The Catch

Knots for an­glers

Boating NZ - - Contents - BY JOHN EICHELSHEIM

Modern fish­ing lines are fan­tas­tic, but they have some pe­cu­liar prop­er­ties that make ty­ing knots in them prob­lem­atic. And dif­fer­ent types of lines have dif­fer­ent prop­er­ties, which of­ten means they re­quire dif­fer­ent knots. The two most pop­u­lar ma­te­ri­als for fish­ing line are ny­lon and poly­eth­yl­ene. Ny­lon (and fluoro­car­bon, used as fish­ing line as well as trace) is ex­truded to form a sin­gle fil­a­ment that’s uni­form in di­am­e­ter, thus the name ‘ny­lon monofil­a­ment’.

Poly­eth­yl­ene (PE or GSP – ‘gel-spun poly­eth­yl­ene’), which has be­come in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar in the last 15-20 years, is used for styles of fish­ing where low stretch and fine di­am­e­ter with high strength are de­sir­able prop­er­ties.

To make PE lines, fine fil­a­ments of gel-spun poly­eth­yl­ene are ei­ther wo­ven into a braided line or fused to­gether us­ing a spe­cial heat process. In New Zealand, both braided and fused PE lines are com­monly lumped to­gether as ‘braid’ to dis­tin­guish them from monofil­a­ment ny­lon.


When ny­lon monofil­a­ment be­gan to be used as fish­ing line af­ter WWII, an­glers quickly re­alised that many of the knots they’d used in fish­ing lines made from nat­u­ral fi­bres like flax, cot­ton, silk or linen sim­ply didn’t work well with ny­lon. Even some of the knots de­vel­oped for an­i­mal gut, which was used for traces and lead­ers, were un­sat­is­fac­tory when ap­plied to ny­lon monofil­a­ment.

Fish­ers the world over had to de­velop new knots for a new ma­te­rial.

There are two main prob­lems when ty­ing knots in ny­lon. The first is the ma­te­rial’s slip­pery na­ture when com­pared to the linen or cot­ton lines peo­ple were used to. Con­ven­tional knots of­ten slipped un­der sus­tained pres­sure, caus­ing the con­nec­tion

to fail. Ny­lon’s mem­ory and springi­ness also made knots dif­fi­cult to pull tight, par­tic­u­larly in lines of thicker di­am­e­ter.

The other prob­lem an­glers ex­pe­ri­enced was the ten­dency for ny­lon monofil­a­ment to cut into it­self when un­der strain. Many of the knots used for linen lines re­duced the break­ing strain of ny­lon by half or more. In­deed, even those knots de­vel­oped ex­plic­itly for ny­lon re­duce its strength to some de­gree. There’s no such thing as a ‘100 per­cent knot’.

An­glers were happy to put up with the ‘knot prob­lem’ be­cause ny­lon was stronger for a given di­am­e­ter, it of­fered a de­gree of give or stretch which in real-life fish­ing re­sulted in fewer lost fish and less bro­ken tackle, and fish found it harder to see. These ad­van­tages meant that fish­ers could ex­pect to catch more fish, more eas­ily than with the old lines.

By the 1960s, if you re­ferred to ‘fish­ing line’ no one doubted you were talk­ing about ny­lon monofil­a­ment.

It didn’t take long for peo­ple to come up with strong, re­li­able knots for monofil­a­ment ny­lon lines. Hun­dreds of them! The best ones were easy enough to tie and main­tained most of the line’s orig­i­nal break­ing strain when tied cor­rectly.

Fish­ers quickly learned to lu­bri­cate knots with saliva be­fore slowly pulling them tight. They also learned that it was bet­ter to retie a knot that didn’t look quite right than to risk fish­ing with it. At least, most of them did!

Some fish­ers, then and now, never re­ally got their heads around knots. There are still plenty of ‘an­glers’ us­ing reef knots, granny knots, or per­haps some of the still pop­u­lar but poorly per­formed ‘fish­ing knots’ left over from pre-ny­lon days. They are se­ri­ously hand­i­cap­ping their fish­ing!

