The Fishermans Bend—also widely known as the Anchor Bend—is not, strictly speaking, a bend at all. That is, it doesn’t attach two separate ropes together, which is the modern definition of a bend.
Rather, the fishermans bend is a hitch: a knot that fixes a rope to another object. (Back in the day, a “bend” simply connoted a tying-together, and thus was perfectly accurate when the knot was christened.) Thus, you’ll often see it labeled (more accurately) an Anchor Hitch or Fisherman’s Hitch.
It happens to be a supremely useful one, too—a knot everybody ought to know. It’s specifically suited to tying a line to an anchor, ring, hook, bucket handle, or other cylindrical objects, and forms a strong, easy-to-untie attachment.
How to Tie the Fishermans Bend
The Fishermans Bend is a pretty straightforward knot: a couple of turns and a couple of half hitches, and you’re good to go. Let’s break it down, using “ring” to connote the object you’re tying on to.
(1) Bring the running end of your rope over the ring and make a turn.
(2) Make another go around the ring to complete a round turn.
(3) Draw the running end over the standing end of the rope.
(4) Pull the rope’s running end under and through the two turns around the ring.
(5) Set, dress, and tighten this initial knot.
(6) Then make another half hitch with the running end: Draw it over the standing end…
(7)…and make a turn around the standing end.
(8) Tighten that last half hitch, and you’ve managed a Fishermans Bend.
Finished Fishermans Bend
Tips on Tying the Knot
Leave some slack in the loops you make with the first couple of turns around the ring so that it’s easier to draw the running end through them.
Variations on Tying the Knot
The Fisherman’s Bend is closely related to the classic Round Turn & Two Half Hitches, the difference being that in the latter both of the half hitches are applied to the standing end of the rope, whereas in the Anchor Bend the first half hitch goes through the round turn around the object. The Fisherman’s Bend can be considered more secure than that (nonetheless very useful) Round Turn & Two Half Hitches.
The last half hitch of the compete Fisherman’s Bend makes it more secure, but for many applications you can probably get away with simply the two turns and the first half hitch through them, tightened up. Indeed, some sources suggest that the round turn and the first half hitch alone constitute the basic Fisherman’s Bend, with the finishing-off half hitch an extra step for greater security.
You can boost the security of the full Fisherman’s Bend by making a few extra half hitches, by double-tucking the running end, by giving it another wraparound of the standing end before cinching, or by making two passes through the turns before the finishing-off half hitch. You might also consider seizing the rope with twine after finishing the knot.
Advantages of This Knot
Particularly on account of the pass under the round turn and the resulting friction hold, the Fisherman’s Bend provides a firm hitch that’s very strong and secure, and which resists both jamming and slipping when under load. It’s quick to tie (and to untie), and—as we alluded to above—in a pinch it’s often adequate simply to tie the first half hitch, making it all the quicker to cinch up.
Disadvantages of the Knot
The Fisherman’s Bend can potentially come loose when it’s not under load, unless you use tucking, seizing, or another method of securing the running end.
History of the Knot
As we mentioned already, while modern knot authorities would consider “bend” a misnomer in describing this hitch, the old-school definition allowed for plenty of wiggle room. If you’re a stickler for accuracy and contemporary terminology, feel free to call this the Fisherman’s Hitch or the Anchor Hitch.
The Fishermans Bend—enormously useful to attach warps to anchor rings and in other nautical tasks—showed up in David Steel’s Elements & Practice of Rigging & Seamanship, published way back in 1794.
Uses for the Fishermans Bend
Given its strength, security, and ease of tying and untying, the Fishermans Bend has many uses on and off the water.
Whether it’s attaching a line to a bucket to dip for water in a deep well or other hard-to-access hollow, or securing a watercraft or makeshift shelter to a post, tree, or some other firm hold, the Fishermans Bend can definitely come in handy in a backcountry survival situation (or, for that matter, in a SHTF frontcountry survival situation).
Tying on to an anchor, rigging a hook, etc.: The Fisherman’s Bend didn’t earn its name for no reason.
The Fisherman’s Bend is also plenty useful for hunters, not least when you’re hoisting up gear to your tree stand.
It goes without saying, given what we’ve covered above, that the Fisherman’s Bend has broad-scale utility to campers of all stripes, from securing a guyline and anchoring a kayak to making a lanyard for your compass or hunting knife.
Climbers sometimes employ the Fisherman’s Bend to attach rope to a carabiner.
Around the Home/Other Uses
Doing yardwork or in other at-home situations, you may well end up wanting to affix a rope to a cylindrical object, in which you’ll pat yourself on the back for knowing the Fisherman’s Bend.
As we already mentioned, the Round Turn & Two Half Hitches is a very similar knot to the Fisherman’s Bend and worth learning as an alternative.