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Tying Fishing Knots -- Old Man Papadopoulos

Updated on August 10, 2014

When I first saw Old Man Papadopoulos, sitting on his porch, perched high on a hillside home almost as ancient as he was, I knew I wouldn’t forget him. The old man was the type of person that was the same every time you met him. You were in the presence of a simple greatness in a man who had endured a life of hardship, and still found joy in being alive, despite his great age and feebleness.

Prior to meeting him, I hadn't lived in his neighborhood long enough to do more than occasionally notice him on the porch. I had taken note that the woman (his wife), seemed to no longer be around. Before, I had always seen her lugging groceries up their steep concrete steps, without rails. I marveled at how someone that small, and old, could hike up them seemingly without effort. There were at least forty very narrow, crumbling in deterioration, vertical steps to traverse to the top of that hill -- the only way into the house.

Shortly after noticing her absence, a young social worker came rapping on my screen door with a special request. She had lined up Meals-0n-Wheels for our elderly neighbor, explaining that his wife had passed on the month before, and that he wasn't eating well enough. However, since most of the volunteers for that organization were elderly themselves, no one wanted to traverse those stairs, so she was canvassing the neighborhood for someone fit enough and young enough, to not be bothered by the hike.

Apostolis (Αποστόλης) Papadopoulos

Apostolis (Αποστόλης) Papadopoulos was ninety-three years old when I met him. He was born in Panormos, Greece, which is a small long-established and ancient Cretan fishing village, once known as Axos in Roman times. Before immigrating to the United States, he had spent nearly a life-time as a fisherman off the island of Crete.

One of the reasons I loved him so much, was that despite his old age infirmities, he had tremendous ambitions to continue to work as long as he was alive. No longer able to walk, yet he cooked and kept his little home, by getting around in a homemade wheelchair that he had fashioned out of a straight-backed chair sans arms, with four small wheels from a discarded old child's wagon. He would have nothing to do with offers for a free "real" wheel chair when his worked perfectly fine.

Not being able to walk, didn't stop him either from making fishing lines and tackle either, or finding a way to sell them, although isolated by his disabilities. To my way of thinking, a man who, among other things, would go on and work, when he couldn't even walk, is a rare and special human being.

Apostolis grew up in a wholly self-sufficient age. He didn't believe in being over-dependent upon modern day things like safety pins, zippers, and other fastenings. He had a very valid point -- every man, woman, and child should know how to tie some basic knots -- if for no other reason -- than that knots are cheaper, consume less of the planet's meager energy assets, and often simply work better.

Papadopoulos’ Knot

Once I began bringing him the daily meal, I soon noticed that his hands were forever busy . He was a either making fishing lines, fishing lures, or tying intricate knots and weaving fishing nets.

The first time Old Man Papadopoulos proposed to teach me how to tie some fishing knots, I was highly skeptical at my own ability to learn such techniques. I've always prided myself on knowing my own limitations. I have a lot of talents, but not much patience for things that tangle.

He only laughed when I complained. He then went on to tell me in his Greek-English, how as a boy, he had known a man who owned a Bonobo, that he had obtained in the Congo. He claimed the man's juvenile charge could tie knots as good as any Greek fisherman. He also asserted that the man had the money of many doubters to prove it, for that was how he earned his living entertaining locals and tourists, who couldn't tie a knot themselves.

All the time he was telling me this and trying to teach me various knots, I was thinking that Bonobo was a Greek word. In my mind, it was the name of some little Greek boy, so that goes to show I wasn't nearly as smart as he thought I was. By the time I figured it out, I was too embarrassed to ever let on about my ignorance about one of God's special endangered creatures.

Apparently, in Old Man Papadopoulos' mind, I was at least as smart as a dwarf chimpanzee, because despite all of my protests and frustrations, he was determined that I was going to learn to tie knots, as a payment for all of my kindnesses in bringing his meals up those steps.

I would tease him that his privately created Papadopoulos knot, was secretly the famous Greek Gordian knot, because I never did master that complicated knot -- so I never had to have any illusions about someday becoming an Empress of all of Asia.

