The importance of a good knot-off!

The importance of a good knot-off!

Paul Arden | Monday, 25 November 2019

Some busy times for me during the Malaysian Wet Season, in particular I’m renewing VISAs and organising licences, fitting a bull bar and winch to my truck later in the week, fly tying and planning a few days fishing in the rain shortly. I’m having another boat built at the moment which will be ready by the end of the year and will make fly fishing in the Wet Season a much more pleasant experience!

I’m also planning to build a fly fishing encyclopaedia as one way of navigating Sexyloops; it’s a fantastic idea we had about 10 years ago and will help bring the old pages into line, making them mobile friendly, it will bring some older content back to the fore, and finally it will allow us to see what subjects we haven’t thoroughly covered and rectify this.

There are some good discussions on the Board at the moment regarding knots and so I thought I should talk a little about knots today…

When I was a trout fisherman I used to use a three turn water/ surgeons/ Cove knot, a 2.5 turn Needle Knot and a 5 turn Half-Blood knot. It turns out that the 2-turn Water Knot is stronger than the 3 and that the J-knot is stronger again, and that a 10-turn half blood knot is close to 100% breaking strain and stronger than any other fly knot that I’ve tested - although a Eurgene Bend is impressively strong.

Knots started to become important to me when fishing the Salt. Gordy Hill in Florida first introduced me to the Bimini Twist but I never really learned it until a “knot off” with Jono Shales in Exmouth when Bimini vs Bimini broke the main line and not the knot. That simple experiment which we repeated again and again because I was amazed, and then breaking other knots against this, which is a very tactile (and often a little painful) experiment, really started to get me interested in knots. When I started Snakehead fishing and Gourami fishing I began testing everything too destruction.

The best way to test a knot is of course an Instron - and James has written some truly excellent FPs about tests he has done in such a way. Have a look at these Front Pages: 

(Also use the search button above and search for “knots”.)

But information alone I think is not enough; you need to tie your own and break them in ”knot-offs” - ie breaking knot against knot. Be warned however, do try this at home but always ALWAYS wear eye protection - this is paramount, otherwise you might lose an eye,. Also try to protect your hands by wrapping them in cloth or wearing gloves. Breaking 20lb mono under force will draw blood otherwise. 

Knots that I use, when I need strength is loop-to-loop connections at the fly line. I’m happy to make the loop in the fly line by stripping the coating, doubling over and whipping with strong fly tying thread. I’ve never had this fail. I’ve even broken fly lines in testing in preference to the loop slipping. 

The Bimini Twist is a thoroughly remarkable knot, it takes about 30 seconds to tie with practise and if you haven’t got a hangover it’s 100% or as close as makes no difference. If it’s tied properly the main line will break - that to my mind makes it 100% - if on the other hand the line breaks 1 or 2 inches from the knot then you deformed the line while making it. If the knot itself breaks then you have a hang over. 

The Lefty Knot is a very strong knot. It’s not the strongest tippet-to-fly knot however and I often use it to intentionally make the fly knot the weak point. Also I use it with knottable wire and there are not too many knots you can use in wire. With mono the Eugene Bend is stronger (I use the Eugene Bend for braid tippet to fly connections as well and surprisingly, perhaps, the strongest fly knot I’ve tested has been the 10-turn Half Blood. In James’ Instron tests he got close to 100%. That doesn’t surprise me because when I’ve broken 10-turn against 10-turn in knot-offs then the main line has broken in preference to the knots, just like with a well tied Bimini.

Another knot, that really is one of my favourites is the Slim Beauty. This is an excellent knot for joining two different diameter materials together, either tied with a Bimini Twist or simply a single or doubled strand of tippet. It is the knot I use for attaching knottable wire to the leader for Snakehead fishing. 

I know that James is a big fan of the J-knot after his tests. It’s also a knot I use and do so for locking twisted Leaders -  I like it because the line passes through straight and not off to the side. I also use it nowadays for trout fishing droppers. The problem is when you start using 10 turn Half Blood knots to the fly then the dropper knot becomes the weak link. 

This is something I haven’t solved to my own personal satisfaction yet. In order to make the fly connection the weak link I have to tie a weak knot because there are no dropper knots that are 100% or close.  I suppose you could tie a Bimini with a very large loop, cut the loop close to the knot on one side giving a dropper and a longer length to the point fly, but I suspect that once you cut the loop you have lost your 100% because the nylon on that side of the knot gets deformed in tying.

Still, all in all those are the knots that I use: the Bimini Twist, Slim Beauty, Eugene Bend, 10-turn Half Blood, Lefty knot and J-knot. And I would recommend learning all of these.

I suppose when we build the Sexyloops FFing Glossary we will include descriptions and videos for all of these knots and many others. It’s a big and exciting project! 



PS some Board discussions of late: 

POD picture: Snakehead Wire!