There is one thing that you need to master when it comes to fly fishing and that is how to tie fishing knots. It doesn’t make a difference if you have the best rod, reel and line along with the best selection of flies if your gear is not tied together with good quality fishing knots.
Hundreds of knots but which do I use?
If you do some research into fishing knots you will find there are hundreds to choose from but in my opinion this has come about from guys with nothing better to do but try new ways to join line together. Don’t get me wrong, there has been some nice innovation when it comes to knots and some are worth considering, but I feel to be competent at fly fishing, you really only need a handful.
When a newbie comes to me to learn how to trout fish one of the first lessons I show them is how to tie fishing knots. Then tell them to go away and practice, practice and practice some more so they can nearly tie them blindfolded.
You may ask why blindfolded but believe me when you find yourself fishing your favorite pool late in the evening as a rise comes on, you will not want to leave until all the light has failed and its times like these when you snap off a fly that you will be wishing you could tie a new one on in the dark. I have been there and its a real shame to have to go home when the trout are still feeding.
This all really depends on the fishery but I fly fish for sea trout at night sometimes the whole way through and it is a real test to keep your line free from tangles and wind knots when casting into a pitch black hole. Never the less getting hit by a fresh sea trout makes it all worth while when it takes off up the river on a mad dash.
6 fishing knots to learn how to tie!
So back to the topic at hand how to tie fishing knots. I believe some of the most important knots to know are the arbor knot, the Albright knot, the nail knot, the water knot, the blood (clinch) knot, and the double turle knot. Now this is not a definitive list but I believe with these six knots you can get through any situation that fly fishing can throw at you and knowing how to tie these fishing knots well will make you a better complete angler.
The Arbor knot is a simple knot used mainly for tying backing fishing line to the fly fishing reel. As you are tying line around a large arbor reel it makes it difficult to tie something tight so a slip knot was developed to do the job. Its basically two overhand knots tied in succession one to help for slippage if you do get taken down to the spool by a large trout. Its not intended to hold indefinitely but more so if you drop your rod over the side of the boat and have to retrieve it by the line so it is strong enough to retrieve it.
The next knot the Albright knot is used to join backing to the fly line. This knot can be a bit fiddly so it is good to practice it so you can do it quickly and easily. A variation to the nail knot is shown in this video here and makes life a bit easier but as stated I’m not sure about the strength on larger species but it works great for trout.
Another knot that can be used here is the nail knot and it is also great for attaching the leader to the fly line however tackle manufacturers have come up with the braided loop to attach to the end of the fly line. These are great and can be used the season through but in the event it comes off which can happen it is always good to know how to tie the nail knot to tie your leader on at the bank side. Otherwise you are going to have to tie an ugly knot and the chances of catching will disappear. I always carry a cotton ear tip tube with me for these occasions.
The water knot also known as the surgeons loop is a great knot for tying loops on the end of leaders and making droppers for the leader. I find it very efficient and would rather tie these than snap a leader in two to tie back to back blood knots. The way I see it the less breaks in the set up the better. With a water knot the main leader is still in one piece with the dropper attached to it making it stronger in my eyes. It is also very quick to make: with three turns of line, a quick moisten, tighten and your done.
The blood knot also known as the clinch knot is one that is mostly used to attach flies hooks lures etc to the line. As mentioned above two tied back to back can form a dropper but
terminal tackle is the main purpose of this knot. This knot will be used numerous times in a fishing session so you will get to know it very well and it is this knot that you need to learn to tie quickly above all else as changing flies efficiently is the very essence of fly fishing.
Tip: Use the end of a pair of scissors to grab the hook and gently pull the knot to ensure closure. I have stuck many a hook or fly into my hand by pulling with my fingers, ouch!
The double turle knot was adapted to allow flies to move more freely when attached to the leader so it behaves more natural to the trout. It was mainly targeted towards larger species like salmon and pike but it can be used for fly fishing for trout. A very simple knot that has great strength when tied correctly.
So there you have the six knots that I believe a newbie needs to know to be competent at fly fishing. As mentioned there are loads more knots but if you can master these you will be able to tackle up your outfit from start to finish and make running repairs as you go.
Tip: make sure to moisten all your knots before tightening as mono or fluorocarbon burns when pulled together and weakens the knot.