Knots with Brian

Brian, a professional guide, talks about the importance of knots and the Improved Clinch Knot that he uses.


When fishing have you ever wondered why sometimes your knots fail . This can be extremely frustrating especially if a big fish is on and finally frees itself.

At that moment you automatically come out with all sorts of words that would make a wharfie blush. But then it hits another level when you find out that the fish only came free due to a poor knot tied by yourself. We have all been guilty of this at different times and the reasons for this can be many and varied. Let’s look at a few of these reasons and how easy it is to solve them.

Firstly, the three most common reasons why a knot fails are:

1: The knot is tied incorrectly

2: The knot you are using is the wrong type for your rig

3: The knot has not been checked regularly throughout your fishing time.

Let’s start with the knot not being tied correctly. How so? There may be several factors here. If the knot is not moistened before it is tightened, (saliva is a very good ingredient to use), the knot has a good chance of failure. A moist knot will tighten better than a dry knot and there will be less heat applied to the knot when tightened ensuring less chance of damage.

If the twists of mono or fluorocarbon are not evenly twisted, the knot will not pull up neatly and therefore be prone to fail.

If the tag end of the knot is cut too short then this is possible path to failure. A reasonable length tag is not likely to bother a trout . You already have the main leader going to the hook which the trout( if they are spooky), will be more concerned about than a tag of up to 1cm.

The wrong knot, why? There are several knots used in fishing and every body has there favourites. I find, the lighter the Fluor or mono, the more failures occur. I have had some people at times tell me that they can’t use a certain type of leader because the knots slip. This , of course is never the way it is. If the leader repeatedly broke then there is either something wrong with the leader or it is too light for the type of fishing, size of trout or power of river or all of the above but a slipped knot is always the fault of the angler.

For very fine leaders my favourite knot is undoubtedly the Improved  Clinch Knot (see diagram below).

The Improved Clinch Knot A

Other common knots such as the Clinch Knot and the Uni Knot are fine but must be inspected regularly as the tag end will slowly slip while you are casting, hooked up on a snag or indeed fighting a fish. The Improved Clinch Knot has that added security of the last part of line passing back through the loop you have just formed after you have completed the standard Clinch Knot. This has the same effect as an extra nut has on a bolt (locking nut). It is an easy knot to tie especially on light mono or fluorocarbon and if tied correctly, will not fail you.

As far as checking your knots when you are fishing, what do I mean? Is there a wind knot in your leader. Don’t say “ she’ll be right; replace the leader. By not doing so you have probably reduced your breaking strain by 1 kg or more.

If you have caught a trout in the corner of the jaw, retie your hook especially if it’s a large toothy Jack that you have just caught.

For joining small tippets to leaders or even joining mono or fluorocarbon in general, I like the Triple Surgeons Knot (see below). This knot is a wrap type knot and basically doesn’t allow mono or fluorocarbon to cut into each other forming a possible weakness.

The Triple knot is simply lapping 2 lines past each other by at least 200 mm and simply form an overhand loop and pass both lines simultaneously through the loop and pulling up to tight. Ensure twists are evenly spaced when pulling up tight. The result should be a neat looking braid with no lumps.

Hope some of these tips help and may you have no more slip ups or failures.

Tight lines, Brian Willson NZPFGA member. 021-667867 – ILFF Shop, 6 Wiremu Street, Turangi.



My name is Brian Willson and I have been a fly fisher for over 50 years. I am a professional fishing guide and current NZPFGA member of which I have served at executive level and have guided anglers of different skill sets, ages and gender from all over the world. I have also written two books on fly fishing and am a keen artist. I am passionate about fly fishing and the therapeutic qualities it offers and enjoy sharing this experience with people on and off the water. Over the years I have made some amazing friendships that continue to this day. I have partnered up with one of these friendships, Barrie Barnes from I Love Fly Fishing, and I sell exclusively, quality, affordable fly fishing gear at my premises at 8 Wiremu Street, Turangi, the designated I Love Fly Fishing shop in Turangi which is open all hours— just ring 021667867 anytime. I take a serious interest in my clients and freely offer advice when asked and am happy to talk fishing anytime. Tight lines, Brian Willson

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