Over the next couple of years, I would learn to tie a number of handy fishing knots. While we worked on them, he would tell me stories of his home back in Crete, and mostly talked about his wife. He missed her terribly, but each time he spoke of her, a tear slid down his cheek in emotion, and the conversation would always begin with the same statement:

"I learned to love her, but she was one "ooogly woman" it was hard to get past how ooogly she was. It almost made me ill to look at her ooogliness. Didn't think I'd miss her so much. In our day, your families arranged your marriage. I always thought my father was mean for choosing her, till I didn't have her no more. Now, I'll never know if she learned to love me back. She never said."

A fisherman repairing his fishing nets in Essaouira, Morocco. -- "Good things come to those who bait." ~Author Unknown
A fisherman repairing his fishing nets in Essaouira, Morocco. -- "Good things come to those who bait." ~Author Unknown | Source

John John

Each week a black gentleman would stop by to pick up Old Man Papadopoulos' work and give him five dollars. After I understood how much work went into the fishing lines and ropes, he'd spend all week making -- I was getting mad. Five dollars! This work was worth many times that!

I finally confronted John John and quickly realized I would get nowhere with this injustice. He curtly informed me it was none of my business how much the "lady" paid for the work (he'd been getting the same amount for over thirty years), and that I should take it up with her, adding "if you can." John John was just the go-between. He steadfastly refused to give me the lady's address or phone number. Then, he told me, "to take it up with God."

"May the holes in your net be no larger than the fish in it." ~Irish Blessing

Two years later, Apostolis Papadopoulos died in his sleep, ending his life in a peaceful harmony with no complaints ever heard by anyone of any physical pain or discomfort.

Shortly, after his death, John John appeared on my door-step with an envelope simply marked, "key to Old Man Papa-what-evers ' basement." He thrust it in my hand and said, "I kept my promise to her," and walked away without another word.

Since there were no heirs, the Papadopoulos property sat vacant for a few more years. I had no one to give the key to. The social worker never returned my calls once he had passed away.

Finally, the city took over the property over unpaid taxes. On a fine spring day, a foreman and his crew showed up to clean out the house and clean up the property. I took the key over to him, thinking they might not have a key, and not wanting them to break down doors.

Hours later, the men started hauling out giant rotted cardboard boxes of rope, fishing lines, and the like. They said it was stacked in the basement from floor to ceiling, leaving barely room to walk between the stacks. Most of the neighbors turned out on their porches to watch with awe, at the sight of two huge dumpsters overflowing with Apostolis Papadopoulos knot treasures.

Spying John John standing down on the corner, I marched up to him -- he shyly grinned and said:

"For over thirty-five years, I climbed up those stairs and gave him the five dollars his Missus' paid me, to pay him every week. Did that even after she died, out of my own pocket too. Then, I always put his ropes and knots and things in the basement after dark, just like she told me to. Seems like a small price to pay for a man you just had to love she said. He would have died without nothing to do, when he lost use of his legs."

I'm thinking, Apostolis Papadopoulos had all the proof of his wife's love all along, hiding in the basement and didn't know it -- I hope he knows it now.

Fisherman's Seven Knot Tying Basics

  1. Practice. Practice some more. Practice, even more. Use a fishing hook (modified by taking the point off), a fair length of fishing line, and practice until you can tie the knot at least a dozen times, without extreme effort.
  2. Make sure the working end (tag end) is the end used to tie your knot. The other end is needed to connect to the line coming from the reel.
  3. Remember to have plenty of line on the working end for proper knot tying.
  4. Lubricate your knots with spit, pulling them tight to prohibit damage to the line as it is pulled even tighter by the fish.
  5. Always trim your knots closely to stop them from catching snags, weeds, or limbs.
  6. Cinch up all ends as tightly as possible.
  7. Use the knots you learn, since repetition will keep them fresh in your knot tying repertoire.
  8. Remember that over time and with tension, all knots will probably fail due to the stress of the actual knot.

My Favorite Fishing and Boating Knots

While there a hundred of different kinds of fishing and boating knots, the average angler only needs to be able to master a handful.

