Knots to Know

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Knots are one of the most critical links in the battle between yourself and a fish.  Just about all of us have come up on the loosing end at one time or another when a knot fails.  Our only reminder of the big one that got away is a curlicue pig-tail at the end of the line.

There are several reasons for knot failure.  Maybe you chose the wrong knot for the particular line that you are using.  Some knots that work in monofilament will fail when tied in braided GSP lines like Power Pro due to the low stretch and slick surface of the “super braids”.  Another common problem in knot tying is not moistening the knot before tightening.  Wetting your knot will allow lubrication to clinch the knot down without damaging the line.  Fully tightening the knot is critical in forming a fail proof knot since under-tightened knots can loosen when casting or fighting a fish.

Like many things in the sport, there are countless knots out there and many are very effective; however, it is not vital to learn them all to be a successful fisherman.  Below is a list of knots that I find to be useful.  Learn a few of these and you will be covered in almost any situation.

Surgeons Knot & Loop: While this isn’t the sexiest knot, it is one of the easiest to learn and serves two purposes.  First, the surgeons can be used to connect two pieces of monofilament or fluorocarbon when building a leader.  Second, the surgeons can be used to form a loop when a loop-to-loop connection is needed such as looping a leader onto a fly line.  This is one of the quickest knots to tie so you can get back in the action when the bite is hot.

Uni to Uni Splice (Double Uni):  I use this knot to join braided line to mono or fluoro leader.  I prefer it to the Albright knot in this situation because the Uni casts smoothly through the guides.  With the Albright knot, a heavy leader can hang in the guides and ruin a cast.  Another line joining knot is the surgeon’s knot.  The Surgeon’s should be avoided for this situation because it can slip when used with braided line.  I also use the Double Uni to splice braided line back together.  If a bird’s nest of tangled line forms in the braid, I simply cut out the tangle and join the line back using the Uni to Uni Splice.  This saves time on the water and eliminates the unnecessary loss of expensive braid.

Non-Slip Loop:  A loop connection to the fly, lure or hook can be advantageous.  When using heavy tippet, a fly’s action can be ruined if it is tied tightly to the hook using a clinch type knot.  A loop allows the fly to swing freely which increases action and promotes proper tracking. The Non-Slip Loop is a great choice for your terminal connection since it is easy to learn and can be tied quickly on the water.

Perfection Loop:  This a compact knot to use when creating a loop in the butt section of your fly leader to form a loop to loop connection with the fly line.  The small size of the Perfection Loop will go through the rod guides smoothly compared to the Surgeons loop which is more bulky.  With a bunch of practice, you can even use the perfection loop to tie on your fly or lure.

Blood Knot:  The Blood Knot is a great knot for joining sections of leader.  I often use it when constructing fly leaders.  When joining two lines of different diameters (i.e. 60# to 20#), I recommend doubling over the thinner line when tying the knot.  Beware that joining fluorocarbon to monofilament with a blood knot can lead to knot failure due to the different properties and stiffness between the two materials.

With a countless number of You Tube videos out there, learning these knots is pretty easy these days.  Give them a try and you’ll be a better angler for it!

Keep Your Distance

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You find yourself on the bow of a flats skiff in the tropics.  You have planned for this trip for months.  You’ve been practicing your cast and are set up with all the right equipment from your rod down to your fly.  After an hour on the boat’s deck, you’re guide excitedly announces, “Permit… 10 o’clock, 60 feet.”  Having yet to spot the fish yourself, you gaze off into the 10 o’clock direction unsure how far way to look.  You finally spot the fish but it quickly darts out of casting range.  With permit shots few and far between, you may have just missed you’re best opportunity of the day – all because you aren’t used to gauging distances!

Knowing distances and gauging how much line you have off the reel are important tools that many fly anglers overlook.  To help with these issues, I mark my fly lines at 10 ft. intervals using a permanent marker.  The method I use incorporates short and long dashes where a short dash equals 10 feet and a long dash equals 50 feet.  For example a long dash followed by two short dashes equals 70 feet (see above picture).  When marking my line, I included the length of a 10 ft. leader; therefore, 3 short marks on the fly line is a distance of 10 ft. of leader plus 20 ft. of fly line.

In my experience guides measure distance from the rod tip to the fish while it is standard in distance casting to measure from your feet to the fly.  The discrepancy between the two measurements is 9 feet, the length of your rod.  When sight fishing, it is always a good idea to make a cast and have your guide tell you how far you just cast so you are both on the same page.

Besides the flats fishing scenario described earlier, there are other benefits from having your fly line marked for distance.  First, it lets you know how much line you have stripped off your reel.  Say you are comfortable at casting 70 feet; with a marked fly line, you can quickly strip off 70 feet of line.

A marked fly line also aids you in determining how much line you can lift off the water for a back cast.  Try to lift too much line off the water and your cast will fall apart.  You may find that lifting 40 feet of line is all you can handle, so with a marked fly line you will know exactly when you reach that distance.

Casting with a marked fly line will give you a better sense of distance which is beneficial in many scenarios, so always remember to “Keep Your Distance!”

 

A Quick Lowdown on Low Tide

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I was recently asked by Sportfishing magazine to provide my insight on fishing low tide and here’s a little of what I had to say.

Low water proves a problem since it limits the number of locations that fish will hold. Troughs and deeper structure are my focus when the water gets skinny.  I like to form a game plan prior to leaving the dock based on the day’s conditions.  Most of my decisions on where and when to fish are dictated by tidal height and current flow.  We get small tides on the Chesapeake so wind plays a vital role in tidal height.  The bay’s western shore sees extreme lows during strong southwest winds, so it is important to plan accordingly.

Realizing that wind influences not only tidal height but also current flow is a key to success.  Gamefish seek out moving water which is always somewhere; the key is learning where to look for moving water at any given moment based on tide and wind.  Traveling a small distance offshore or around a river bend can result in varied current flow which will influence your success, particularly during low tide.  Try making a mental note or keeping logbook to record the multiple variables.

My go-to method for locating fish is to live chum an area with peanut bunker where we keep an eye out for gamefish exploding on an easy meal.  This can be particularly valuable during low tide when fish are holding in deeper water.  Lone juvenile menhaden scurrying across the water’s surface is a surefire way to bring gamefish up from the depths.  This technique allows for fishing topwater lures during times when you would otherwise have to bounce the bottom with jigs.

Stay attuned to variables like tidal height and develop a game plan for every scenario; increased fishing success will be your reward!

2016 Belize Hosted Trip Recap

The hosted trip to Turneffe Flats Lodge December 3-10, 2016 was a success.  The week provided nice conditions with relatively little wind, good sunlight and comfortable temperatures. Flats rookies Bob and Kenny tallied a remarkable 100 bonefish one day. Lynn caught a permit on her second day flats fishing and Pete raised his all-time permit total to 28.  I was lucky enough to land 2 permit on consecutive casts.  In all 4 permit where landed by the group and about 5 where hooked and lost. Other species included baby tarpon, snook, barracuda, triggerfish, boxfish, plus assorted jacks and snapper.  Several in the group enjoyed spending time snorkeling and observing wildlife like manatees with Atoll Adventure guide, Abel.  My buddy Matt and I are looking to host another trip December 2-9, 2017.  I hope you can join in the fun!