Essential Knots for Fly Fishing

Essential Knots for Fly Fishing

Whenever I’ve taken someone fly fishing for the first time, the question of knots comes up quickly.  It’s a part of fly fishing that becomes second nature over time, and I think anglers forget that not everyone ties knots as a hobby.  Efficient and reliable knots help us spend our time fishing, rather than fiddling with line and flies.

I usually rig up my rod with the flies I plan to use before I leave my house to fish.  This limits the amount of time I spend next to the car or river tying on my first selection of flies.  These days it’s rare that I’m only fishing one fly, unless I’m planning for a day full of dry flies.  I usually have a two nymph rig set up, and will switch to a dry if the fish are actively rising. 

Here’s a list of a few of the knots I use while fishing and their purposes.  I linked to a neat site that shows how to tie every knot you could ever need.  If you ever want to practice or learn new knots, it’s a great resource.

Surgeon’s knot. Perfect for almost seamlessly connecting your tippet to the leader.  Inevitably, you’re going to clip away most of your tippet by changing flies throughout the day.   I once ran into another fly fisherman casting dries on a small trout pond.  When I asked how the day had been going, he replied, “I’m just out here wasting tippet”.  We all have those days, and that’s when this knot comes in handy. 

Nail Knot.  Unless you use a loop to loop fly line and leader connection, you probably use a nail knot to connect your leader to the fly line.  These knots are a pain to tie, and many people use specialized tools to help out.  It’s rare that I have to tie a nail knot out on the river, and will usually find a pen or other household item to help me tie this knot.  If you’re very patient, you can also tie it by hand.

Non-slip Mono. This knot is for tippet to fly, and can enhance the presentation of your flies, which is why I use it.  When tied properly, it leaves a tiny loop around the eye of the hook, which allows extra movement of the fly.  It’s perfect for tiny nymphs or streamers that can benefit from the wobble of the fly.  To be honest, I’m not very good at tying this knot. I usually tie it when I’m setting up my rig before leaving the house, but then sometimes switch to the clinch knot after several fly changes.    

Clinch knot.  Another option for tippet to fly.  It’s quick and easy, and stays fairly strong.  It’s rare that a fish breaks off and I see the tale tell signs of an undone knot with the clinch. 

Perfection loop.  Most often used to create a loop to loop connection from the leader to the fly line if you use looped fly line.  You can also use to tie on flies, although I find the Non-slip to be better.

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