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Knot failure when steelheading
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  1. #1

    Knot failure when steelheading

    Looking back at all my steelheading trips this year I see I lost an extraordinary number of fish due to knot failure. Sometimes the breakage occurred on the initial strike, but more often it happened while I was fighting the fish. I admit to fighting my fish hard and depend on the light action rods I use for their cushioning effect. One day which sticks in my memory was 14 fish hooked and only 6 landed. All other days were similar.

    I used 3-X and 4-X Rio, Airflo, Segaur and Orvis flurocarbon along with 100% knots like the Trilene, Orvis, 16/20 and Palomar. I lubricated each knot with syliva and tried to tighten them as carefully as possible. The knots that failed were mostly at the fly connection but some were at the swivel. Although its no longer a part of the regulations, I still use a tiny swivel as it makes it easier for me to replace tippets.

    I've been steelheading since the early 1980s and know that some breakage is to be expected. However, my hooked-to-landed percentage appears to be unreasonably low which prompts me to ask the following questions:

    What is your hooked-to-landed percentage or number? I've often suspected that some leader material has better cold temperature strength and wonder what type and brand of leader material you are using? What breaking strength? What terminal tackle knots are you tying?

    I've always subscribed to the theory that the lighter the leader, the harder it is for the fish to detect, the less unnatural drag on the fly and the more strikes I'd get. However, more strikes aren't really an advantage if it also reduces my ability to land those fish. I suspect the real answer to this is might ultimately be to increase the tippet to 10-pound-test or heavier.

    What are your thoughts?

  2. #2
    With Steelhead I normally bring in 70% of the fish. I normally do not have a knot breakage issue. If I do it is normally something where I am fishing light tippet 6x for trout and I hook into a larger trout then I expected and do not play the fish properly.

    Where are you breaking your tippet at leader to leader or at the fly? If it is at the fly I would try someone like Davy's knot. If it is leader to leader I would look at the knots you are using. For myself I will change out my tippet a couple times a day depending on how many fish I catch. You could also be breaking off from nicks on leader/tippet.

    It is important to keep track of of where your breaks come from and then look for solutions at those points. Good Luck
    Chasing Bows on the Left Coast
    My fav quad bamboo builder D.E. Daniel Quad Bamboo Fly Rods

  3. #3
    I bought some UV cure Loon Knot Sense. While not steal head tested, I found I had zero knot breakages. I could pull snags out of trees and off the bottom all day. Plus the stuff makes the line pull thru the guides way easier. No flies lost to snags has to translate some?

  4. #4
    Yes it does translate, that stuff is great! Some knots still might fail but not at the rate you said they were. I am glad you like it. Did you get the big or small light? I keep losing the small key chain light so I purchased the big boy, now I can't lose it

  5. #5
    I took others advice and bought the large light. 5 bucks off of amazon. I use the UV fly stuff also. I didn't bring a light on the water figuring "a couple of seconds exposed to daylight" would do the trick. Well low December light and 45F doesn't translate. It had to cure for well over a minute in the sun. I tie in my basement and when it's cold I've noticed longer cure times. Next time I bring the big light.

  6. #6
    Alaskan Steel
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Lehigh Valley
    Can you use an UV light for this stuff? I am nterested in it but I was told you had to use the light made by the company whose product you used.

  7. #7
    Wheff - I bought a cheap UV light off of amazon at someone else's recommendation. I figured at 5 bucks, if it didn't work oh well. I suspect most of these technology is the same wave length, around 395 nm. Light is light, and it works great.


  8. #8
    Alaskan Steel
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Lehigh Valley
    Thanks BCBT. I will have to give amazon a look.

  9. #9
    It might be worthwhile to analyze failure vs brand. I'm not a 100% fly angler (mea culpa, mea culpa) and recently switched brands of fluorocarbon leaders on my ML Smallie setup because of breakage issues.

    I also took a tip from a very, very experienced user of fluorocarbon line, and use a simple 5 turn clinch knot when using fluorocarbon. The line-on-line friction in more complex knots creates strength robbing heat, even when tightening the knot at an almost glacial pace. If you see any "curling" of the line right before the knot - retie.


  10. #10
    Aaron: Your postings show you've been doing a lot of steelheading lately. I'd be interested in reading your input on this subject.


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