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The Complete Book of Fishing Knots, Leaders and Lines

A Review By Joe Cornwall


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A quick walk through any well-stocked book store will reveal that handbooks of knots are a staple in the fishing literature racks.  One of the best known is Practical Fishing Knots by Lefty Kreh and Mark Sosin.  There are dozens of others, some good and some not-so-good.  Having a good one on your book shelf is an important investment in your angling skills; everything we work for on the water comes down to the knot.


Lindsey Philpott is a sailor and angler who lives on the sunny coast of California, and judging by the clarity and detail of his book The Complete Book of Fishing Knots, Leaders and Lines he’s a fellow who truly understands this tangled topic.  While this isn’t a book aimed exclusively at the fly fishing crowd, it offers more than enough material central to the light-tackle angler’s game to make it a valuable addition to a well-stocked library.  If you don’t currently have a guide book to knots, this is one at which you should take a close look.


The first two chapters of the book should be required reading for every angler everywhere.  Philpott, in precise and detailed terms, provides an overview of how knots work, how various line materials effect knot strength and design, and what we as anglers should and shouldn’t do to make the most of this fragile connection to the subject of our sport.  In Philpott’s words, “life does not stand still.  You will have to grow with it, whether you want to or not.  Fishing, as part of life, is not a sport that likes to stay still: it is constantly evolving.    New lines are coming out all the time, new rods, new reels, new gear – there is always something new. Your knots, however, having stood the test of time, have not changed in maybe five or ten years, maybe even since you first tied them?  So, do you think that maybe there is something you could stand to learn about knots, even if you choose not to use the information?  If you can gain some greater understanding of how knots work, and in which kinds of line, wouldn’t that be worth hanging onto?”  Indeed it would.


All of the fifty knots demonstrated in the book are superbly illustrated in color photographs.  The knots are tied using a heavy cord to make following the loops and twists easy.  Each knot is accompanied by an example of how and when it should be used, what its strengths and weaknesses may be, and tips on how to best execute its construction.  A great example of the ease with which you can learn a new knot is shown in the following sequence demonstrating the Orvis knot.  This is a knot that I’d never used before, but it’s one that I’m certain to use in the future.  It’s compact, strong and easy to tie.  It’s especially easy since I took just five short minutes to look at the pictures and practice it in a heavy line.  Such a fast and easy return on investment is the hallmark of a good “how to” book.



Philpott finishes out the book with a couple of surprises.  Have you ever wondered if you’re tying your shoe laces correctly?  Me neither.  But Philpott has and he’s provided a technique for tying laces that won’t easily come loose until you want them to loosen.   Now that's something I wished I'd learned when I had wading boots with laces! 


The very final item is a fascinating project where-in you'll make a fishing license lanyard.  I think this would be an even better lanyard for clippers, forceps and the like.  It is constructed of a series of woven strands of cord.  I'll admit, it looks like it'll be a lot of work, but then I know these things only look difficult before you've tried them.  Follow the pictures and you'll have a great looking item that was truly created by hand.  And the finishing touch, the wall-and-crown knot, is truly a masterpiece.  I once spent a summer of my youth tying all the knots in Chapman's Piloting, Seamanship and Small Boat Handling.  It was a fascinating exercise and I still have several of the more complex knots as a memento of the time spent.  I'm confident that if you try this project, not only can you finish it in a night, but you'll be proud that you tried.


The Complete Book of Fishing Knots, Leaders and Lines (ISBN 1-60239-224-2) is available for $9.95 from Skyhorse Publishing.


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