Busting Loops 

That fly you’ve spent an age tying to get the most out of in the water is now ready to tie on. Let the loop knot debate begin…

best kingfish flies, baitfish, salt water fly, fishing, new zealand, rattle piper
A rack of Rattle Piper kingfish flies ready for action.

If you’re after unrestricted movement then it’s really hard to go past loop knots. There’s  a few to choose from, each with their own merits. Leftys, perfection, homer rhodes, open uni et al. For me I utilize a knot for each stage of set up, each one being a potential weak area to be exposed.

It makes sense to choose a knot that’s not only strong but is easy to tie. A huge bust off, urgent fly change or rocking boat will always try to hinder your best efforts to re-tie a salt water leader. Find a knot that suits your set up requirements and test it, try other options if needed. Then learn to tie it opposite handed, behind your back, blindfolded and as fast as possible – this might just be the difference to connecting to a fish under pressure.

Salt fly knots
The beginnings of the graveyard of tested knots

Harking back to my school science fair days (1st place in Applied science Hawkes Bay Science Fair 1990 something) I use a simple tug of war test. A different knot is created in each end of commonly used material. These are then pulled up evenly until one fails. To keep things fair three tests are done under each configuration, one by one an eventual winner is found.

Salt water fly fishing knot test
Who’s going to win? Leftys or Perfection

Although I knew the eventual winner was always going to be Leftys loop, I mostly wanted to check which of my commonly used loop knots were a close second to retie quickly and rely on in pressure situations. This placing goes to the perfection knot, quick and easy plus it’s a good looking knot to boot. 

Interestingly was the Homer Rhodes and how it was tied. If you look at the records you’ll see 1/2, 2/1 and 2/2 listed. These were the amount of  overhand passes through each stage of the knot when tied. For example; 1/2 is a basic over hand knot to begin with and then finished with a two turn. This ended up the preferred way of tying this knot in 30lb Hatch flouro leader.

Some points to note:

  • Not all knots perform to the same extent through various weights and types of material. Nor do they behave well with other brands/types of leader material at times.
  • In order to function to their potential knots must be trialled for effectiveness prior to use. No point letting the fish show you your knot choice sucked.
  • This experiment was more for my peace of mind than to prove the exact tolerances of each knot. And also rank my top 3 loop knots in conditions I’m familiar with.
  • Sometimes knots fail, don’t cry about it – try and figure out why. Was it an old leader, had it sustained some damage, not enough turns to secure it, tag end cut too short? These are some realities of potential failure, eliminating them for next time is a valuable lesson.

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