Fly Fishing Knots
As the saying goes the worst time to practice is under duress. Our recommendation is to practice tying these knots before you get to the lake, stream, pond, river, or ocean. Give them each a few tries at home, it will increase the likelihood of your knots doing their job on the day of the trip, and therefore, also improve the odds of having a great day on the water!
The Arbor Knot
What’s it for?
To connect the reel to the backing
How to tie an Arbor Knot
1: Tie an overhand knot on the backing end and tighten it. Insert this knotted end between the reel foot and the arbor, circle the arbor, and pull the knotted end out so it’s next to the standing part of the backing. Tie a second overhand knot with the tag end around the standing part of the backing.
2: Holding the reel in your left hand, pull on the standing part of the backing with your right hand, snugging the knots against the arbor. Trip the tag end, and wind the backing onto your reel.
3: Make sure the line feeds from the guide on the rod to the bottom of the reel. If not, you’re winding in the wrong direction. Make tight, smooth layers across the arbor as you wind on the proper amount of backing.
The Albright Knot
What’s it for?
To tie the backing to the fly line and to tie the leader to the line
How to tie an albright knot
1: Unwind 2-3 feet of fly line from the plastic spool it came on (make sure you unwind the end marked “this end to reel”). Start by doubling back a couple of inches of fly line and hold the loop with your left thumb and forefinger. From the right, insert about 10 inches of the backing through the fly line loop.
2: Push the tag end of the backing through the loop on the side opposite where it originally entered so both backing strands exit on the same side of the loop. Pull on the standing part of the backing to remove the loop you were holding in your left hand. Pull both ends of the fly line backing.
3: Pull gently on both ends of the fly line loop with your left hand; squeeze the knot with the fingers of your right hand and work it down to the loop end, but not off the fly line. Get the knot a little wet. Hold the standing and tag fly line strands in your left hand, and the tag and standing backing strands in your right hand. Pull as tight as possible. Clip off the tag end of the fly line and the backing.
4: You’re now ready to wind the line over the backing onto the spool. A friend can help by inserting a pencil, or something similar, through the hole in the line spool and holding it while you wind the line onto the reel spool. Once the line is fully transferred to the reel spool, you should have approximately a quarter inch between the line and the outside rim of the spool.
The Nail Knot
What’s it for?
A slightly more complex knot that can be used to tie the leader to the line
How to tie a nail knot
*To tie this knot you will probably should have a small diameter tube of some kind. A nail knot tool exists and you can buy one. Otherwise the barrel of a ballpoint pen can do the job. It should be about twice the diameter of the fly line. This knot can be tied without that, but it is far easier with it.
1: Hold the tube and the end of the fly line with your left thumb and forefinger so about two inches of the fly line and the tube sticks out to the right.
2: With your right hand, form a two-inch loop in the heavier end of your leader. Pinch down and hold this loop with your left thumb and forefinger next to the tube and fly line. Use your right hand to grasp the short leg of the leader loop and make 5 snug wraps over the tube and fly line. These wraps should touch each other, and be at least a half to three quarters of an inch from the end of the fly line. Then slide your left thumb and forefinger forward to hold the wraps so they don’t unwind while you work the tag end of the leader butt through the tube from right to left. Carefully remove the tube by sliding it to the left. Semi-tighten the knot by pulling gently on both ends of the leader. Don’t pull on the fly line!
3: Get the knot area a little wet, inspect the knot wraps for smoothness, and tighten the knot by simultaneously pulling on both ends of the leader so it “bites” into the fly line. Then pull hard on the fly line and leader to set the knot. Finally trim both the leader tag end and the fly line end.
The Double Surgeon’s Knot
What’s it for?
Attaching the tippet to the leader
How to tie a double surgeons knot
1: The Double Surgeon’s Knot requires the leader and tippet to be placed side-by-side so they overlap (for about six inches) with ends facing in opposite directions. Pinch the standing leader and tippet tag end with the left thumb and forefinger and use the right hand to tie an overhand knot with the leader tag end and the tippet.
2: The entire length of the tippet must be passed completely through the overhand knot loop; even though the leader tag end is only about 5 inches long. Don’t tighten the completed overhand knot.
3: Grab the completed loop with the left hand and make another pass through the same overhand knot, passing the full length of the tippet and the leader tag end through a second time.
4: Draw the loop down by simultaneously pulling on leader and tippet. Get the loop slightly wet; grasp the leader and tippet tag on the left with your left hand, and the tippet and leader tag on the right with your right hand. Pull all four ends simultaneously to snug the knot tight. Trim the tag ends.
The Improved Clinch Knot
What’s it for?
Tying a fly to your tippet. This is the most important knot to master because you will need to do it the most and will need to do it under a variety of conditions.
How to tie a clinch knot
1: Make five turns with the tag end around the standing part of the tippet, winding away from the hook.
2: Push the tag end through the opening between the hook eye and the first wrap. This creates an open tippet loop over the wraps. Push the tag end through this open loop and pull slightly until the knot begins to close.
3: Get the knot area slightly wet. Alternately pull on the standing portion of the tippet and the hook until the knot snugs up against the hook eye. Trim the tag end.