Fishing with nets is an age-old practice. At one time all nets were handmade, and knot tying was as unique to certain cultures as their fishing styles. With manufactured nets came machine-tied knots. But, in spite of the technology, repairing casting nets, gill nets and dip nets is still done by hand. Typical knots are used when repairing a torn fishing net or patching a section of the net.
Tying fishing net knots requires a netting needle, which is similar to those used in loom weaving. Needles enable the repair cord to be passed through the mesh quickly. In addition, needles hold a reserve of cord that is paid out by rotating the needle end over end as the work progresses. Typically, smaller needles are made from molded plastic and larger needles are made of hardwood.
The Thumb Knot is considered by many to be the original knot used with single-strand mesh. The fishing net is strung so the damaged edge hangs down. The knot is tied by first making an overhand loop at the bottom of the first diamond mesh. The point of the needle is inserted upward through the loop, behind mesh and back through the loop in a downward direction. Pulling the needle tight secures the connection. The mender plays out enough cord to form a new mesh diamond each time and continues across the bottom edge of the repair.
A Sheet Bend is common when repairing a section of the fishing net or installing a patch. The knot resembles a square knot and it is used to tie two ends of cord together. Knots along the edges of the damaged section are cut away leaving tag ends. The patch cords are joined to the tag ends using the Sheet Bend. Some mending techniques leave long tag ends at the edges of the patch to make a half-hitch at one side of the knot.
Single and double hitches are the least-complicated knots used to repair fishing nets. The knots allow fishermen to make quick repairs on the water and have the fishing net back in action within minutes. The end of the cord is passed through a section of mesh and the tag end wrapped around the repair cord in a way that leaves a small loop. The end of the cord is passed through the loop and pulled tight. Hitches can be effective when tying cords of different sizes or of dissimilar materials.