To be, or not to be knotless, that is the question
That depends on who you ask, where they fish, and what they fish for.
Some fly fishers just like tying their own leaders because it’s all part of their fishing experience – like tying your own flies.
The easy answers don’t really tell the story: Knotless saves time, but costs more; multiple knots up the chances of knot failure; multiple knots “DO” collect debris, make a wake and tend more toward tangling than knotless; multiple fly change-outs on a knotless system may result in an eventual non IFGA leader rig, a big deal to many.
In an phone interview with professional guide Drew Moret, and his father Sandy Moret, owner of the famous Florida Keys Outfitters (FKO), both said they don’t use knotless leaders and don’t sell them, and never will. Sandy adding: “No self respecting saltwater fly fishermen would ever use one.” Drew chimed in: “Knotless leaders have no backbone, they’re too limp and not capable of handling wind or big saltwater flies. They do not help a cast with turnover like knotted leaders do.” FKO ties their own leader system and packages them in 10- and 12-foot lengths of mono in 8-, 10-, 12 and 16-pound test. Three to a package: $15.
The Fly Shop of Miami’s Jorge Martinez said: “We carry knotless. Sales are mostly to new comers to fly fishing that have yet to learn to tie knots. We do have some guys who fish ponds and canals that do know how to tie knots, but their venues tend to scum up in the summer – that’s when they use knotless.”
I’ve had this knotted leader versus knotless conversation countless times with a dozen or more guys and gals I’ve fished in South Florida. All hold fast to tying their own leaders. So did I until changing coordinates.
“Leader choice, seldom paid much attention to, can win or lose the day” SK
Steve Kantner, author, former South Florida fishing guide, former commercial fisherman, fly casting instructor, conservationist and oft times fishing partner said: “The hinge effect of a leader (descending thicknesses and stiffness) is extremely important. A leader can be constructed to dampen splash down, like presentations of dry flies to trouts, bonefish or snook. And they can be built to do the opposite for species like sharks, cobia, seatrout and others. What is misunderstood about knotless leaders is that technology has come to its rescue. They’re no longer limp noodles.”
RIO‘s monofilament knotless leaders are formed in an extruded process that produces a butt section that is more dense, thicker and stiffer (chemically managed). The following diameter reductions of the leader also express a decreasing stiffness. The turnover is there. However, fluorocarbon knotless leaders remain supple throughout.
In Atlanta, they do it differently
In Atlanta, the ‘Hootch runs through it’. That would, of course, be the Chattahoochee River. The trout water available to fly anglers in Georgia is mind-boggling. Some 1,600 miles of it and all are now open year ‘round.
In Atlanta and surrounding area, as well as, the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains there are dozens of great fly shops. Most promoting knotless leaders. On my inaugural visit to Fish Hawk, the iconic downtown Atlanta fly shop (talk about traffic – WOW). While browsing, I was intercepted by a very experienced Georgia trout angler and salesman. When our conversation turned to leaders, he ignited – poohpoohing knotted leaders: ‘They provide nothing but tangle opportunities, debris collection, wake disturbance, more chances for a failed knot, and do not, as advertised, ‘improve’ castability.”
Putting a better perspective on knotless leaders in the saltwater and freshwater environment
Knotless tapered leaders are made for average everything, average casting distance and average size flies. However, that’s not the real world, and a little adjusting makes all the difference.
For example, in saltwater fishing, the rub on knotless is they ‘cannot’ turnover big flies. To solve that problem, put on a heavier butt section – as much 3- or 4-feet of 30-, 40-, or even 50-pound test. Then, to keep a positive hinge, cut off a few feet of the knotless butt. You’ll have to eyeball the whole deal unless you carry a micrometer around with you.
When trout fishing and your dry keeps collapsing, shorten the tippet +/- a foot, which makes the tippet a larger diameter. The latter collapsing fly problem can also rear up when going from, for example, a 16-size dry to a heavier streamer. If you can’t get a proper drift, lengthening the leader a few feet will help.
All of the latter takes precious time. You can choose to ignore the aforementioned details and just keep on fishing. However, you probably won’t be doing any catching.
Yes, you can teach and old dog new tricks