Steve Smith from Cave Junction caught this steelhead last week on the Chetco River while plunking a flame-chartreuse Spin-N-Glo. The Pilot/Jef Hatch
Fishing report for
Dec. 30-Jan. 5
A wise fisherman once said, “You can’t buy a good knot.”
I couldn’t agree more. When it comes to fighting a fish, you want the security of knowing that a knot is strong, durable and has plenty of staying power – preferably a knot that you have tied yourself. If a knot breaks, then you have only yourself to blame. That’s why I have totally abandoned the improved clinch knot, also known as the Fisherman’s Knot.
Don’t get me wrong. The tried-and-true improved clinch knot has always been a great stalwart first knot for fishermen because it is easy to tie. But once you’ve lost a steelhead due to a knot breaking, you begin to start wondering whether it was the knot’s fault or perhaps the way in which it was tied. When you’ve lost your second steelhead due to the same knot breaking, you’ll never tie it again. At that point, it’s only natural to seek out a stronger knot.
Whenever I’m fighting a salmon or a steelhead over 20 minutes, there is always a thought running in the back of my mind hoping that the knot will not break. When the battle begins running upward toward 45 minutes, that concept starts dominating my brain waves.
The fact is, most knots will break before the fishing line’s rated strength. In other words, if the weakest part of your line is a 12-pound leader, most knots will break before 12 pounds of pressure is applied to the part in which the line has been tied. Depending on how well the improved clinch knot is tied, it can break anywhere from 8 to 11 pounds.
Luckily, there are knots out there that are actually called 100-percent knots because they have had a reputation of breaking at strengths higher than a line’s rated pound test. One of them is the Palomar Knot. If tied correctly, this knot will absolutely astound you – and it’s even easier to tie than the improved clinch knot.
If you want to learn how to tie any of the knots mentioned in this article, there is a great website called netknots.com that demonstrates fishing knots being tied in slow animation. After going to the main page, click on the second column and then select your knot of choice.
The most consistent thing about the Palomar Knot is its inconsistency. Sometimes the breaking strength of that knot seems to be 130 percent of the line’s rated pound test, while other times you can’t believe that it broke at what might appear to be less than 100 percent. After tying thousands of these knots, I believe I have found its weak spot.
As most fishermen know, before pulling a knot taut, you absolutely must lubricate the knot with water in order to reduce friction. If you don’t lubricate the knot, the monofilament will heat up when it it pulled taut, reducing its strength.
To tie a good Palomar Knot consistently, it is absolutely imperative to look at the main line or the leader after the knot has been pulled taut. The main line or leader should hang perfectly straight coming off of the knot. If there are any curly cues or series of twists where the line meets the hook, swivel or lure, I guarantee that the knot will break less than its rated strength.
The secret in tying the Palomar is pulling the main line portion a little tighter than the tag end, so when the knot finally comes together, you will only have to pull the tag end to finish tying the knot. I’m not talking about leaving a lot of slack in the tag end of the knot; a tiny amount will suffice.
But even after tying hundreds of successful Palomar Knots, I have abandoned it for an even better knot – the Fish-N-Fool Knot.
The Fish-N-Fool is now my go-to knot for tying monofilament, braid and fluorocarbon. This knot is also on the before-mentioned website.
Knot-breaking tests were performed using these three lines: 14-pound Berkley Trilene XT, 15-pound Berkley Trilene 100 percent Fluorocarbon and 15-pound Berkley Trilene Tracer Braid.
When tested with the 14-pound test monofilament, the Fish-N-Fool Knot broke at 20.54 pounds (amazing isn’t it?). The 15-pound Tracer Braid broke at 19.44 pounds and the fluorocarbon snapped at 15.5 pounds. The great thing about this knot is that all three types of lines broke at greater than 100 percent of their rated strength.
Another reason for line failing has to do with the diameter of the metal to which it is tied. Last week I personally conducted several hundred experiments tying various knots to a size 10 swivel. Because of the small diameter of the metal, most knots, including the Palomar, broke prematurely. However, the Fish-N-Fool Knot was remarkably durable with thin-diameter metal.
It should also be pointed out that monofilament lines have traditionally been known to break close to, or higher than, their rated pound tests, while braided lines have traditionally been known to break quite a bit lower than their rated pound tests. The fact that the Fish-N-Fool Knot breaks higher than braided lines’ rated strengths now gives me the confidence in knowing that more fish will be landed.
Proficiency at tying any knot takes practice. Practice tying the Fish-N-Fool and my re-invented way of tying the Palomar Knot and you’ll gain more confidence in landing more fish as well.
It should also be noted that the egg-loop knot is still considered to be an extremely strong knot and should never be abandoned. It has been shown to break near or above a line’s rated strength as well.
Now that the Chetco is lowering and clearing day-by-day, you’ll want to drop down in line size so that the fish won’t see it. At the moment, 10-pound test has been the norm, but soon start thinking about dropping down to 8-pound test. With the Fish-N-Fool Knot, you can even use 6-pound test with more confidence.