Using simple, effective knots, will enhance your catches, if your knot tying is species habit specific.

Examples of useful common knots would be to make use of:

  1. Loop knots for all hook and lure attachments.
  2. Knots specific for tying leaders to line.
  3. Knots specific for double-line needs.

The following are other essential fishing and boating knots, that make my list for "must" know.

  • Albright Special
  • Anchor Bend
  • Bimini Twist
  • Blood Knot
  • Half Blood Knot
  • Jansik Special
  • Mooring Hitch
  • Ossel Hitch
  • Ossel Knot
  • Palomar Knot
  • Spade End Knot
  • Turle



How To Tie A Bimini Twist Fishing Knot

Knots and Kids Struggling In School

I have used learning knot tying as an enhancement and inducement for kids that are struggling in school, with great success. This is especially true of working with young male adolescents. Regardless of the subject that I am tutoring them in, I end the lesson (as a reward) with a hands-on lesson in tying a particular knot.

Knot tying requires concentration. Knot tying demands a certain amount of patience. Knot tying strengthens problem solving skills. Those same skills practiced over time, cross-over to their studies. Boys are especially gleeful when they learn a knot that their father's don't know. Sometimes that really can open failing communication lines with a boy and his dad.

Additionally, teaching at-risk kids how to tie knots is invaluable to boosting their self-esteem, at a time when they aren't feeling so great about themselves, school, and the subject at hand. The pride they feel in mastery of something they can do easily -- and being able to do something their peers who aren't struggling with their studies can't, or haven't been exposed to or mastered -- lends a lot to getting them excited about learning.

Fun Knot Tying Facts

  • Stone Age lake dwellers in Switzerland were expert weavers and rope makers who often made use of various knots.
  • Neolithic peoples tied overhand knots, half hitch knots, reef knots (square knots) clove hitch knots, and made running noose's among other known knots.
  • Cave dweller made knots before man made fire, grew plants, or invented the wheel.
  • Knot making isn't limited to fishing. It also encompasses caving, climbing, general purposes, and other outdoor pursuits.
  • There are several thousand different kinds of knots with a wide variety of uses.
  • The Chinese are experts at decorative knotting.
  • The Japanese practice kumihimo and other braiding and plaiting knot methods.
  • Magicians and escapologists have long used rope and knot tricks.
  • Mathematicians sometimes study knot theory.
  • Gorillas use knots to hold saplings down in their nests.
  • It is believed that some primates make use of about twenty-four different kinds of knots -- the most common being granny knots and a few square knots.
  • It is rumored that there is a species of bird that ties knots in the building of its nest. However, it is a known fact, that many birds (especially parrots) delight in "un-tying knots."
  • Knots are how some cultures kept tack of time, events, and even family genealogies.
  • Knots have also been used in folklores and legends as memory aids.
  • The rosary most likely evolved from knotted cords.
  • The abacus most likely also evolved from knotted cords.
  • Knots are the perfect solution for "cabin fever" of all kinds, be it the boat or the weather.


How To Tie A Blood Knot

How to Tie A Jansik Special Knot

The Myrtos beach in Pylaros/Kefalonia, Greece
The Myrtos beach in Pylaros/Kefalonia, Greece | Source


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    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks so much for your kind words and your links Denny Lyon! Good things have been coming my way lately, hope and pray the same for you. Will be doing some Cajun hubs soon, was just working on one today.

    • Denny Lyon profile image

      Denny Lyon 

      9 years ago from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA

      Fabulous story and quite typical of the older Greeks' marriages - so much was spoken only in subtext. Great story, thanks, I reallly enjoyed it! As to knots, well, I'm the kid in the family at two years old who used to untie my father's hunting boots after he got back as I understood how his brain worked - easy to reverse it. Thanks for the knotting lagniappe! Also, blogged some of your Cajun hubs on over to my Comfort Food blog so more folks could enjoy them. Think I'll blog this lovely story on over to my Healing Waters blog as it is really something! Hope your health is holding up these days - been praying good things for you too.

