How To: Untangle a Somali Pirate Knot

Let me set the scene for you. It’s a beautiful summer day, the air temperature is an ambient 26 degrees, a light breeze is in the air, and you’ve just walked up to your favourite fishing hole. Relief washes over you as you cautiously approach the water and discover no other fisherman dared take this zone from you. The deep blue and green hues of the pool twirl and spin, making the blood in your heart pump faster, as you fumble through your pack looking for those perfect flies. You slide that naughty strike indicator up your leader and begin to shake with excitement. While tying on your favorite fly, you giggle to yourself, “what’s better than one fly? Why two of course!” You grin to yourself and begin to strip off another piece of tippet to add to the bottom hook. Now that you have your two flies tied securely to the leader and tippet, you remember the fish are deeper during the heat of the day. On goes a split shot above the two flies, as they dangle helplessly below the rounded metal intrusion.

You get your footing ready, quiet your dog, and begin to make what you feel is, the most wonderful false casts you could imagine. Line zings out towards the far edge of the pool, just where the current slows down enough for a hungry trout to sit. As you’re about to release the line in one final push to get line out, you feel the slack make an odd turn in the air. You watch helplessly as the flies twirl around the split shot and around one another like a merry-go-round. In an instant, your flies have been transported off the coast of Cape Horn, Africa. Somali pirates have taken hold of your flies and wrapped them up tighter than a Dothraki man bun. You grit your teeth as your flies reappear from their time travelling event, landing oafishly into the water with a loud “kerplunk!”

Now, we have all been in this scenario before. For those who are just beginning to dip their toes in the water of this wonderful sport, get ready to spend a good portion of your day untangling knots. It’s almost like a rite of passage for fishmen to spend at least part of the day sitting on the shore and attempting to untie a rats nest of line. But fear knot (ha!), here are some simple tips to help you get untangled and back on the water.

Step One: yell! Oh, the power of unleashing the wrath of one’s will upon an invisible deity. Damn Poseidon and his water sprites! For they have cursed you and your ability to retrieve fish from the sacred watering hole you love oh, so much. Now that you’ve released some of that pent up rage, it’s time to work on what the God’s have cursed you with.

Step Two: keep the flies and line in the water. This is a very important step. If you decide to lift the line and flies out of the water, you risk creating a much worse tangle. Retrieve your flies slowly and enter the water to start the untangling process. Untangle the flies while they are in the water, this not only prevents the knot from getting worse, the water acts as a lubricant to prevent further knotting, while you untangle this unholy mound of line and fury.

Step Three: use your hemostats to help get out tight knots. If some knots are tight, you can use your hemostats to loosen those lumpy links! Lock on to one edge of the knot and work the other end free with your finger nails. What if you don’t have nails, you ask? Well, it’s time to take a long look in the mirror and decide if you really deserve having that beard on your face. However, if you recently cut your nails to impress a Tinder match, I suppose you get a pass. In this instance, you can use a fly hook to jam in between the knot to work it free.

Step Four: give up all hope. Most of us just skip straight to step four and throw our rod across the river. We watch helplessly as our beautiful rod and reel sinks to the bottom, wondering how momma raised such a fool. Yet, once you get out the snorkel gear and retrieve your lost goods, you can now start the healing process.

Step Five: cut the line. As you get older and wiser (fatter too), you begin to see that untangling knots is a lost cause. Even when you manage to get a knot out, the line is often warped or stripped. This can lead to fish being able to notice imperfections in the line, as well as losing fish. You wouldn’t attempt to untangle a hipsters beard braid would you? Well, the same should go for a knot in your fly line. Grab those handy nippers, cut the line, and start anew.

So, the next time you walk up to that favourite fishing hole of yours, take your time. No one wants to see their line become the cause of an international incident. The fish aren’t going anywhere.