Skip to main content

Fly Fishing Knots

Fly Fishing Knots
Tying good knots is a prerequisite to successful fly fishing. Practice your knots at home before you go fishing so you can do it quickly and correctly when you are on the stream. David J. Siegfried photo

Fishing knots don't have to be a roadblock on your way to fly-fishing Nirvana. Don't be put off by 100-page knot books or long lists of knot illustrations and videos on-line. You don't need to know all those knots.

You only need to know a few basic knots to get started fly fishing in fresh water. Practice them at home before you go fishing so you don't find yourself wondering how to tie on a tippet just as the trout begin to rise and the sunlight starts to fade.

When you are comfortable with the basic knots, you can add more knots to your repertoireknots that serve specific, specialized purposes such as a loop knot to allow your fly to move more freely in the water; the George Harvey knot for hooks with down-turned eyes; or special saltwater knots for heavy monofilament.

The fisherman's knot is stronger than the improved clinch knot and just as easy to tie.

Right now, you just need to know how to attach your fly (fisherman's knot), how to connect two pieces of monofilament so you can add a tippet section to the end of your leader (blood knot), and how to tie a tube nail knot to attach a leader to your fly line in the event your fly line does not have a looped end. It's also helpful to know how to join two loops together.


Strong knots. When fly fishers talk about strong knots they are mostly referring to the final knot connecting the fly to the tippet. This is where strength is most critical because the diameter of the line is at its thinnest.


The most popular knot to attach the fly to tippet is the improved clinch knot. Although it is an easy knot to tie, and many fish have been caught with it, the improved clinch knot is weaker than many

other knots. The fisherman's knotalso called the Eugene bend, Pitzen, 16-20, Heiliger, and other namesis stronger and works to connect any fly to the tippet.

The blood knot joins two pieces of monofilament together such as when you attach your tippet to the leader.

Knot Tips

Lubricate the knot with saliva or fly floatant before you pull it snug. George Andersonowner of George Anderson's Yellowstone Angler in Livingston, Montanauses lip balm before he ties two monofilament sections together. He forms the knot, then uses his lips to lubricate the fly before he pulls it tight.




If you pull a knot tight and there are curls, abrasions, or other deformities in the monofilament caused by the heat and friction of closing the knot, you should cut it off and try again.

Deformities show you that the monofilament has been significantly weakened, and although the knot itself may not break, the line will break where you have damaged it.

Use the Duncan loop to attach your backing to the reel spindle (left) or to attach the fly to your tippet (right).

Pull the knot snug and make sure it is seated and tightened correctly. Most knots require you to hold the tag end so it doesn't slide out when you tighten the knot.


Clip the tag end of the monofilament only after the knot is completely tightened and seated correctly. Clip it short and neat, but do not clip it so close to the knot that the tag can slip through completely, or so close that you risk nipping the knot itself. It's okay to leave a short tag no longer than the diameter of the hook eye, and your knot is probably stronger as a result.

Retie your knot after you catch a large or toothy fish, snag trees on the backcast, or drag your line on the bottom. Regularly inspect your entire leader for nicks and abrasions. If you don't, you may regret it when you lose the fish of a lifetime. You should always be thinking that the next fish could be "the one" and prepare accordingly.

Use a tube nail knot to attach your leader butt to the fly line, or to attach the backing to the rear of your fly line.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Scientific Anglers Amplitude Infinity

Scientific Anglers Amplitude Infinity

Scientific Anglers Amplitude Infinity

George Daniels Hauling Tuck Cast

George Daniels Hauling Tuck Cast

George Daniels Hauling Tuck Cast

Tying the Double Barrel Popper

Tying the Double Barrel Popper

All these tricks can be put to use on poppers or sliders for anything with fins, from panfish to billfish.

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

The Hobie MirageDrive 360 pedal propulsion system is the pinnacle of kayak control with more efficient fin designs, glide technology and allows the boat to be moved in any direction.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Best Panfish Flies Best Panfish Flies Flies

Best Panfish Flies

Skip Morris

Best Panfish Flies

You can be a successful freshwater fly fisher with just the nine knots shown here.9 Best Fly Fishing Knots You Should Know Beginners

9 Best Fly Fishing Knots You Should Know

Fly Fisherman Staff | Illustrations by Joe Mahler

You can be a successful freshwater fly fisher with just the nine knots shown here.

See More Trending Articles

More Beginners

This line control is one of the unique aspects of fly fishing.How to Mend, Set the Hook, and Strip Line Beginners

How to Mend, Set the Hook, and Strip Line

Landon Mayer | Illustrations by Joe Mahler - August 11, 2020

This line control is one of the unique aspects of fly fishing.

Some of the best scud fishing occurs during higher flows, or periods of extreme variation.Scud Patterns for Trout Beginners

Scud Patterns for Trout

Pat Dorsey

Some of the best scud fishing occurs during higher flows, or periods of extreme variation.

Contact nymphing can be deadly with the right equipment and techniques.Tips & Tactics for Contact Nymphing Beginners

Tips & Tactics for Contact Nymphing

George Daniel - September 29, 2020

Contact nymphing can be deadly with the right equipment and techniques.

If you are going to release a fish, it's important to do it successfully.Best Practices for Catch-and-Release Trout Fishing Beginners

Best Practices for Catch-and-Release Trout Fishing

Ross Purnell

If you are going to release a fish, it's important to do it successfully.

See More Beginners

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Fly Fisherman App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Fly Fisherman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now