Commercial fishermen use lines, or ropes, for a variety of purposes. Boat anchors, nets and buoys all need to be secured and safely managed. A working knowledge of knots is a necessity.
If you open a book describing how to tie various knots, instant intimidation is the likely result. The reality is that a thorough familiarization with a half-dozen knots will serve the majority of your needs.
There are a few commonly used knots that are not only of value to fishermen, but to the rest of us in everyday situations. All of us use twine and lines to tie objects together and to tie things up. It is frustrating to tie a knot, have it pull tight and then be unable to get it untied.
One of the most common knots, and handiest, is a bowline.
A bowline can be used for attaching anything. Fishermen tend to use it for tying on anchors and such. Bowlines untie easily even after being under great tension. Once the tension is released, the bottom loop of the knot can be pushed down fairly easily. It does not unfasten quite so easy with soft lay line.
Another knot, not so common but no less handy, is a rope knot. This knot has a real name, but there are so many local names that the term “rope knot” suffices. This knot has the advantage of holding under great tension with the valuable trait of being able to be released with one hand while under tension.
Fishermen use it for holding nets in the tide. It can also be used for pulling a car from the ditch without sacrificing a rope.
A clove hitch is used to quickly tie a boat to a post or pipe. In the days of the Old West, you would see cowboys tie their horse to the hitching rail in front of the saloon with this easy, common hitch.
A clove hitch unties reasonably well with most lines once the tension is released. It is handy in situations where tension is on and off.
A half hitch is just a modified clove hitch. It’s used in similar situations as the clove hitch, but with the half hitch, all of the individual hitches come from the bottom.
The last knot, which completes the short list of valuable ties, is a knot that can be used to tie a line to another line that is under tension. The line under tension can be bowstring tight. If the incoming line is tied properly, it will not slip.
Begin with taking three or four wraps with the incoming line — around the line under tension. This knot is finished with single half-hitch on the outside end of the wraps, followed by another half-hitch on the incoming end.
There’s also the square knot. Suffice to say that a square knot is a “granny knot” tied properly. If you tie your shoes with a square knot, you won’t be tripping over your untied shoelaces. However, fishermen don’t wear shoes with laces much when they work.
If you can tie these knots, you will find the small things in your life are less frustrating. Good luck, and good fishing.
John Schandelmieier is a lifelong Alaskan who lives near Paxson with his family. He is a Bristol Bay commercial fisherman and an two-time winner of the Yukon Quest.
Correction: This story has been updated with photos of both a granny knot and a square knot. An earlier version included a photo of a square knot misidentified as a granny knot.