The Timeless Nail Knot
The nail knot has been around for centuries and many knots we use today were derivatives of this very proven method of connecting two lines together. Since 1938, with the invention of nylon fly fishing has changed dramatically in certain ways. Nylon caused a jump start of other later mediums such as Dracon, Spectra, and PVDF. The ironic thing about technology is that it does not always change the simple things that it supposedly enhances or try's to make better. Many times technology is humbled by its own simple archaic functionality. Plastic fly lines have changed over the years and even silk has evolved and blossomed. Many fly casters say that the quality of the tapers have changed for the better. Others say lines have only suffered with technology and all of its gimmicky growing pains. Knots really have not changed through all the technological breakthroughs. The knot is still the single most important part of fly fishing. Without knots you cannot fish, period. Without knots all the high modulus graphite rods and super nanoparticle slick fly lines are rendered useless.
After centuries we still rely on turl knots, surgeons loops, clinch knots, and yes even the nail knot. The nail knot gave birth to many of the knots we use today. Centuries ago they had different names for these knots, these names changed over time. My father takes great pride in his knot tying abilities. His knots are really a piece of art. He sailed all over the world and mended his own sails and lines. He was a celestial navigator and a knot sensation which elevated him to rock star status in my world. Looking at his Eye Splices and Chain Splices as a young boy made my improved clinch knots look like child's play. He told me the nail knot was very important to learn and it can potentially be a life saver on a boat.
The leader to fly line connection is incredibly important for the transfer of energy. I often hear anglers talking way too much about the characteristics of fly lines when they should be more concerned about their connection between leader and fly line. Typically they are the ones using loop connectors. I always use this analogy~ “Does an experienced electrician splice two wires together that are meant to carry two very different currents, its a recipe for a short or a fire.” Loops don't cause fires but they do cause shorts. The loop connection is nasty. The transfer of energy is sloppy and creates a “dead spot”. The amount of bulk is plain sad. I have recently seen manufactured leader and fly line loops that are an entire inch in length. That's a pretty big hinge! The nail knot has very little profile, less than a quarter of an inch in length and about 1/32 in thickness. So why all the loops these days? It takes no more than two minutes to learn to tie a nail knot and there are a multitude of tools to help you tie these knots. Take command of your knot tying abilities and your fishing experience will never suffer. In reference to loop connections one of my Scottish fishing guides in Ontario chuckled and said to me while fishing the Grand River “loops are what you use to hang yourself after a bad day of fishing”...I could not agree more.