The good news is that if you fish with monofil­a­ment line, you can get by with very few knots – some would ar­gue you only need one or two!

Ty­ing knots in braided line presents dif­fer­ent chal­lenges. PE lines are ex­tremely slip­pery and most fish­ing knots de­vel­oped for monofil­a­ment ei­ther slip or are much less strong when tied in braid. PE knots rely on fric­tion for strength, so PE knots re­quire many more turns than monofil­a­ment knots.


For at­tach­ing ter­mi­nal tackle – hooks, sinkers, lures, swivels and clips – a clinch knot (some­times wrongly called a blood knot, which is the same knot used back-to-back to join two lines) is strong, re­li­able and quick to tie. It works with monofil­a­ment up to and in­clud­ing 100-pound break­ing strain and can be tied as a ‘locked’ knot, where the tag end is tucked back through the open loop be­fore tight­en­ing the knot. This

elim­i­nates any chance of slip­page.

The Palomar knot is per­haps the strong­est knot for at­tach­ing ter­mi­nal tackle, but awk­ward to tie with lures be­cause the ter­mi­nal tackle has to pass through the knot.

An­other ex­cel­lent multi-pur­pose knot is the uni-knot. Strong and quick to tie, a uni-knot can be used for at­tach­ing ter­mi­nal tackle or for join­ing lines.

If it’s a loop knot you need – in the main line, or more com­monly in the trace or leader – the Rapala knot/lefty’s loop knot (some­times called the Kreh loop knot) are hard to beat. I use Lefty’s loop for all my soft plas­tics and hard-bod­ied lure fish­ing.

Other use­ful knots in­clude the Al­bright for join­ing the main­line to the trace, and the three or four-turn sur­geon’s knot.


In New Zealand, braided lines are sel­dom if ever tied di­rectly to hooks or lures, though they may be tied to a swivel. The uni-knot works quite well if you need to tie braid to a swivel, but con­sider dou­bling over the braid. In­crease the num­ber of turns and make sure the knot is prop­erly snugged down. Don’t use the im­proved clinch knot – it in­vari­ably slips even when tied with lots of turns.

Back-to-back uni-knots, again in­cor­po­rat­ing mul­ti­ple turns (six or more), can be suc­cess­fully used to join lengths of braided/ PE line.

Most braid knots have been de­vel­oped to join PE line to a monofil­a­ment ny­lon or fluoro­car­bon leader. Some of the best of these are very strong, but also com­plex and dif­fi­cult to mas­ter, let alone tie in a pitch­ing boat.

The strong­est braid knot of all is the FG knot, which may be tied in a va­ri­ety of ways, all of them rel­a­tively fid­dly. The PR knot is an­other strong, re­li­able con­nec­tion be­tween lead­ers and braided lines. Like the FG knot, it is low pro­file, so it passes eas­ily through the rod guides, but the PR knot re­quires a spe­cial bob­bin, along with con­sid­er­able skill and pa­tience to tie. The knot it­self also uses up a lot of braid.

My favourite is a mod­i­fied or ‘Spe­cial’ Al­bright knot. It’s fairly easy to tie, fairly strong (not as strong as the FG or PR) and can be tied with ei­ther a sin­gle or a dou­ble length of braided line. I sus­pect it’s stronger with the dou­bled line.

I sel­dom bother ty­ing a dou­ble in my braid, sim­ply dou­bling it over to tie an Al­bright knot, but if you need to tie a proper dou­ble in your line, a 30-turn Bi­mini Twist is the best op­tion.

Although I’ve shown rep­re­sen­ta­tive il­lus­tra­tions of some of the knots de­scribed, the best way to learn to tie them is to view video tu­to­ri­als on­line. There are thou­sands on You Tube, many show­ing the ‘same’ knots tied in quite dif­fer­ent ways.

One of the best on­line sources I’ve found is Luke Sim­mons from Salt Strong, www.salt­ Check out his web­site for links to knot ty­ing tu­to­ri­als, or search ‘salt­strong’ on Youtube.

Most knots de­vel­oped for monofil­a­ment…are much less strong tied in braid.

Big fish and light tackle de­mand strong, re­li­able knots.

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