“Author Tony Bishop” link: http://www.bishfish.co.nz/main/about.htm

“Many years ago we stumbled across Tony Bishop’s book “Fishing Smarter for Trout” and were really impressed at the systematic and scientific way that he approached fly fishing. All his books are written in the same sophisticated and readable style. The importance of knots was one of the things Tony highlighted in his subsequent books. He challenged the myth that wet knots with saliva are critical before they are tightly drawn and resonated with us. When a knot is tightened slowly and carefully, the idea that enough frictional heat is generated is patent nonsense. Tony has kindly allowed us to reproduce his excellent article on knots and it is well worth reading…..

How to tie fishing knots properly & securely

An – as yet unfulfilled – objective of mine is to catch a 13.5-kilo (30 lb.) snapper. I’ve come close a couple of times, but the really big one never actually landed. Just off the Hen and Chicken Islands a couple of years ago I thought I had finally cracked it.

It wasn’t going to be. My knot failed just as the fish was approaching the boat.

Clearly, I could see the huge snapper rolling down his head – that was all. Not a hard lung – no vicious pull – just roll back and forth. It continued to go down, slowly but intentionally. I was standing there watching my straight rod and seeing the line lying slack in the water.

I reeled slowly until the end of the line lifted off the water. There was a little curl of line at the end of the trace where the hook was. That little curl of irrefutable proof that my knot failed.

No amount of yelling, “Bother, golly, gosh, and darn it” could bring that fish back. No amount of “If only” could disguise the fact that my knot simply came undone.

Afterwards, make a personal debrief
I realized my mistakes.

I hurried to tie on the hook in my excitement and rush to get my new rig into the water.

All these factors contributed to the fish that was lost.

“But why didn’t the knot come undone during the early part of the fight,” you ask?

Very often, the tension and compression on the line is sufficient to keep the knot from slipping under hard-fight conditions. However, once the tension comes off, as in this case when the fish started drifting up to the boat, the nylon line starts recovering its original unstretched shape. The coils and twists that formed the knot are becoming loose and the knot is slipping apart silently.

It’s my guess that the poorly tied knots lose more fish than any other factor.

So what’s a good knot making?

The Du Pont Company, the world’s largest manufacturer of fishing line, has done an enormous amount of research into knots for monofilament and other types fishing line.

As a result of this research, they have established a set of guidelines that they use to determine if they can recommend a knot for their lines. It should be noted that these guidelines are for ‘every day’ knots.

The guidance is as follows:

What’s the best knot, then?

There are books full of knots, but the Uni knot and the cinch knot are among the best. Both the Uni and the blood knots are fast and easy to tie, and both maintain a total line strength of more than 85% of the original breaking strength of the lines.

But there is one factor that remains true no matter which knot you choose. If you don’t practice tying the knot you’ve chosen to tie it easily and securely, you’ll lose fish to knots that come undone.

The Uni-knot

The Uni-knot is pretty much what it says, meaning one-knot – you can use it for most situations of knot tying.

I’m using it to tie hooks (including snood knot), flies, lures, jigs, and join line. When properly tied to more than 95%, it has a knot strength.

All knots weaken the line they are tied in – the % knot strength indicates how much of the lines original breaking strain is left after tying the knot. The closer the strength of the knot, the better the knot, is 100% of the original breaking strain. A simple half-hitch has less than 50% knot strength.

You have two options when using the Uni-Knot to tie flies, jigs, hooks or lures. First, as most people do, you can pull the knot tightly to the hook’s eye.

Or, using the tag end of the line, you can pull the knot tightly and then pinch the two sides of the loop with your thumb and forefinger fingernails between the hook eye and the knot.

Then pull the main line until your fingernails are met by the knot. This will leave a small loop, allowing more movement for a lure or fly. When used with wet flies and streamers, it is particularly effective.

The Knot of Double Hitch or Surgeons:

The double hitch or Surgeon’s knot is a another quick and strong way to join line together – for example when you are assembling a leader, adding a trace etc., and to make loops in the leader butt to join the leader to the fly-line loop.

If two lines are joined together, the two ends will overlap by about 10cm. If you make a loop, bring the end of the line back next to the line, with a 5cm overlap.

Then proceed as follows for both knots and as shown in the diagram. Tie a simple half hitch (1) with the two lines – do not tighten. Repeat the (2) hitch twice as much. Then pull the doubled lines apart slowly and carefully (3) so that the knot snugs firmly down. This is an important step, and it must be done slowly and firmly. Don’t wet the knot! It can cause the hitches to form incorrectly and weaken the knot seriously.

In fact, it’s never wet your knots, it’s a myth that’s based on an old truth, but it should be thrown away with old line now way past time. (See below)

Then use a pair of clippers to trim the ends of the knot.

