Tying Fishing Knots -- Old Man Papadopoulos
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.
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."
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
- 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.
- 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.
- Remember to have plenty of line on the working end for proper knot tying.
- Lubricate your knots with spit, pulling them tight to prohibit damage to the line as it is pulled even tighter by the fish.
- Always trim your knots closely to stop them from catching snags, weeds, or limbs.
- Cinch up all ends as tightly as possible.
- Use the knots you learn, since repetition will keep them fresh in your knot tying repertoire.
- 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:
- Loop knots for all hook and lure attachments.
- Knots specific for tying leaders to line.
- 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
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
If You'd Like to Know More!
- All Knots Illustrated
How to tie the best knots in rope. Clear knot illustrations for scouts, climbers, search and rescure, arborists and sailors.
- Animated Grog's Fishing Knots
- Crete, Greece - Fishing village of Panormos Manos, holidays, fishing rent villas and apartments
Crete, Greece - Holiday in the real and authentic Crete. Use the Crete specialist Amazing Crete!
- Knot tying in great apes: etho-ethnology of an unusual tool behavior -- Herzfeld and Lestel 44 (4):