Making The Connection- Saltwater

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Louis Cahill

How do you connect your leader to fly line when the pressure is really on?

This is sure to be a lively topic. I wasn’t aware this was such a hot button topic until I published an article by Devin Olsen titled, “Making The Connection,” and watched the comment section light up. Unfortunately a couple of readers missed the point completely. All too often, anglers are more interested in talking about how they do things than they are in learning something new.

Well, talking about how I do things is my job so here we go, I guess. I got to thinking about this after I made the mistake of responding to a post on Facebook. I know, what was I thinking? An angler was puzzling about the coating of his fly line separating from the core. He was using a nail knot to connect his leader to the fly line for bonefishing, and I made the comment that a nail knot was not a good choice for saltwater.

He responded, “I’ve been using a nail Knot for 20 years and never had a problem before now!”

Well, now he’s having a problem. Sure you can get away with lots of choices that aren’t the best choices, but when do you think the problem is going to happen? When you hook a half-pound schoolie or when you stick a 10-pound bruiser? I don’t know about you, but I want everything working in my favor, every cast.

Your fly line is a composite of two materials. A coating formed over some kind of core. The material of each varies depending on the line and the manufacturer. Think of your fly line as an electrical wire with a copper core and plastic insulation. A nail knot pinches the coating to the core. When you apply pressure to the leader, you’ve made a wire stripper. Pressure from the fish stretches the coating and not the core. You’re asking for a failure.

A nail knot is fine for species like trout.

Your tippet will generally fail long before your nail knot. Regardless, I believe in always making the best choice when it come to rigging. For my money, there are two good options for attaching line to leader in saltwater, where your connection is really going to get tested.

One good choice is an Albright knot. The upside of this method is that it provides a very positive connection that is not likely to create a hinge point. It delivers the energy of the line very effectively into the leader and many anglers use it for this reason. It’s a great choice but it does have a couple of potential flaws.

Although the Albright knot is a very strong knot, it is one of the most commonly botched knots in fly fishing. When it’s tied right, it’s awesome but it often isn’t. It’s a pain to tie, and that means you’re likely to put off doing it and fish a butt section that should be changed. As you change that butt section you are cutting off a couple of inches of fly line every time and that adds up. It’s a great knot and I use it other places but those negatives are enough to keep me away from it for my leader connection.

So what do I use? The greatly maligned loop-to-loop connection.

It, too, has its shortcomings and let’s get right to them. First is the idea that factory loops fail. Not often, but they do, so I cut them off and whip my own. Next is the fact that they do not pass easily through your guides. That’s an issue trout fishing but if you are bringing your leader into the guides fishing saltwater, you’re asking for something very bad to happen. Unless you just want a new fly rod.

Thirdly, loop-to-loop connections create a potential hinge point. This can hamper your leader turning over straight and that’s bad. There is a way around this and it’s something we don’t stress enough. The butt section of your leader must match the weight of your fly line. That means that while you might get away with a section of 30-pound RIO hard mono for a butt section to match an 8-weight line, you will need 60-pound to match an 11-weight. Having the right diameter and material in the butt section will keep things turning over nicely.

No knot is perfect, but I choose to use a loop-to-loop connection for a couple of reasons. There is nothing stronger, and that’s what matters to me most. It’s also extremely simple, which means I change leaders often and I don’t run the risk of screwing it up because I had too many cocktails the night before. Use whatever method works for you, but there’s my case for the loop-to-loop.

Here’s a step by step for whipping your own loops that will not fail.

And here’s a video on how to tie the Albright knot.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
www.ginkandgasoline.com
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6 thoughts on “Making The Connection- Saltwater

  1. I use the loop to loop and for the heavy gear (10wt to 15wt) I pass the loops through 3 times to get a “Cats Paw” knot.

    Back in another life when I game fished for 18 years I have seen one strand of the loops get broken and with a good ‘Cats Paw” and maintaining pressure on the line the knot does not slip.

    BM

  2. Having recently taken up saltwater fly fishing, I noticed that the leader loop had cut through the plastic on the fly line loop. I discovered this after cleaning my line after a couple of days on the water. I checked the same loop-to-loop connection on a loaner rod I was given at the resort and saw the same thing. Given I observed this on a new line and a well used one (I presume), is it safe to believe this is typical and okay?

    For reference, my rod is a 7wt with a new line and I used it for two days of bonefishing. The resort’s loaner rod is a 10wt and has been used for permit and smaller tarpon. Both showed that the leader loop had bitten through the line loop.

  3. the double nail knot works great, too. I used to own The Complete Fly Fisher in Richmond, Virginia. We took fly lines with double nail knots and loop to looped them to double lined 40 lb monofilament tied off to the trailer hitch of my truck. We pulled until something broke. THE FLY LINE BROKE BEFORE THE DOUBLE NAIL KNOT DID!! EVERY TIME!! I now will sometimes tie a double nail knot on top of a welded loop in a fly line. I haven’t tested this connection but I think it will work just as well as a standard double nail knot but will pass more smoothly through snake guides if and when it has to. Just my two cents worth. BTW, there are quite a few “rules” in fly fishing that aren’t anywhere near absolute (especially pertaining to flies) but people treat hem that way. Maybe I should start “Myth Busters” for fly fishing!

  4. I started fishing for bonefish with fly line loops, and switched over to nail knots. I use a tapered leader directly nail knotted to the fly line. What I don’t like about loop to loop connections is the bulk. The advantage of having a tiny knot that goes through the guides easily and doesn’t catch on floating weeds and doesn’t make a splash when it lands outweighs the strength issue for me.

    I also really didn’t like the time that my whipped loop got bitten off the end of my fly line by a 12″ barracuda!

    outweighs any strength advantage gained from an Albright or similar loop connection.

  5. I started fishing for bonefish with fly line loops, and switched over to nail knots. I use a tapered leader directly nail knotted to the fly line. What I don’t like about loop to loop connections is the bulk. The advantage of having a tiny knot that goes through the guides easily and doesn’t catch on floating weeds and doesn’t make a splash when it lands outweighs the strength issue for me.

    I also really didn’t like the time that my whipped loop got bitten off the end of my fly line by a 12″ barracuda!

  6. Tying the Albright correctly…I hope people read that part closely. I was not a big fan until I had an old-timer show me the correct way…now it is my go-to knot! Great article as always.

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