Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tying the Knot...for NanoFil

It's only appropriate with my wedding coming up next week that I write a how-to post about tying a knot that has become special to me ;) [ I apologize in advance for the set of blurry photos that follow. Click on the pic to make it larger.]

Recently I took the plunge and bought a spool of Berkley NanoFil (as I said in my last post on white bass ultralight fishing). And then I bought another. And another. And another.

This line isn't cheap, but I agree with the writing on the box that it's the best spinning reel line--as least for lighter rigs. I have fished this line some very different scenarios, and I've caught a few hundred fish on it already in sizes 12#, 8#, and 6#. They make the line from 1# test to 17# (although 14# and 17# are new additions & harder to find). It only comes in white, and it looks and feels like a fine dental floss. It seems to be perfectly round (unlike dental floss), and it feels super slick to the touch. This is what makes it such an enigma: Smooth, round, and thin means it casts far, sliding right off the spool and through the guides. It has honestly added 20-30% to my casts over comparable diameter/strength PowerPro braid.
Spooled Up

The downsides are twofold: (1) You do not want to handle the line under pressure--it feels like hell on your hands. It will burn you. (2) Many common knots will not hold--they easily slip with such a slick line. This is where today's post will come in handy.

So, to recap:

-Superior casting distance with little memory.
-Quiet through the guides (unlike noisy braid)
-Zero stretch/Lots of feel
-Small diameter spool can be used for other purposes (I use mine for leader material)

-Will damage hands under pressure
-Knots slip (see the rest of this post for solution!)
-High Cost ($20 for 150 yds)

So let's get to solving this issue of knot slippage. First of all, use a mono or flouro leader for crying out loud! It will help you catch more fish as the visibility is lower than the bright white NanoFil mainline. It will help with abrasion resistance as well. Finally, using the technique below, YOU WILL NOT LOSE ANY MAINLINE*! *you might have to retie after a few dozen breakoffs or if line is chafed from heavy cover (which is a problem of too short a leader usually). I have not had a single knot in the NanoFil slide or break while using my system shown below, even when using leader stronger than the mainline.

So the system is a super simple loop-to-loop system inspired by fly fishing. It is common to tie a perfection loop in the butt section of the tapered fly leader and connect it to the manufactured loop in the main fly line, allowing for an easy swapping of leaders when conditions call for it. For spinning rods, my approach is very similar, with the exception that leaders will not swap easily. But this is a knot that will hold and keep holding!

Basically it is a set of "surgeon's loops" with  4 turns in the NanoFil and 2-3 turns in the Flouro/Mono.

STEP 1: Make an E.T. finger like this.

STEP 2: Pinch the tag end and mainline, and form a circle. It should look phallic-y like this.

STEP 3: Wrap the now-doubled tag through the doubled loop (put the frank through the beans) FOUR times.

STEP 4: Lubricate the knot over the wraps and pull the doubled tag (right side) away from the mainline and single tag (left). You will have to seat the knot by spreading the resulting loop wide with your fingers like below.

STEP 5: Trim the single tag. The result should be like this.

STEP 6: Do a surgeon's knot (or perfection knot, if you prefer) in the leader material. Slide the loop of the leader over the mainline loop. Bring the tag end of the leader through the NanoFil loop.

STEP 7: Slide the loops together by pulling the leader and mainline in opposite directions.

Finished Product:

Now you have an awesome looped leader system that will save you money. When you snag a jig in the rocks and have to break off, you will loose the leader before you come close to breaking the NanoFil. You can also use this as an upgrade to your braid's leader connection system. Your more-expensive alternative is to use a uni-to-uni knot that takes 6" of braid/Nano everytime you break a leader off. That adds up on days when fishing tight to cover means catching fish or getting bored quick.

Congrats on reading this far. Before I let you go, I want to show one more thing. If you want to change leaders (say, to replace with a longer leader when the first gets too short), or if you break off (breakoffs will occur around the leader's surgeon's knot), you can't just push the loops apart because of how narrow the mainline is. Once the NanoFil is cinched down, it doesn't want to push back into a loop. So you will have to take these steps:

LEADER CHANGE STEP 1: Snip one leg of the loop between halfway down and the surgeon's loop knot.

You should see something like this.

LEADER CHANGE STEP 2 [FINAL]: Pull on the leg of the loop you did not snip, and voila, the leader will slide out of the NanoFil loop end. 

There you have it! I know the long post makes it seem complex, but it is not. You can do this super quick. The knots couldn't be simpler.  Grab some NanoFil or your favorite braid and enjoy a stronger system! 


