Fly Fishing Knots: Knot a Problem

Photo: David Seigfried

Fly 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 repertoire — knots 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 downturned eyes; or special saltwater knots for heavy monofilament.


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 knot is stronger and works to connect any fly to the tippet.

Knot Tips

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

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.

Tie a new knot after you catch a large or toothy fish, snag trees on the backcast, or drag your line on the bottom. Inspect your entire leader regularly 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.

Recommended for You

These dense, indestructible nymphs will improve your subsurface game. Fly Tying

Perdigon Nymph

Charlie Craven - January 15, 2019

These dense, indestructible nymphs will improve your subsurface game.

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.

Fly Fisherman's documentary Industry

Fly Fisherman Magazine Documentary Recognized by Outdoor Writers Association of America

Fly Fisherman - June 24, 2019

Fly Fisherman's documentary "One Path" was recognized with two awards.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Bahamas - Bonefish

Bahamas - Bonefish

Conway casts for his personal best bonefish while fishing the Grand Bahama islands.

Black Beauty

Black Beauty

Master fly tier Charlie Craven discuss the tools and materials needed to tie the Black Beauty.

Casting Backhand in Tight Quarters

Casting Backhand in Tight Quarters

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

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

American River California United States

American River California

MIchael Wier - March 23, 2017

American River California

The fly fishing communities in the U.S. and Belize are mourning after twin slayings that occurred on what appeared to be a routine guide trip on Sunday, June 23, 2019 in a shallow lagoon near San Pedro, Brazil. Industry

Fly Fishing Community Stunned by Twin Slayings on Belize Saltwater Flat

Fly Fisherman Online Staff - June 27, 2019

The fly fishing communities in the U.S. and Belize are mourning after twin slayings that...

As you explore your home water, keep in mind what they are eating to select the best carp flies! Flies

The 15 Best Carp Flies

Jay Zimmerman - September 27, 2016

As you explore your home water, keep in mind what they are eating to select the best carp...

See More Stories

More Learn

Fifteen minutes of practice every day over the course of a summer or fall season can make you an excellent caster. Casting

Simple Steps to Deliver Your Fly to the Fish

FFM Staff | Photography by Jay Nichols

Fifteen minutes of practice every day over the course of a summer or fall season can make you...

The top eight spots for lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. How-To

Locating Stillwater Trout

Ross Purnell - January 10, 2019

The top eight spots for lakes, ponds, and reservoirs.

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

Tying the Double Barrel Popper

Charlie Craven - March 13, 2019

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

See More Learn

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.