Friday, August 14, 2015

Opportunity Knocks Twice, Part II: It's Knot a Problem

You know that scene at the very end of “A River Runs Through It,” where the actor portraying the elder Norman Maclean is tying a fly onto his tippet?  He looks thoughtfully into the distance, then the scene switches to a tight shot of his slow and shaky hands.  Being unable to tie knots on the river means an end to independent fishing, so a solution is needed.

Last year, I conceived of the “Fading Angler” alias to introduce myself on the Minnesota Trout Forums.  Remarkably, one of the folks who responded to my introduction provided a suggestion that has proven infinitely useful:  tie knots with hemostat pliers!  I never would have discovered this on my own, as the idea had never come near my mind, much less crossed it.  After a few hours of Google searches, watching YouTube videos, and some experimentation, I developed a new Knot Strategy.  If you have (or know a passionate fisherman/woman/person who has) shaky, clumsy, or uncooperative hands and fingers, this might be helpful.  It certainly has been for me.

  • For leader-to-tippet and tippet-to-tippet connections: The Orvis Knot, tied with a hemostat
  • For attaching flies to tippet:  The Davy Knot for small flies (18 and smaller), and The Double Davy Knot for larger (#16 or lower) flies.

All three of these knots have surprised me with their strength.  I’ve wondered more than once, “When is something going to break?” when playing flyrod tug-of-war with a remote tree, bush, or log.  Unlike other knots I’ve tried, I have not lost a fish to a knot failure when using this approach.  It’s hard to beat the combination of strong and reliable.

The Hemostat Orvis Knot

I don’t know why, but I’ve never been able to reliably tie a blood knot.  I was a Boy Scout, so I’m not a complete “knot idiot,” but the double twists, wrangling, crossed eyes, and finger tangling of a blood knot usually resulted in, as an English bloke might say, a bloody mess.  For me, this bit of hemostat magic is much simpler and much faster

Here’s a video demonstration:

And here’s a printable PDF document with sequential photos:

This knot required almost no practice to master.  It takes a bit of effort to get everything snugged down to the smallest possible size, but not much!

The Davy and Double Davy Knots

I went looking for a new fly connection knot when my efforts with the hemostat clinch knot failed repeatedly.  I lost more than a few fish with that knot.  I have no doubt that I was simply missing one little, but critical, step on the finishing process.  The improved clinch required too much finger gymnastics with hemostats to work for me.  Thus, I’ve arrived at the Davy Knots.

This video is what got me started.  It shows both the Davy and Double Davy.  The demonstration eventually uses small hackle pliers instead of hemostats, but I’ve been able to manage with the hemostats. 

I have to admit that this has been more challenging to master.  When I tried under controlled conditions sitting at a table in my RV, it was easy.  Hooray! I thought I’d found another simple solution.  Well, it turns out that this can be more difficult to tie in the water, with a rod tucked under one arm and current pulling on the line and leader.  I have improved and used it enough that I plan to continue, but I’ve occasionally given up on a double because I couldn’t finish the last over-under pass.  Practice and better line management have made these knots keepers for me.

(Addendum - June 13, 2016:  A word of warning if you are planning to use Agra liquid fly floatant... DO NOT DIP A DAVY KNOT INTO THE AGRA LIQUID!!!  I lost 5 flies when the Davy and Double Davy knots failed after dipping a tied-on fly into the Agra bottle.  When I switched back my usual Loon Aquel, no more untied flies.  Agra is a great product.  Just be sure to pre-treat your flies sometime in advance of going fishing.)

Wrapping Up

(Addendum - October 10, 2015: I have discovered that "spring creek" hemostats are the thing to use for tying knots with hemostats.  The spring creek versions have jaw tips that are much more pointed than the traditional clamps, making it easier to maneuver them through the loops.)

If you know of similar solutions, please leave a comment.  I’m happy to try just about anything that will make knot tying faster or easier.  If this has been helpful, I’d love to hear about that, too.

Some of us will lose manual dexterity due to illness or disease.  For others, it will be a simple matter of age that interferes with our fingers.  Either way, it appears this deterioration is inevitable for anyone who fishes for enough years.

“Eventually, all things merge into one…”

(This is the second in a four-part series.  You are cordially invited to read Part I and then continue to Part III.  Because of a lack on good planning on my part, you'll also find Part III-and-a-Half.  At the end of the trail, you'll find Part IV.)

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