The Loop of Perfection

The Perfection Loop knot is the best knot to tie a loop. It is a little difficult to tie, and very difficult to describe, so I won’t try. But Midcurrent site has an excellent video on tying this knot, plus step by step photos. Recommended highly.

Assemble a fly-fishing leader.

When you are fly-fishing you need to ‘turn the fly over’ at the end of the cast. This means the leader and fly are behind the end of the fly-line while the fly-line is still going forward. When the fly-line slows down to a stop, the leader should keep going until it’s nicely out in front – pretty much like a picture.

We can build a tapered leader to help achieve this – this means the leader’s butt end is thicker than the leader’s fly end. So we might have on a ‘standard’ leader of around 3m in total, with a butt section of 10kg (20lb) line, say 1.5m long, joined to a mid-section of 4kg (8lb) line .75m long, joined to the ‘tippet’ section, the leader that attaches to the fly of 2 to 3kg (6lb) line, and if you have been checking my maths, .75m long (although you can lengthen this section if you need a longer leader).

If you’re on the water, use the Double Hitch to tie the sections together – but it’s a really good practice to tie up several (except the tippet end) before you go fishing and put them in small zip-lock bags. Usually, when tying in advance, I use the Uni-Knot to tie leaders.

The leader’s butt end is usually attached with a loop-to-loop to the fly line. To tie the Perfection Loop at the leader’s butt end as shown above.

Attach the leader-butt loop to the fly-line loop as well as a diagram of the way to correctly and without any possibility of screwing up. Learn how to make a loop to connect and you’re never going to suffer from a loop break-off.

Take the fly-line slightly pinched between your forefinger and thumb a few centimeters behind the loop. Take the leader the same way just behind the loop. Push the fly-line loop through the leader loop until your fly-line thumb and forefinger are touched by the leader loop and pinched together. Take the leader’s end with your other hand and thread it through the fly-line loop and pull it through all the way until the two loops form a perfect figure-eight loop-to-loop connection just like magic.

This method avoids the possibility of ending the leader-loop flipping over the end of the fly-line loop and acting effectively on itself as a guillotine when the join is loaded.

Practice Helper: Use some thin string to practice if you’re new to knot tying, it’s easier to see what you’re doing.

The knot or not to wet?

One of the more enduring myths, sadly perpetuated in the fishing books, magazines and videos – still being published today – is the ‘wet your knot’ myth.

They were thick and rigid when mono lines were first introduced. The line surface was, by today’s standards, very rough. Theory, (and it is just a unproven theory), was and in many cases still is,  is that pulling a knot up tight built up friction and hence heat.

Heat is a killer of line. It significantly reduces the strength of the line. There is no evidence that pulling a tight knot builds up near enough heat to damage the line anywhere.

For similar breaking strains, modern lines are more smooth and thinner. They are much easier to form into knots. The modern line surface is very smooth and has very little quotient of friction.

It’s because you shouldn’t wet your knot because modern lines are thinner and more supple – that’s why.

The best way to tie a knot is to carefully tie the knot to ensure that there are no hidden cross-over lines. Then tighten the knot, slowly but firmly, allowing the twists to be properly formed. If you wet a knot there is a distinct danger of forming what is called a ‘liar’ knot.

A ‘liar’ knot is a knot that has not formed properly.

It looks like the part, but it looks disappointing. Saliva allows to slide over the twists and turns as the knot is tightened. A piece of line has crossed another piece deep within a liar knot. When the knot is tightly jerked, this will act like a scythe.

Bind and relapse

The weak link in the chain of the fishing system is a knot, any knot. Every knot reduces the line’s breaking strain when it’s tied first. Hook in a few good fish and the knot further reduces the strain of breaking.

The fishing line is designed in a straight pull to achieve maximum strength. By its very nature, a knot changes the pull direction. Each line pull reduces the strength of the line at the knot.

Especially in the middle of a good bite, it’s a pain, but it’s a good practice to re-link knots after landing or lose a good fish. This is particularly true when fishing below 10 kilograms of strain breaking. It is imperative to re-link a knot to a snag to line-breaking point that has secured any part of your terminal tackle.

Just as important before starting fishing is to re-link all knots. A knot tied from the last fishing trip is a time bomb waiting for you to lose a lifetime’s fish.

This article was first published by Tony Bishop on Fish with Bish from New Zealand* and is copyright. Appears by permission here.

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“Author Tony Bishop” link: http://www.bishfish.co.nz/main/about.htm “Many years ago we stumbled across Tony Bishop’s book “Fishing Smarter for Trout” and were really impressed at the systematic and scientific way that he approached fly fishing. All his books are written in the same sophisticated and readable style. The importance of knots was...