Fly Fishing Knot Basics

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Fly Fishing Knots











Knots are the most important factor in fly fishing, even more than skill or luck.When you choose the right knot and tie it properly, you’ll avoid losing the fish you work so hard for and save yourself a lot of frustration!  Learning the appropriate knots and how to tie them are the secret to successful fly fishing.

It’s important to moisten a knot before you tighten it. You can do this with your own saliva or use water from the stream or lake if you’re onsite. The knot can’t seat properly if you tighten it when it’s dry and the moisture makes it easy for it to slide. It also helps to avoid heat created by the friction of drawing the knot tight; heat will weaken your line and there goes your fish! By moistening the knot before you tighten it, you avoid the heat of friction and your knot will be good and strong. 

Seating the knot means tightening it with a continuous and steady pull. You can check to be sure it’s secure by pulling on the line and line leader to see if it holds. By testing it this way, you know it’s strong and won’t break once you get a bite. 

You many want to buy or borrow one of the many books about fly fishing that list the steps of tying each kind of knot, accompanied by illustration. There are also plenty of tutorials online that you can use to learn the different knots and when to use them.

You may also heard of “backing to the fly reel”, a term that describes securing your line to the reel. There is a specific knot you need to use to do this, either the Nail Knot or an Albright Knot. You can also use the Nail Knot when you tie your fly line to the leader.  

A Surgeon’s Knot or Barrel Knot are good ones to use when you secure the leader to the tippet. The next step, tying the tippet to the fly, is where you can use a Duncan’s Loop or a Clinch Knot. 

The most vulnerable part of your equipment is your knots so it pays to give special attention to how you tie them.  A fish fighting to stay in the water and out of your boat will strain every knot between itself and the angler. If even one of your knots is improperly tied or weak, or if you’ve chosen the wrong knot the line will break and your fish will have won the battle.  Learning your knots and how to tie them properly will leave you with very few stories of “the one that got away”! 

Fly fishing knots are, for the most part, fairly simple but some are a bit complicated. If you put in some time practicing your knots before you before you get out on the water, you’ll be ready to do a quick fix if your line breaks. Learn to tie the right knots in dim light as well as sunlight and you’ll spend less time on shore and more on the water. After a time, you’ll be able to know which knots work best for you. A good, well seated knot is an angler’s best friend so it’s well worth your while to learn to tie your knots properly. 


This article was written by the
contributing staff of OFT and its
group of amateur and pro Ontario anglers.

Copyright 2008. Ontario Fish Trips

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