Ask FR&R

Ask FR&R

The Scoop On Loops Casting loops, loop-to-loop connections-and getting fish on the reel

  • By: Paul Guernsey
  • and Buzz Bryson
How to tie the nail less nail knot

How to tie the nail-less nail knot

I hear people talking about "turnover." It's either line turnover, leader turnover or fly turnover. Which of these three components actually does the turning over, and what does the term itself mean?
Turnover is the straightening out of the upper arm of the U-shaped loop of the casting stroke. The turning over is, ideally at least, a smooth progression from the rod-imparting the energy applied by the angler-to the line, leader and fly. An imbalance of any of the three-line/leader/fly-can result in poor turnover.

For instance, say you've been happily fishing a hatch with a size 18 dry on a 6X tippet, with the casts laying out perfectly. As the hatch wanes, you see some hoppers in the streamside grass, and replace the dry fly with a meaty hopper. Suddenly, your casting goes to heck. The fly tangles in the leader, the leader won't turn over and the fly and tippet land in a tangled mess. It's a simple case of the light tippet being unable to transmit the energy effectively. Of course the angler can apply a bit more speed to the cast and probably get a smooth turnover. But a far better solution is to adjust the leader by removing the 6X tippet and tying on some 4X or even 3X.

Conversely, that size 18 dry, tied on the 3X tippet, will usually land on the water like a big hopper. The tippet doesn't bleed off energy as fast as a lighter tippet. It turns over well-much too well, in this case.

I've gotten pretty good at the quick, or "nail-less" nail knot. Are there any drawbacks to it, compared to the standard nail knot?
I'm pretty pragmatic about knots. If I've proven to myself that I can tie one well, repeatedly, and that it is as strong as or stronger than another I've tested it against, then by golly that knot becomes a favorite.

Knot strength is not usually a problem with the heavier butt section of a leader (assuming you're using a tapered leader), as most any line-to-leader connection will be far stronger than the tippet end. If the knot is smooth enough to go through the guides, you're in business.

Are there any drawbacks to using loop-to-loop connectors in my flyline rigging-and if so, do they outweigh the convenience of rigging with loop-to-loop?
They do have some drawbacks; whether or not those bother you is a personal choice. Loop-to-loop connections do add a bit of bulk and weight, which might sink the tip of smaller lines. In addition, some anglers don't like the click-click-click as the connection goes through the guides, and/or feels it hangs in the tiptop.

Personally, I'm a big fan of loop-to-loop connections, simply because of the flexibility they provide. I put them on the rear of all my fly lines, so I can strip the line off the reel quickly if needed. And I put them on the front of all my heavier lines, from around 8-weight on up. That way, I can change entire leaders quickly. On the lighter lines, I have some with loops in the front, and some with nail knots. On those, I don't change leaders as often.

Another loop-to-loop technique is to nail knot a heavy piece of mono (30-pounds or so) to the fly line, and tie a double surgeon loop on it about three inches from the fly line. This creates a fast and easy to assemble loop-to-loop system.

When I hook a fish, should I always try to get it "on the reel?" Or are their times when it's OK just to draw the line in by hand?
There are no hard and fast rules, but generally, if the fish is large and strong enough to make a sustained run of some distance, it should be fought on the reel. For the smaller and/or less energetic fish, stripping them in by hand is fine. What you want to avoid is indecisiveness, because sooner or later not being able to make up your mind will result in the loss of a good fish. In other words, plan ahead.

If you're fishing for big fish, or know there's a reasonable chance to encounter a trophy fish, it's best to go to the reel automatically. If the fish turns out to be a dink, you can laugh it off-which is better than crying over a lost trophy. Conversely, when fishing where you'll likely be catching small trout, panfish or the like, just strip them in. It'll save time by allowing you to quickly re-cast. (For more information on this, see Ted Leeson's article on fighting big fish on page 50.)