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Knotty Matters

If you want to catch fish, you’d better know how to tie a fisherman’s knot

The improved clinch — also known as a fisherman’s knot — will test at close to 100 percent of any lines’ breaking strength and will not slip.

One simple thing an angler can do to help catch more big fish is learn to tie the right knot correctly. In a life of fishing and after working in a sports store for a good number of years and listening to countless tales of big fish broken off, I’ve learned many anglers aren’t sure which knot to tie or how to tie it.
    The weakest link in the connection between fish and fisherman is the knot. Common household and sailing knots such as the square knot, granny knot, overhand knot and the various hitches and the like make poor bends for fishing applications. Generally these fastenings will seriously reduce the breaking strength of fishing lines or not hold at all, slipping out when pressure is applied. Do not use them.

Fish Are Biting    

   I’m not sure whether yellow perch runs are blooming earlier this year or the increasing availability of this fish (commercial netting has been significantly curtailed by DNR) has resulted in more people looking for and finding them. One way or the other, big fat neds are already everywhere this March. The Western Shore has seen runs on the upper Magothy River, the upper Severn River, the South River, the Patuxent at Waysons Corner, Allens Fresh, and the tribs farther north. The Eastern Shore is getting action at almost all of the traditional hot spots: Red Bridges, Hillsboro, Greensboro and all along the Tuckahoe.
    White perch are showing up unbelievably early. Small males (always the first to show) and even some larger fish are being caught right along with the yellow perch. I guess this year not only we anglers are getting cabin fever.

    Referring to books, magazines and web sites devoted to knot tying is a quick route to information overload. There are so many knots described, they are all so different and the appropriate application descriptions so rudimentary: Who can tell exactly which need to be mastered? What’s worse, many of these sources contain one serious piece of misinformation.
    Years ago when fishing line was made from twisted heavy cotton and then Dacron, the most popular fishing knot used was the clinch knot. Tying this knot involves putting the line through the eye of the hook or lure, wrapping the tag (short) end of the line around the standing line six or seven times, then putting the tag end back through the loop formed at the hook eye and pulling the whole affair tight.
    The clinch was a good knot.
    But if you’re using modern fishing lines — nylon monofilaments; co-filaments; fluorocarbons and especially the newer braided lines — the clinch knot will invariably fail.

The Can’t-Do-Without Knot

    Yet the knot is still being recommended by many published sources (apparently authored by non-anglers) as a great fishing knot.
    The one basic knot these well-meaning people should be recommending for general angling applications is the improved clinch knot.
    The improved clinch — also known as a fisherman’s knot or a lucky seven — is based on the clinch knot, adding one critical step: After the tag end is pulled through the loop at the hook eye, it must also be passed through the last loop made, then moistened with saliva and pulled tight.
    An improved clinch knot thus tied will test at close to 100 percent of any lines’ breaking strength and will not slip. If you know how to tie only this one knot, you will get through an average day of fishing in fine shape.
    Do note, however, if you’re using the newer ultra-thin, braided line, because of its tendency to cut into itself or slip, you will need to double up the line before tying the improved clinch (or any fishing knot).
    Finally, all knots should be moistened with saliva and tightened gradually and forcefully until they are completely tight.

More Helpful Knots

    Still, a person can’t help noticing countless interesting knots in the literature. Five or six more can be useful to the average angler.
    At the risk of oversimplification (and noting that blue-water and extreme light-tackle anglers are excluded from these considerations) these are the Palomar knot, the blood knot, the surgeon’s loop, the uni-knot (including its variation the double-uni) and the Albright knot. Fly anglers, because of the uniqueness of their main lines and leaders, must add the nail and surgeon’s knots to this list.
    Angling-oriented knot-tying books that feature these knots are: Practical Fishing Knots by Lefty Kreh; Waterproof Book of Knots: Sport Fishing by Geoff Wilson; and The Complete Book of Fishing Knots by Geoffrey Budworth. Numerous animated tying instructions for all of these knots and more can be found online by Googling animated fishing knots.
    One last and very important recommendation: When you have tied your knot, always examine it closely one last time. If it doesn’t look just right, cut it off and tie it again. You will never regret it.