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Tying the Cat’s Paw

Knots & Rigs with Mark Williams

A CONNECTION that has enjoyed a revival in popularity in recent years has been the Cat’s Paw. While always remaining a popular connection with the gamefishing fraternity, its increased usage in other fields such as lure and fly fishing can be largely attributed to the explosion in use of gelspun polyethylene lines over the past decade. The Cat’s Paw is among the most reliable of connections and ideally suited to use with a wide variety of monofilament, co-polymer and GSP lines. Another of its major advantages over other connections is that it provides a relatively smooth running, tag free knot to connect fly lines, wind-on leaders and casting leaders to mainline or backing.    

The Cat’s Paw has been traditionally used in gamefishing circles as a knot to connect lines that have been doubled through the use of either a Bimini twist or plait to a swivel or snap. When employed for this purpose, testing conducted by the late Bill Nash – a noted US rigging authority – showed that the break strength of this connection in either nylon or fluorocarbon lines approaches 100 per cent. The other great advantage highlighted by Bill was that if one of the double strands breaks while fighting a fish the Cat’s Paw will maintain its integrity and not pull through,  maintaining a break strength of about 80 per cent with a single strand.

Attaching a doubled line to swivel or snap using the Cat’s Paw knot is a relatively simple process. A bit of care is required when forming and pulling up the knot to ensure the two double legs remain equal lengths. It is also a connection that should be well lubricated before tensioning and requires some coaxing of the knot’s coils towards the swivel to fully finish the job. Probably the easiest way to do this is if you can hook the swivel onto a fixed point such as a nail on a bench top which will allow you to maintain tension on the mainline with one hand while coaxing up the knot’s loops into position with the thumb and forefinger of the other hand. I normally use around four to six turns for the Cat’s Paw when connecting to swivel or snap.

The Cat’s Paw knot is also my preferred method for joining lines where maximum knot strength is required, such as top-shotting game reels. It provides a reliable, smooth running connection in both monofilament and gelspun lines. To complete this task you simply employ a Bimini twist to double the mainline on the reel spool and also on the spool of line that you intend using to top-shot the reel. Once again when forming and pulling up the knot care should be taken to ensure the double legs remain equal lengths. Noted Australian rigging authority Geoff Wilson recommends the use of 10 turns in the Cat’s Paw when it’s used for this application. More turns will only result in a marginal increase in knot strength. Geoff’s testing indicates that when this connection technique is employed in lines such as Spiderwire Fusion the join retains virtually 100 per cent of the line’s breaking strain. Across the board testing of braided lines showed an average break strength of 84 per cent.

Another area where the Cat’s Paw knot really shines is when used in conjunction with twisted casting leaders. I’ve used the Cat’s Paw knot extensively when high speed spinning off coastal rock ledges. There’s no harsher testing environment available for a knot than the extreme shock loads and wear placed on a connection through the process of constant, repetitive distance casting. Two things I’ve noted when using the Cat’s Paw for this purpose is that the twisted casting leader should have a sizeable loop on the end to allow the Cat’s Paw knot to be formed free of twists. Also, when the connection is being used between a monofilament mainline and hard mono casting leader only three turns are required in the knot. More turns may be required when connecting a gelspun mainline to a hard mono twisted leader.

A variation on the Cat’s Paw knot was developed by former Fisho writer Rod Harrison. The loop and cross –loop, as it’s referred to in Geoff Wilson’s informative Guide to Rigging Braid, Dacron and Gelspun Lines, was developed by Harro for attaching his Knotted Dog twisted leaders to a gelspun mainline. Once again, the gelspun mainline must be doubled. The initial turns taken when forming the knot follow the same procedure as a traditional Cat’s Paw knot. However, the subsequent turn is only completed after the gelspun loop is rotated 180 degrees to create a cross-loop. This knot is also useful for attaching fly lines to gelspun backing. Many experienced SWF anglers actually double the Bimini twist loop from one strand to two using a triple surgeon’s knot to reduce the risk of the finer gelspun line cutting into the fly line loop during extended fight times. I’ve personally used this rigging technique when pursuing billfish on fly and have found it to work very effectively even when fight times have taken many hours.


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