For all types of fishing you need to be able to tie good knots because - no pun intended - knots tie the whole fishing system together. The bad news is there are hundreds of knots that can be used, but do you really have to learn them? No - and the really good news is that you really only have to learn a couple of knots and these (with some small variations) will cover most requirements.
The Uni-knot, meaning one-knot, is pretty much just what it says - you can use it for most knot tying situations.
I use it for tying leaders to flies, lures and jigs. It has a knot strength when properly tied of over 95%. All knots weaken the line they are tied in - the % knot strength indicates how much of the lines original breaking strain is left after tying the knot. The closer the knot strength is to 100% of the original breaking strain the better the knot. A simple half-hitch has a knot strength of less than 50%.
When using the Uni-Knot to tie on flies or lures, you have two options. First you can pull the knot up tight to the eye of the hook, as most people do.
Or, you can pull the knot up tight using the tag end of the line, and then very lightly pinch the two sides of the loop between the hook eye and the knot with your thumb and forefinger fingernails.
Then pull on the main line till the knot meets your fingernails. This will leave a small loop, which will allow a lure or fly more movement. It is especially effective when used with wet flies and streamers.
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The double hitch or Surgeon's knot is a another quick and strong way to join line together for example when you are assembling a leader, and to make loops in the leader butt to join the leader to the fly-line loop.
If joining two lines together, overlap the two ends by about 10cm. If making a loop bring the end of the line back alongside the line, with an overlap of around 5cm.
Then for both knots proceed as follows and as shown in the diagram. Using the two lines tie a simple half hitch (1) - do not tighten. Repeat the hitch (2) twice more. Then slowly and carefully pull (3) the doubled lines apart so the knot snugs down firmly. This step is important, and must be done slowly and firmly. Don't wet the knot! It can lead to the hitches forming up incorrectly and seriously weaken the knot.
In fact [never wet your knots], it is a myth founded in an old 'truth' that may or may not have been true, but now way past the time it should be thrown away with old line.
Then trim the ends of the knot with a pair of clippers.
The best knot for tying a loop is the Perfection Loop knot. It is a little difficult to tie, and very difficult to describe, so I won't try. But Midcurrent site has an excellent video on tying this knot, plus step by step photos. Highly recommended.
When you are fly-fishing you need to ‘turn the fly over’ at the end of the cast. This means that while the fly-line is still going forward, the leader and fly is behind the end of the fly-line. When the fly-line slows to a stop the leader and fly should keep going until it is nicely out in front - pretty as a picture.
To help achieve this we can build a tapered leader - this means that the butt end of the leader is thicker than the fly end of the leader. So we might have on a ‘standard’ leader of around 3m in total, with a butt section of 10kg (20lb) line, say 1.5m long, joined to a mid-section of 4kg (8lb) line .75m long, joined to the ‘tippet’ section, the leader that attaches to the fly of 2 to 3kg (6lb) line, and if you have been checking my maths, .75m long (although you can lengthen this section if you need a longer leader).
Use the Double Hitch to tie the sections together when on the water - but it is a really good practice to tie up several (excluding the tippet end) before you go out fishing and put them in small zip-lock bags. I usually use the Uni-Knot to tie leaders when tying in advance.
The butt end of the leader is usually attached to the fly line using a loop-to-loop. To make the loop at the butt end of the leader tie the Perfection Loop as shown above.
Alongside is a diagram of the way to correctly and without any possibility of screwing up, attach the leader-butt loop to the fly-line loop. Learn this way of making a loop to loop connection and you will never suffer from a break-off at the loop. Take the fly-line a few centimetres behind the loop lightly pinched between your forefinger and thumb. Take the leader just behind the loop in the same way. Then push the fly-line loop through the leader loop until the leader loop touches your fly-line thumb and forefinger and pinch them together. With your other hand take the end of the leader and thread it through the fly-line loop and pull it all the way through until just like magic the two loops form a perfect figure-eight loop-to-loop connection.
This method avoids the possibility of the end of the leader-loop flipping over the end of the fly-line loop, and effectively acting as a guillotine on itself, when the join comes under load.
If you are new to knot tying use some thin string to practice, it is easier to see what you are doing.
It takes very little practice to tie good, strong knots, but it does take some practice. You can make the practice a little more realistic if you wet your hands, or tip a little vegetable oil on them as though you have just handled a fish. Try tying them with the curtains pulled, (give the neighbours something to tattle about), every little bit helps.
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