Testing a Knot

What is the best way to test a knot?

June 29, 2012

At a recent fly show, Lefty gave a knot demonstration. A question that frequently came up was:

Q: “What is the best way to test a knot?”

A: Many years ago, I witnessed high-speed photography of knots breaking at DuPont’s lab in Delaware. It was evident that when a knot slips, it begins to fail. So the first lesson learned was to tighten a knot as firmly as possible. Properly made, a Bimini twist in mono won’t slip, which is why it has been used successfully for so many years.


During decades of fighting fish with tippets as fragile as 8X to 20-pound-test, I was convinced that a jerk on the knot will break it quicker than a steady pull. That’s one reason why anglers bow with the rod to a leaping tarpon. I maintain that a jerk on the wrong end is responsible for most lost fish.

I have a $2,300 line tester that has no opinions on knots, but the simplest method of comparing two knots requires no such equipment. I think this demands a jerk test.
To test two different knots connecting flies, use two hooks from the same box with a knot tied in either end of a line. Grip each hook with pliers and give a hard jerk, and one knot will break. To be sure, do the test 10 times, and you will know which knot is best.
To test line-to-line connections, make the connections, then wrap the two ends around smooth wooden
dowels and jerk.


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