Monday, May 21, 2012

Wipe Ass, I mean, White Bass!

Whites, whitey, Lieutenant Stripey-Sides--they have many names, and whenever I tell non-anglers about them, they think I caught "wipe ass" (a mysterious wooded creature that cleans your bottom, I have to assume). By any name, I have been fortunate enough lately to catch a LOT of white bass, one of my favorite sweetwater species. And this makes me very happy.

I hit the jackpot 2 weeks ago when visiting some relatives of mine in the state that refers to itself as "the heart of it all." It certainly was the heart of the white bass spawning run and whatever else these fiesty bastards were doing on main lake rocky flats.

Over the course of 4 mornings, I personally managed to catch over 200 fish. Yes, that's two zeros. They weren't all that big, but bending the rod on nearly every cast for a few hours made up for a lot of fishless hours and fishless trips. I fished each of the four mornings for only 3 hours each day since I had many familial obligations and lots of folks to see. I was glad to see that the fish had missed me too.

In addition to tons of white bass to tug the line, my fishing partners and I caught a mess of black- and white crappie as well as walleye, saugeye, and carp (to 10 lbs!). We fished 2 lakes and a waded a narrow tributary, catching fish in all these spots. The first 3 mornings were calm (see the top pic), which made fly fishing possible (casting) but not ideal (line slap on the surface can drive fish down). Fortunately these are aggressive fish feeding throughout the water column and moving along the shoreline enough to not give a royal damn. And the fourth morning was a downpour with a little onshore wind.

So yes, I used both ultralight spinning and fly gear. I'm no purist...I just want to catch fish. Sometimes I bring both types of gear, sometimes I convince myself to stick with one and figure it out. Using spinning gear was made a little more fun on this trip since I just got a new setup--nothing fancy, just needed a new rod and bought a Shimano Scimitar on clearance from a big box store. This whippy little 5'6" rod got put to the test of all these hundreds of fish each day, including the bigger of the carp, pulled from some 10' deep. I spooled the pflueger reel with 6# Berkley Nanofil, which is my favorite spinning-reel line to date. This stuff feels like dental floss, but for the same reason allows it to rocket farther than braid. It is silent, but deadly, as they say. [I will have to post a separate blog entry on Nanofil]. I used 2x tippet (~7.1# test) as a leader material with 1/8oz jigs and 2" white grubs. Better than the grubs, however, was the new 2" Berkley Ripple Shad in Pearl.

Just an all-around badass. The fish didn't want deep-bellied swimbaits, so the ripple shad's minnow-like profile with well-constructed paddle tail was the ticket. When I ran out (the pack comes with 8 baits for $4-$5), I took my deep-belly baits and cut the bellies off. Not as good, but it still had a hard time avoiding certain annihilation.

For flies, I use a 2" long fly on a size #8 or #10 hook that I came up with. It's a lot like a gotcha bonefish fly, but with a patch of zonker hanging off the tail. They love this thing, but a conehead krystal bugger also worked well. As they say about bucktails for NJ flounder, "any color works, as long as it's white."

Much Love

Now last week I got to go to central Wisconsin to a city that promotes itself as "the white bass capitol of the world." As a moronid finatic, I couldn't turn down the offer to tag along with two of my fishing buddies. They wanted to fill their coolers for their families and employees, so they were making the 7-hour round trip in a single day, once a week for 3 weeks. Last week was supposed to be the peak of the run. I had to take a 1 hour train from the city to the suburbs to meet my friend for the 3.5 hour drive North. That meant I woke up at 3 am. On the water by 8:30am.

While we moved around a little, my fishing buddy controlling the tiller decided to stick it out anchored in the spot he found whitey in a week prior. Which could only mean I spent about 9 hours staring at this:
Lt. Stripey-Sides' snaggy romp room

...which at least wasn't as bad as the other side:

Overall we spent 11 hours on the water, fighting current, crowds (we had some lead cast at us from other boats), and thankfully, lots of fish. We caught whites, crappies, smallmouth, and one big walleye that came unbuttoned boatside. Totalled about 100 fish including 80 whites. 

We had 2 coolers. This is one. 

The fish didn't want to come to the surface, so we didn't really break out the fly rod until close to dusk. I caught one and missed 3 other bites on the fly (type III sink tip with a chart/white clouser #6). 


With dark water, crowds, a long drive (for only a day on the water), keeping fish, and live minnows for bait, it wasn't my preferred style of fishing. But I do like catching fish. And I'll do quite a bit to spend more time chasing that majestic creature, "wipe ass."