with lefty and they tested a few knots on a knot testing contraption and the tripple was significantly stronger than the double in tippet sizes under 4x.

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