O.K., so I’ve used ’em all. I’ve even used an actual nail. And the paper clip trick. The straw. The $15 doo-hickie that ties all the other knots, too. But the best so far is a simple and effective little homemade gadget that you will find for sale in a cup next to the cash register at Gates AuSable Lodge. I’m talking, of course, about the little brass nail knot tool that he sells for a few bucks each.
I’m on my second or third one because, alas, I have a habit of losing them. They’re small, and it is easy to do that, if you’re not careful. I remarked on this the other day when I picked-up the one I’ve got now, and another guy in the shop said that I ought to put it on a zinger. Good advice — though I’ll admit that I also misplace lots of zingers ,too.
Anyway, these are great. The diameter of the little brass tube is large enough to get the tippet back through when you’re tying the knot without the need for added magnification, but small enough so that when you slide the tube out of the knot, and then make the knot fast, that it comes out looking right without much adjustment. Just perfect.
Like everyone I suppose, I like tools that do multiple jobs, but I’ve never found a multi-tool that does quite as good a job on nail knots as Rusty’s little single-purpose tool — so I made an exception and carry these for their specialty application. The truth is that almost all the nail knots I tie are to affix loop-to-loop leader butts to fly lines, so I generally reach for the tool when I’m standing on the backside of my car suiting-up and getting fly lines organized for a day’s fishing.
I know, I know. You’re thinking, “What? A couple of bucks for a little bit of brass tube? No way!” Actually, though, the little brass tube is soldered to a brass loop which gives you a spot to hold the thing in a comfortable way while you’re doing all those mini-wraps that make the nail knot what it is. And if you are “with it” enough to get yourself a zinger so as to not misplace the tool all the time, then, well, you’ve got a spot for the clip, too.
Don’t know about nail knots? No problem. Check it out: Tying the Nail Knot