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks William F. Torpey -- You sound like my son, who only went to one and only one Boy Scout session. You are right about the Gordian knot. It's going to take a whole lot of prayers and a lot of hard work to get a knot this size untied.

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 

      9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Nice story, well told, Jerilee. It's a telling look at the lives of a wonderful couple. Old Papadopoulos was a unique character with a lot of heart. The one and only Boy Scout session I ever attended as a boy was all about tying scouting knots. The Gordian knot is symbolic of all the world's financial woes, and let's hope President Obama can play the role of Alexander the Great and unravel the knot with a sharp sword.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 

      9 years ago from The Ozarks

      Wow! I'm impressed! If Brownie could do that, he'd be a big help! He's already impressing me by his ability to sit where I ask him to while I clean up in the evening. (And fetch the ball, Sword adds.)

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      That's great Aya! The Dog Whisper has nothing on my mom, she could tell her labs to go out and pick fruit off a specific tree and they would come back with the right fruit, from the right tree, and soft mouth it so gently that all she had to do was wash it off to eat it.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 

      9 years ago from The Ozarks

      Jerilee, yes, I did catch Ginn Navarre's first hub. I am already a member of her fan club and am looking forward to her hubs on training labs!

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks Benson Yeung! Glad you enjoyed the story. Is it true that surgeons learn assorted knot tying techniques?

      Thanks Aya! Glad to hear that you two connected. Jo's the most talented one in the family. I've long thought that you two should be acquainted with each other. I could get the Media Player version to play on the link and by the time it was nearly done, the flash version loaded. She's still working out the technical kinks.

      If I am remembering correctly Apostolis Papadopoulos said that the man's bonobo could tie a square knot and two others that I can't remember. Maybe with maturity Bow might go in the direction of putting things together? But then, perhaps he's a sculptor at heart.

      BTW -- Did you catch my mom's first hub (Ginn Navarre), she's working on some ones that involve training labs that may be of interest?

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 

      9 years ago from The Ozarks

      Jerilee, Jody and I have been in correspondence about another of her videos. For some reason I can't seem to play "Breakfast at the Zoo", though. She does have excellent production values from what I've seen!

      I know some bonobos who make things -- such as sharpening flint to the point of being able to cut a rope. But I've never known one to knot a rope. In Bow's case, (and he is just a common chimp), everything he does is geared to taking things apart. He refuses to so much as put two plastic blocks together. I don't know, since he's clearly smart enough. He likes to draw, but his favorite method is not adding lines, it's subtracting matter. He's more of a chiseller than a painter.

    • Benson Yeung profile image

      Benson Yeung 

      9 years ago from Hong Kong

      Thanks for sharing the story, and with it the hot currents round my veins.

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks Sufidreamer! Seems a very interesting culture. I will definitely take you up on suggestions when we get closer to that trip.

      Thanks buddygallaher! Loss of spouses, is always hard.

      Thanks Aya! When I was writing this hub I was wondering what you thought of some of the reports and studies on primates tying knots, and if they were taught by humans or this occurred natural as some of what I've read indicates.

      Also wondered what you and/or Bow would think about my younger sister's latest short documentary Breakfast at the Zoo -- with what she said about chimpanzees. Jo's a well respected artist who is branching out into video documentaries, etc.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 

      9 years ago from The Ozarks

      Jerilee, what a story! I wonder if you could teach Bow to tie those knots. So far, he's only interested in taking knots apart!

    • buddygallagher profile image

      Monie Maunay 

      9 years ago from manila, philippines

      Awww this story really tugs at the heart. This reminded me of my dad when my mom died, he tried his best to enjoy his life alone but there is always that wistful sadness because he missed my mom terribly.

    • Sufidreamer profile image


      9 years ago from Sparti, Greece

      Sounds fantastic - the younger generations are no different from people in the US, but the older people still follow many traditions and unwritten customs about everything, not just relationships!

      For example, Greeks have the reputation of shouting and arguing a lot, generally with much waving and gesticulating. As you watch Greek debates, you begin to understand that there are many unspoken rules and etiquette underlying any argument, and it never gets out of hand. There is an underlying elegance built upon centuries of history and culture.

