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 Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

How an Atlanta craft brewery is helping to save Georgia's most important trout stream. United States

Saving the Chattahoochee River

Ross Purnell - April 23, 2019

How an Atlanta craft brewery is helping to save Georgia's most important trout stream.

The Kamikaze Sculpin is easy to tie, versatile, and smartly designed to get the job done. Fly Tying

Tying the Kamikaze Sculpin

Charlie Craven

The Kamikaze Sculpin is easy to tie, versatile, and smartly designed to get the job done.

Here's a look at 8 new fly lines for 2019. Lines

8 New Fly Lines for 2019

Fly-Fisherman

Here's a look at 8 new fly lines for 2019.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Casting Backhand in Tight Quarters

Casting Backhand in Tight Quarters

A backhand cast is when you use your backcast to deliver the fly.

Breaking the Surface

Breaking the Surface

Attack of the Bass continues as Breaking the Surface attacks bass with fly and lure 12:30pm ET Sunday, April 17th.

Fly Fishing for Taimen in Mongolia

Fly Fishing for Taimen in Mongolia

Finding giant Mongolia taimen and a state of enlightenment.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Read about Colorado's backcountry fly fishing in United States

Indian Peaks Wilderness Area Colorado

Steven B. Schweitzer - May 03, 2016

Read about Colorado's backcountry fly fishing in " Indian Peaks Wilderness Area Colorado."

Drift boats help you search through miles of river quickly and effectively. Here's the top models on the market today. Gear

Top Drift Boats of 2019

John Fedorka - April 02, 2019

Drift boats help you search through miles of river quickly and effectively. Here's the top...

Fly-Fisherman Editor Ross Purnell shares his top five best trout fishing destinations in the world. Worldwide

5 Best Trout Fishing Spots in the World

Ross Purnell, Editor

Fly-Fisherman Editor Ross Purnell shares his top five best trout fishing destinations in the...

See More Stories

More Beginners

As taught in Orvis schools the past 50 years. Beginners

The Progressive Method of Fly Casting

Pete Kutzer - December 13, 2018

As taught in Orvis schools the past 50 years.

Here are three basic strategies for fishing flies on a dead drift. Beginners

How to Fish Flies on a Dead Drift

Dave Karczynski - October 01, 2019

Here are three basic strategies for fishing flies on a dead drift.

Fly Fishing Knots don't have to be a roadblock on your way to fly-fishing Nirvana. Beginners

Fly Fishing Knots

Fly Fisherman - January 08, 2016

Fly Fishing Knots don't have to be a roadblock on your way to fly-fishing Nirvana.

See More Beginners

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

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