I learned a valuable lesson today...I don't tie knots as well as I thought I did. What I did was test my hand tied leaders with a spring loaded scale. My normal 8wt leaders go from 36" of 40# at the butt to 6" of 15# with a loop at the distal end; its onto this loop that I attach my tippet. What I learned was that NONE of my leaders was able to handle a 10# strain because of Blood Knot failures. :EEK My point is when you think you have it all wired, maybe a little testing will say otherwise.
Would HATE to have lost a fish due to knot tying ineptness.

Just thought you ought to know.



Banned or Parked
I conducted a similar test once and found that knot tying style had a lot to do with it as well. I found that blood knots hold well when lubricated and pulled tight quickly, but tend to fail if left dry and closed slowly. Obviously, I started being more careful with my knots and it proved itself on the water on those occasions where I caught a log or rock and had to break off. Instead of the leader breaking at an inline knot, it would break at the fly. I have yet to find a knot that will out-test the tippet at the fly, so I've been satisfied with this result.
maxima ug with a surgeons knot connected to a leader loop will hold anything, breaking point is way greater on my digi compared to knots.

I don't think I've ever had a knot fail other than one at one end or the other of the tippet but have lost many fish on poorly tied knots at the fly or tippet to leader connection whether it be a loop with knot or directly tied to the leader and I have occasionally gotten a hold of weaker than usual material that I have had to discard. It would be interesting to do your test.

Don't expect a tippet to accurately be rated to the pound test that it says. These leaders are pulled through a small hole that creates the diameter and sometimes the material is inconsistant in size which makes the strength inconsistant as well. Also remember that a fish in the water no longer weighs the same out of water. Your chances are better sinces gravity works differently in and out of water. Your best bet is to tie the knots as best as you can the first time and then have a really nice drag feature on your reel to absorb some of the initial shock. I also keep a small loop dangling from the reel held against the cork grip so that when a steelhead takes, the loop absorbs some of the initial shock before the reel takes over. Also, tie a new tippet on if you spent a bunch of time landing your last fish. I always get the fray with steelhead. I figure the fish is worth the cost of a new tippet.

o mykiss

Active Member
Question is - which blood knots failed? Since I have a difficult time seating a decent blood knot on heavier test leader material, I'm assuming it was the knot closer to the butt section. But if the lowest lb. test you're tapering down to is 15, you may be having a seating problem with knots lower down on the leader. Why are you using 40lb test for butt? Seems high (even for the stuff you fish for with an 8wt), but what do I know. Does a leader with a butt section tied with that heavy a test turn flies over better? Highest test I have used with hand tied leaders I fish with my 8 wt. is 25 lb. and I taper down to 8 or 10 lb. Granted, I haven't hooked many decent sized fish, but of those I have hooked I don't recall losing a fish to a blood knot failure. (Unfortunately, have lost some to leader to fly knot failure.)
Here's some thoughts from my experience:

First, I changed from hand-tied blood-knots to knots tied with one of those easy knot-tying tools. Where my hand-tied blood knots were inconsistent, the knots tied with the tool seem to hold well and and perform consistently.

I changed to the knot tool because of an article I read in some long ago and forgotten magazine, written by a fisherman who tested his knots for both shock strength and slow-pull strength. When I repeated his experiments I found that my blood knots did not pass the shock test, but performed satisfactory when the pull was slowly applied.

I can confirm, from personal experience and testing, what the previous reply suggested - that blood-knots that are NOT wetted and quickly tensioned are unpredictable. Always wet the knot and always try to cinch the knot quickly. Like a clinch knot, it should sorta snap into place.

Finally, if you get a chance, I highly recommend a video called "The Art Of Knot Tying". I'm afraid I've forgotten the author, but he goes through all of the important knots for fly fishing, their variations, good habits, bad habits, and, finally, how to build your own leaders.


O Mykiss:

The major lesson I learned from testing my leaders today and having the knots fail was that after all the years I've been tying blood knots, I had taken for granted that I was tying my knots properly. Although I was lubricating with saliva, I wasn't saturating the wraps well which may have caused some damage to the mono and which also may have contributed to my failure to fully snug up the knot properly as well. Add to that my obsession with trimming tag ends close and, well, it all combined for a good recipe for knot failure. I guess the message I wanted to share was not to take knot tying for granted, regardless of how long you've been tying them. As a side note, the leader I tied after my grand awakening tested at just over 15#; I'm a happy camper once again.

As far as my choice of 40# for the leader butt, I use it for the stiffness it provides. To address your question, a heavier butt will transmit the casting energy down the leader more efficiently (aggressively?) so, generally speaking, a heavier butt should aid in turning the leader over, whether for better or worse depends upon what you're fishing for since you could end up slapping the fly down onto the surface reigning havoc down on your quarry. I'm not sure you would want to routinely use it steelheading, however, since you risk losing the delicacy of your presentation although there may be some conditions where a heavier butt could be useful to you. One thing you can always depend upon when flyfishing the open Sound is the wind - a normal day is 5-15 knots unless you get caught in the "Narrows Express". The stiff (heavy) leader butt helps me get a good turnover and full leader extension when combatting the (daily) wind.


o mykiss

Active Member
Interesting feedback on the use of 40 lb. test. I recently fished for kings in Alaska and started out using heavy test leaders. Didn't catch any kings but I did get into a fair number of snags. :( A few times, while trying to break off the snags, the heavier test leaders actually resulted in the fly line breaking (near tip) instead of the leader breaking. Granted, these were not tapered leaders (just a chunk of heavy test Maxima), but I learned after half a day that using a lighter test leader avoided that problem (but not before my 24' sink tip was shortened by a foot or two!).
Good topic!