      Feel free to PM me if you come to Greece - I will be happy to pass on a few tips about getting around, where to stay etc. Be warned - they WILL get you drunk!

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks Sufidreamer! I've not been to Greece yet, but it is the next place for another family vacation soon. I hope to visit Panormos to get a sense of all that Apostolis Papadopoulos talked about. Even without going there, I got the sense that the people had a rich tapestry of unspoken rules when it came to relationships.

    • Sufidreamer profile image


      9 years ago from Sparti, Greece

      What a beautiful story

      You captured the complex nature of the Greek psyche perfectly. You could spend a lifetime in Greece, and only really scratch the surface. Infuriating yet addictive, enlightened but set in their ways - there is a certain paradoxical element to Greek society.

      Thank you for the bittersweet tale!

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks Lgali!

      Thanks Amanda Severn! I was also glad he never found out. John John said he had to keep trading that same $5 bill out, because the old man was smart enough to check the serial numbers. Each time he paid him when the wife was alive, the old man would give it to her to put in the cigar box where they kept their cash. She kept giving John John the same $5 back each week.

      Some people don't ever learn to express they love verbally.

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 

      9 years ago from UK

      This is a very touching story. I'm glad the old guy didn't find out about the basement before he died, but it's a shame she never told him that she loved him.

    • Lgali profile image


      9 years ago

      nice story

    • Laila Rajaratnam profile image

      Laila Rajaratnam 

      9 years ago from India

      Jerilee..The story of Old Man Papadopoulos is so very touching ..and the love his wife had for him is in par with the greatest love stories ..Thanks!

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks anitariley65! Thanks to you tube and so many web sites today, it makes it a lot easier to learn via watching or illustration.

      Thanks franciaonline! I'm big on recapturing lost skills.

    • franciaonline profile image


      9 years ago from Philippines

      Great hub! I remember the time when I was a girl scout and had to be tested if I tied the knots correctly. Now, with your hub, I can make knots correctly again.

      I love your story of Old Man Papadopoulos.

    • anitariley65 profile image


      9 years ago from Little Town Ohio

      What a beautiful memory for you. Sometimes we all need to step away from the big picture to see the lesson in life. And thanks for passing that lesson on. I love to fish, and before my arthritis got so bad I did some macrame too, so the knot lessons will come in handy.

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks jkfrancis and ecovery! My dad was a Boy Scout leader for awhile, and I don't remember him doing anything with knot tying either.

      Thanks imadork! I don't even know who Webster is. Are you taking advantage of an old lady who didn't know about Bonobos when she wasn't old?

      Thnaks Christa Dovel! Sometimes I think the world forgets that love stories among the very elderly are of the most sweetest kind.

      Thanks MightyMom! The sad part for me, is that he told me about so many things and I wasn't paying that close of attention (largely because knot tying was difficult for my short attention span).

      Thanks ajbarnett!

      Thanks tonmac04!

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      9 years ago from South Africa

      Beautiful love story, and how lucky you are to have been in some way part of it. I loved the "bonobo" bit, really cracked me up that did!

      My late father was a great "knot tier" as he was both a Scout and a navy man.

      Love and peace,


    • ajbarnett profile image


      9 years ago from Costa Blanca, Spain

      A very touching story, Jerilee, another great Hub. The info is a by-the-by for me.

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      When will you be writing the screenplay? This is a classic in the making. Elements of To Kill a Mockingbird, Driving Miss Daisy -- probably lots more I can't recall right now. My heart is all knotted up after reading this, Jerilee!

    • Christa Dovel profile image

      Christa Dovel 

      9 years ago from The Rocky Mountains, North America

      I think this is one of the neatest 'love' stories I have ever read. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • imadork profile image


      9 years ago from St. Peters, MO

      No fair!!! I thought this hub was gonna be about the TV show "Webster"!!!!!!!

    • eovery profile image


      9 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

      To knot or not to knot?

      I will use this as a reference with my boy scouts.


    • jkfrancis profile image


      9 years ago

      Where was all this knot information when I was a Tenderfoot Boy Scout? Good info.


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