By Ken Poor
Every angler I have met has a story about “the big one that got away”. Quite often the only thing bigger than “the one that got away” is the story about why it happened. There are plenty of stories around about “the legendary monster fish that specializes in destroying tackle”. Or the fish that have learned how to tie knots in line, but only after they wrap it around logs or rocks, presumably so they can break the line. Razor sharp teeth or fish tangled deep in a weed-bed are a little more legitimate as reasons for a fish getting away. In fact, I may have used one of those excuses myself, but that would have been a long time ago.
One excuse that we can all avoid is tying a knot incorrectly. Every fisherperson needs to know how to tie an Arbor Knot, Improved Clinch Knot, Uni Knot to Uni Knot, Loop Knot and a Palomar Knot correctly. All five are great knots if tied and used correctly.
Both the Palomar Knot and Improved Clinch Knot can be used to attach monofilament fishing line to terminal tackle such as leaders, swivels, snaps, hooks and artificial lures. The Palomar Knot is also your best choice for use with any of the new super lines. The standard Clinch Knot has a problem with slipping with the new superlines and for that reason is best for use with monofilament or fluorocarbon line.
In this article, super line refers to nylon, braided and fused lines. This new generation of super lines has a very slick surface and the Palomar Knot provides minimal slip and maximum knot strength. Super lines are very tough to cut and while finger nail clippers will cut monofilament line it does not work well with the new super lines. Get a small, good pair of wire cutters, knife or scissors and keep them handy for cutting super line and monofilament lines. Do not bite your line with your teeth to cut it.
Keep in mind that line cut-offs are a hazard to fish and anything living in or on the water They also stay in the ecosystem for a long time increasing the problem. Line cut-off should never be thrown into the water and should always be disposed of correctly.
No single knot will cover every fishing situation an angler will face. For that reason, anglers should learn how to tie a minimum of five knots, two for attaching line to terminal tackle, one for attaching line to a reel, at least one for joining two lines together and a loop knot.
Each knot has a particular function as well as limitations and tying knots can, such as in the world of fly-fishing, become quite involved. At least nine out of ten times that I tie a knot I will use a Palomar Knot, but it also has limitations. The main limitation for the Palomar Knot is the size of the item you can tie the line onto. The Palomar knot is not a good choice for tying your line to big items such as large lures or long leaders or items with small eyes because you have to double the line through the eye.
Tying good knots is an important skill for all anglers and there is an art to tying good knots. Properly tying a knot will minimize the weakening of your fishing line, however to some degree it is unavoidable. So choosing the correct knot for the circumstances is the first step. Start by always buying a good quality fishing line and practice tying your knots before you head out on the water. Always wet your line before you tighten the knot.
The next step is to tie your fishing line knots correctly, because badly tied fishing knots results in lost fish. Once you have learned to tie the knots you use correctly, you will have taken a big step towards becoming a better angler. More importantly you will find yourself making fewer excuses about the “big one that got away”.
Tying knots in light monofilament, such as line under 6-pound test, has its own unique problems. Minor errors in knot tying in light line will result in failed knots as compared to knots tied in heavier line. Pay close attention to detail and when practical double your line or use extra wraps and always leave plenty of tag end when trimming light line. Light line, because it is so thin, is very susceptible to damage when you are tying a knot in it.
Knots tied in heavy monofilament line also have unique problems. Not so much with knot failure, but the initial tying of the knot because of problems with wrapping or twisting the thick line. The number of wraps and twist for lines over 80-pound test can be reduced for some knots, but only within reason. Use the tag end to carefully tighten the knot when you are using heavy line.
At this point the obvious question is which knot to use. The answer depends on what type of line you are using, and the thickness or pound test of the line. The most common types of line anglers are likely to use are monofilament, fluorocarbon, and the super lines. Each type of line has its own unique knot requirements.
When using monofilament lighter than about 20-pound test, use a Palomar Knot. With a little practice it is a fast, easy to tie knot and with the double line wrap in the eye of the terminal tackle it is a very reliable knot. Again, whenever practical use the Palomar Knot.
For monofilament from 20-pound test to 50-pound test use either the Palomar or the Improved Clinch Knot depending on the size of the eyes of the terminal tackle you are tying onto your line. With small eyes or monofilament over 50-pound test it is difficult to double the line through the small eyes of terminal tackle making it impossible to ty a Palomar Knot and in this case the Improved Clinch Knot is your best choice.
In most cases fluorocarbon line can be treated like monofilament when tying knots, but it is more brittle than monofilament line and you must be extra careful when tightening up knots when using it. Make sure you wet the knot and slowly tighten it. Both the Palomar Knot and the Improved Clinch Knot work well with fluorocarbon line.
Almost every angler learns to fish using monofilament line and later switches to one of the new super lines or fluorocarbon line. The knots they learned to use with monofilament line no longer work and now they need to learn a different knot. Super lines are about five times stronger than monofilament line, diameter for diameter, and super lines are also super slippery. Also, because the diameter for super lines is small, even for the higher pound test super lines a properly tied Palomar Knot will not slip with the super lines and is an excellent choice.
The center section of the spool of your fishing reel is called the arbor. The Arbor Knot is used to attach line to the arbor or center section of the reel spool.
Filling a reel with super line or fluorocarbon line can get very expensive. For that reason, most anglers will use monofilament line as a backing on their reel and then finish filling the reel with about one hundred and fifty yards of either a super line or fluorocarbon. When spooling up with super line to join the two lines together, tie a Palomar Knot in the super line and the Improved Clinch Knot in the monofilament backing.
Use the Uni to Uni Knot for joining monofilament and fluorocarbon lines together when re-spooling your reel or when using fluorocarbon line as a leader. There are several knots that can be used to join two lines together, but when you mix different types of lines, especially super line to monofilament, you need to pay very close attention to slippage.
Keep in mind that the knot you just tied is most likely the weakest link between you and the fish you are trying to catch. Retie your knots often throughout the day and it is a good idea to re–tie after each fish. When you re-tie your line, strip off a couple of feet of line, reset the drag on your reel, pay attention to details, and if you are not happy with a knot you just tied, re-tie it again.
In my opinion, the knots in this article would cover about every situation an angler will face, although I am aware that fly fishermen would consider them totally inadequate. I am sure you will find other knots that work for you. And I am sure some of you may not agree with the knots I use. But, I’ve been fishing well over 60 years and these knots have served me well. I am convinced, that if you can find just five knots that work in a variety of situations, and learn to tie them properly, you will eliminate a lot of problems, become a much more confident and better angler.