The Essential Fly Fishing Knots

The Essential Fly Fishing Knots

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The Essential Fly Fishing Knots
Fly fishing knots can be intimidating to learn, especially for beginning anglers. The truth, however, is that there are only a few knots that are necessary during an average day of fly fishing. With a limited amount of practice after watching a demonstration video like the ones included in this blog, becoming competent and confident in your knot tying abilities is a relatively simple task. Each of the following knots is tied for a specific purpose, and as a guide I find myself using them over and over again.

Tying on a Fly
There are only a couple knots needed for tying a fly onto your tippet or leader. The first is the Clinch Knot which is a basic, easily learned fly fishing knot that provides a strong attachment. To further strengthen the connection, use the Improved Clinch Knot. Both work well for most nymphs, dry flies and even small streamer patterns. I prefer them because they are fast to tie. In the winter, or when small flies are working, a hook threader or hook holder speeds up the knot-tying process.

Anyone who commonly uses large streamers or does any saltwater fly fishing usually employs some kind of loop knot that gives the fly better action. For trout streamers or bonefish sized flies, a Duncan Loop works well and allows the fly to move naturally. For bigger fish like tarpon, snook or anything requiring a heavy, large diameter shock tippet, my go-to loop connection is a Figure Eight or Double Figure Eight Knot. A good set of saltwater pliers helps secure these knots in place.

Connecting Tippet to Leader
Throughout the course of any day on the water you will need to add tippet to your leader. There only two knots needed for this task and it usually ends up being a matter of personal preference as both work well. The first is the Surgeon’s Knot which can be enhanced by using a Double Surgeon’s, or even Triple Surgeon’s Knot. This a sturdy knot that is quickly tied. The second knot that I use for adding tippet to my leader is the Blood Knot. I like the fact that this knot is very clean, compact and super strong. Many saltwater guides use the Blood Knot.

Connecting Leader to Fly Line, Fly Line to Backing, and Backing to Fly Reel
These tasks are not generally performed on a daily basis but still require the knowledge of how to get the job done proficiently. While most leaders and fly lines now incorporate integrated loops for fast, easy connections, sometimes it is necessary to create the attachment yourself. This where the Nail Knot comes in, and while it can be done using an actual nail or even just by hand, by far the best way to ensure it is done correctly is by using a Nail Knot Tool. The knot itself, when done right, is a clean, narrow construction that slips through fly rod guides smoothly. For trout and most freshwater fly fishing applications, this also works well for attaching your fly line to backing.  When large saltwater fish are the target species, I want a stronger knot as added insurance, and the Albright Knot, although a little more complicated, has never failed me. Finally, the incredibly simple Arbor Knot is all you need to connect backing to the spool of a fly reel.

There are a plethora of resources out there for fly fishermen when it comes to learning the various fly fishing knots. Videos, books and other anglers are all potential sources of knowledge. Check out these knot tying tips from Scientific Anglers or pick up the Pocket Guide to Fly Fishing Knots

A great tip is to buy a spool of heavier than normal tippet that is easy to work with and while you are sitting on the couch watching the game, practice knots and the repetition will make knot tying second nature. Once you have the basics down, you can move on to more complicated knots geared toward different situations encountered on the water. And, if you ever get frustrated or have questions in general, come on in and visit the fly fishing experts at Jan’s. We’re here to help.

Brody Henderson, Content Writer