June 02, 2020
By Lynn Burkhead
In a sport fueled by the purchase of expensive boats, motors, electronics, rods, reels, lures, and flies, a fishing knot might not seem like it’s that big of a deal.
After all, a knot is not something you buy. But if a knot is not tied properly and applied to the appropriate situation when needed, it can derail a fisherman’s hopes from catching a giant tarpon on saltwater flats to landing a bruiser bass in a Back 40 farm pond.
Rob Woodruff, a longtime fly fishing expert who has spent years guiding anglers and managing destination lodges along with his wife Jenny Mayrell-Woodruff, has fished for species big and small in places as varied as Texas, Oklahoma, Montana, British Columbia, and Belize to name a few. From trout to salmon to bass to tarpon to permit, knot tying success has played a critical role as Woodruff and his wife have worked to lead clients and lodge guests to success on the water.
“Like you said, it’s not something that you buy, but it is something that is vitally important and a skill that all anglers need to learn,” the guide said. While he’s partial to the knot tying instructions and videos provided by Orvis, other good websites to learn from include those produced by Berkley, Shakespeare, and Take Me Fishing.
One detriment that can keep a knot from being properly tied and seated is having to stop and swat at insects like mosquitoes. That’s when a product like OFF!® Sportsmen with Picaridin Insect Repellent comes into play. It’s great for fishing and associated camping activities, has a non-greasy formula that won’t damage angling gear, and it offers long-lasting protection from mosquitoes that get in the way of a great day of fishing.
Interested in improving your knot tying skills? Well, from his conventional tackle days as a teenager fishing with his late father in North Texas to his multi-faceted fly fishing work today, Woodruff has developed a go-to list of five important knots he uses most days on the water. With a little time and effort, learning how to tie these five knots will help increase your angling success on the water:
Improved Clinch Knot
Woodruff says this is a good strong knot he has seen prove itself on all kinds of water over time. A moderately difficult-to-tie knot in his opinion, it’s best for monofilament as anglers attach a lure or fly to their line.
To tie the knot, pass the line’s end through the hook eye or a swivel end. Then pull several inches of the line through, doubling it back against itself several times. Next, pass the end of the line through the small loop created. Then pass it through the big loop created as you ensure the coils of line don’t overlap. Moisten the knot, pulling the tag end and main line slowly so the coils tighten up on the knot. Trim excess and you’re done.
Nonslip Loop Knot
The longtime guide says this knot, which is good for allowing more motion to attached flies and lures, is a strong one that doesn’t fail very often. Moderately difficult to tie, it works for either monofilament or fluorocarbon and is especially useful when using heavier sized lines.
To tie this knot, make an overhand knot in the line several inches from the end of itself. Take the line’s end, known as the tag end, and pass it through the eye of the hook. After that, take the tag end and pass it through the overhand knot’s loop, then wrapping the tag end around the line several times. Bring the tag end back through the overhand knot on its exit side. Lubricate, pull slowly to tighten, and trim the tag end excess.
Another good line to lure knot, this one is simple to learn and tie says the guide. Considered a strong knot, it works well for braided lines, fluorocarbon and monofilament. According to Woodruff, the only drawback is you’ve got to pass the entire lure or fly back through the knot as you tie it.
To tie this knot, double approximately 6-inches of line and pass it through the hook eye before tying an overhand knot in the doubled line. Then let the hook hang loose as you avoid allowing any twist into the line. Pull the end of the loop downward, passing the loop completely over the hook itself. Finally, lubricate the knot, draw up both ends of the knot, and trim the tag excess.
Triple Surgeon Knot
This is a line to line connection, one that is strong and dependable despite being moderately difficult to tie according to Woodruff. While not as hard to learn as the blood knot, this one will take some practice. The guide says it works well for mono to mono or fluorocarbon to fluorocarbon connections, although the latter can have less knot strength in his experience.
To tie this knot, begin by taking the two ends of the line as you lay them side by side in opposing directions. Next, make a loop using both tag ends. Then wrap the tag ends through the loop three times as the name suggests. Lubricate the knot before slowly and steadily pulling on all four portions as you tighten everything up. Finally, trim the excess and you’re done.
Useful for attaching two different types of line together, the longtime guide says this connection is very strong in his experience. Moderately difficult to tie, this is especially useful for fly anglers who are using fly lines with a loop connection at the end.
To tie this knot, form a crossing loop at the end of the line with plenty of excess to work with (experience will help you figure out the right amount). Pull the tag end straight between the two loops before reaching in and pulling the back loop through the front loop. Tighten the lubricated knot slowly by pulling the ends of the loop and main line in opposite directions. Take your finger or a small object—I like using a ballpoint pen—to pull the knot tight, then trimming the tag end to complete the process.
What mistakes should anglers avoid in tying knots? Woodruff says there are several including not practicing enough so the process becomes second nature in low light, inclement weather, and stressful multi-tasking situations. Another is not lubricating the knot, either with saliva or Chapstick. A final mistake he says to avoid is clipping the tag end too tight on fluorocarbon knots since this line material is prone to slippage.
Since knot tying represents the weakest link in the angling chain, the 50-something-year-old guide has spent hours and hours practicing and perfecting his knot tying skills on and off the water. And he says other anglers desiring success should do the same.
“Knots may be boring and something that you don’t want to spend a lot of time working on during downtimes,” said Woodruff. “But often, they are the most important part of the fishing experience and vital in so many settings. If the knot doesn’t hold, then it doesn’t matter if the location, the presentation, or the fly or lure choice is correct. Because when the knot fails, everything else is for naught.”