There's a very detailed article on knots called 'Stress and Strain' by John Maitland and D. Stephens in the March 1997 issue of Trout & Salmon, page 96.

I use blood knots to build my leaders too.
Knots, like the Blood knot, formed by twisting round more than a single strand of mono are, from what i've read, generally considered weaker than knots formed by wrappping the mono around two strands. According to this, the Water knot and the Grinner knot are supposed to be stronger than the Blood knot but i've never seen a leader built with these knots.

A friend of mine laughs at my built leaders. He uses a nine foot leader off the beach all year long. It's 8lb. bulk Maxima Evergreen line (not the small expensive tippet spools). And, unfortunately, he regularly reminds me that he caught over 170 coho (he counts) off the beach last year including one that was over 18lbs. using this leader.
Hmmmm..... maybe i should be reassesssing my theories on the importance of turnover (as well as my theories on 'friends').

i've had more problems with the clinch and the improved clinch breaking at the fly end than with the blood knots. This year i'm using the 'non slip mono loop' for the first time. Not only is it supposed to be stronger but one article states that it sinks flies(like clousers) faster than other knots because there's less friction with it ( go figure).

When you're tying a tapered leader, remember that you have some slop on knot strength in the heavier sections. The breaking strength of your leader is determined by it's lightest section. If the knot you use to tie the 40# and 35# butt-sections together only had 50% line-strength (which would be a very bad knot indeed), it would still be stronger than a 100% knot joining your 8# tippit to the end of the leader. Blood knots are very good knots when tied right, and very bad knots when tied badly. They're not only hard to tie well, it's extrmely hard to tell a good one from a merely OK one until the fish is swimming away. An intelligently constructed leader might use bloodknots in the butt and belly and surgeons knots toward the terminal connections (please note I said "intelligently-," not "helaers-" constructed). A surgeons knot is stronger (100%) than a bloodknot (90-something%), easier to tie consistently, and definitely more appropriate when you're trying to join sections of wildely different diameters (as is often the case in short to medium length saltwater leaders). Wow, that sounds good; I wonder why I'm still using bloodknots!

One thing I have been able to get through my skull though is that I can cheat the bloodknots a little in the butt and belly if my tippit is small enough. On realy thick sections you can get away with 3-turn bloodknots, or if you're trying to join sections different enough to make a good bloodknot difficult, use fewer turns with the tag end of the heavier section (a bloodknot with fewer turns or uneven numbers of turns that pulls together well will be stronger than a "proper" knot that cinches poorly). Remember to calculate these knots to be stronger than the ultimate strength of your tippit. I figure the worst knot I tie ought to be better than 50%, but I use that calculation for my safety margin.

My standard procedure is to use 3 turns on any section that is 20# or above and 5 turns on anything less. I agree that one can get away with more "slop" in the heavier sections or, perhaps better stated, get away with less knot strength in the heavier sections. I became very concerned with my knot failures as they all occurred with less than a 10# strain in various sections of the leader and the terminal section of my leader is 15#...not good when I want to use 8, 10 and 12# tippets. If the failures occured at around 85% knot strength (12.75#), that would have been acceptable to me; my tippet loop is a Bimini (100% if tied correctly - guess I better test that one, too) which is then looped to a Double (4 turn) Surgeon's Loop, something that very closely approximates 100% (again, if tied correctly.)


Both the Grinner and the Water Knot remind me of a Duncan Knot (also known as the Uni-Knot.)

Point well taken regarding your friend's 9-foot chunk of 8# line as both leader and you think we make things more complicated than they really need to be? :HMMM Nah, never. :WINK

Lefty's Non-Slip Loop Knot is an excellent knot...never heard that it sinks faster. I use a Palomar knot most often when attaching flies; something about doubling the tippet on the hook eye appeals to me. I do use the non-slip loop on Clousers, however, as it seems to better action to this fly. Two cents worth - be REALLY careful after tying the overhand and passing the tag end through the eye to reenter the overhand loop from the same side you exited after tying the overhand. Also, don't run the tag on the final pass through the middle of the overhand loop but rather off to the side within the loop (Gosh, I hope that made some sense.) Those two actions will result in the strongest tie of that knot.


Your advice concerning Lefty's knot was a bit disconcerting; not because i didn't understand it - it made perfect sense to me and the info is vital for tying the knot. But, y'know, if any non fisherman ever accidently surfs into the Forum, some of our posts must really seem like some sort of dialogue from a far off schizophrenic universe.

Any opinions out there on using fluorocarbon for tippet?

And, secondly, any suggestions for kinks in the leader. I know pulling the leader through rubber is supposed to work for removing annoying kinks but it rarely ever works for me - especially on the heavier diameter butt sections (now, just think how that sounds to the layman!!). I'm off ..... before Chris censors me!


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