People have been telling me to write an article about fishing knots for years, but until now I’ve resisted. Why now?
Honestly I’ve wanted to present my “notes on knots” to the readers of the Fish Sniffer for a long time, but I haven’t pulled the trigger because doing the illustrations for knots is tough to pull off.
Well, I’ve come up with a solution. I’ll talk about the merits of several knots, but I won’t use knot-tying illustrations. I figure that most of the folks reading this have Internet access. If so, you can find video illustrations of all the knots I’m going to discuss. If not you can still pick up an old fashion printed knot guide and follow the step-by-step photos.
So let’s talk knots! I’ve spent a lot of time on the water by myself and I’ve fished with some very talented anglers over the years. I’ve tried a bunch of different knots and I’ve seen lots of different knots in action. Some knots are super simple and some are super complicated. Some knots aren’t very reliable and some are highly reliable.
When I talk about knot reliability I’m referring to the knot’s breaking strength in relation to the breaking strength of the line. If you are spooled up with 20 pound line, but using a knot that breaks at 50% of the line strength you are essentially using 10 pound line. That’s bad!
Ideally you want to be using a knot that breaks as close as possible to the strength of the line itself. Of course there is some variability in play based on the type of fishing and technique you’re using.
While knot strength is important it’s only part of the knot equation for me. Simplicity is important too. A super complex knot might perform well in the strength arena, but in the real world of pitching boats, middle age eyes and low light conditions, simple to execute knots are better.
The Improved Clinch Knot
This is likely the world’s most popular fishing knot. I use it a lot and it’s a knot you should know, but it does have some important limitations.
The main attribute of the Improved Clinch Knot is the fact that it’s easy and fast to tie. On the downside it’s not a very strong/reliable knot, meaning that when using an Improved Clinch Knot your knot will fail under a load less than the listed breaking strength of your line.
This is true for virtually all knots, but with the Improved Clinch Knot you may be reducing the strength of your rig by as much as 30% depending on your attention to detail when tying the knot.
In a lot of applications the reduction in breaking strength doesn’t matter that much. For example, if I’m tying leaders kokanee leaders out of 12 pound fluorocarbon, a 25% loss in strength is as non-issue. I’m never going to subject the leader to that kind of stress while kokanee fishing.
On the other hand if the target were tuna or sturgeon a significant reduction in breaking strength might well turn a well hooked fished into a story about the big one that got away!
The Double Improved Clinch Knot
If you can tie an Improved Clinch Knot you can tie the Double Improved Clinch Knot too. Unlike a standard Improved Clinch, the Double is a very strong knot that fails at near100% of the line’s breaking weight.
This is a knot that can be used with light to medium size mono, but I seldom use it for that. Where it really shines is when working with braid. I employ this knot when tying lures directly to braid or when attaching hardware like snaps or swivels.
A lot of folks confuse the Double Improved Clinch with the Trilene Knot. While both knots work well and look very similar when finished, I find the Double easier to tie when the adrenaline is flowing. And believe me any situation that call for 100% knots in 65 pound braid is going to make the adrenaline flow!
The Palomar Knot
At the cross roads of simplicity and power we find the Palomar Knot and it’s a dandy. If you can tie a “granny knot” you can tie a Palomar and provided you tie it properly it offers a knot strength to line strength ratio in the upper 90 percent range.
To tie a Palomar, double your line and pass it through whatever you want to knot onto the line, be it a hook, swivel or whatever. Next start to tie a simple overhand granny knot, but before wetting it and pulling it down, pass the object you’re knotting on the line through the loop formed by the double line on the far side of the granny. With that done, slowly draw the knot down pulling on both the tag end and main line.
As simple as the Palomar is, you can still mess it up. When you pass the double line through the hook eye, be sure that the lines are straight and not twisted.
When you draw the knot down, make sure it’s wet and draw it down gradually. Remember, friction is the enemy with any knot especially the Palomar.
Uni To Uni For Splicing
One of the big challenges facing anglers in the braided line era is fastening braid to mono or fluorocarbon. Many times you want the long life and zero stretch characteristics of braid, but for the sake of presentation you’re offering has to be attached to mono or flouro. This is when you need to run a “topshot” of line over the braid.
To connect the braid to mono or flouro you need an attachment that will pass smoothly through the rod’s guides when reeling in or casting. The best knot I’ve found for this is the Uni To Uni. The knot is fairly simple and very reliable. Best of all, if you can tie an improved clinch knot your can pretty much rest assured that with a little practice you can turn out a good Uni To Uni.
Now there is one draw back. The Uni To Uni works best with lines that are similar in diameter. If the lines are of greatly different diameter, an Albright Knot is a good substitute.
At times you’ll want to tie a simple reliable loop knot in the end of your main line, on a sinker dropper or on the end of a leader. The Surgeon’s Loop is great for this.
To tie the knot, double the line over and then begin to tie a overhand (granny) knot but instead of passing the leading end of the double line through the loop once, pass it through twice, lubricate and tighten slowly.
Some folks tie this knot triple style passing the leading end through the loop three times, yet this does little but make the knot thicker.
Uses for the Surgeon’s Loop include attaching snaps and swivels to the end of the main line, leader to main line junctions and attaching sinkers quickly to the end of a leader or dropper.
And with the Surgeon’s Loop we’ll tie up this knot tying discussion! I’ve been fishing for over four decades and the five knots I’ve outlined are the ones I use the most. I’m not saying that these are the only knots to use or that they are the absolute best knots. What I am saying is that in terms of strength, simplicity and utility these knots are tough to beat!