Learning to tie basic fly fishing knots is easy. Here is a complete list of knots and instructions to get your started with a new outfit or polishing up on your skills.
There are many different kinds of fisherman's knots. These are the basic knots used in rigging a fly fishing outfit that you should be familiar with. These fly fishing knots will cover just about every situation you will encounter where a specific knot is needed.
Learn these basic knots and have some fun. It makes sense to practice tying these knots at home, before you are on the river. Remember that fishing knots are the typically the weakest connection between you and the fish. Many beginning anglers lose fish due to poorly tied knots. Tying knots is something you need do right, not fast. Speed comes with time. Practice makes perfect they say.Here we will walk you through setting up a new outfit.
Getting Started with a New Outfit
Fly Fishing Knots to Know
Before you start putting line on your reel, find out how much backing you'll need by reading your reel instructions. Some fly lines are longer than others and some will reduce the capacity of reel because of the diameter of the belly. As a general rule of thumb, less backing is used on reels that will have Double Taper (DT) fly lines than Weight Forward (WF) Lines. This is because a Double Taper has a more even diameter in the belly than a WF line. If you purchase a reel at Flymart, they will load the reel up with backing and make these connections for you. If you are rigging your own outfit, this page will give you every thing you need to know to get going.
Assemble Your Gear
Once you have all your gear in front of you, collect the components and spread them out on a flat surface with good lighting. A pair of nail clippers is the only tool you'll need to assemble them. Even if you've done this before, you might want to spend a little extra time practicing the knots we recommend before you actually put the line on the reel. A leader, a piece of rope, or best of all, some old fly line make it easy to practice tying the knots you'll need to securely join the components of your system. One other thing, most new reels are set up for left-handed retrieve, so if you reel from the right, you'll have to change the set up. This is usually a simple process and instructions should be found in the reel box. The illustrations that follow show the easiest knots favored by experienced fly anglers.
Here are some of the basic fly fishing knots used when assembling your new outfit. Below are links to each of the knots discussed with detailed instructions on how to tie these simple and effective fly fishing knots.
Used for connecting your backing to the fly reel (step 1)
We start assembly at the reel by securing the backing to the spool. Backing is used to provide capacity to your reel as most fly lines are less than 100 feet long and a large fish would certainly end up running off with your fly line. Most backing comes in #20 or #30 LB strength and is made from Dacron.
Arbor Knot Instructions
For connecting your fly line to your backing (step 2)
Next you will connect your fly line to your backing. This step requires a knot that can securely attach your expensive fly line to your backing. Since both materials are different (Dacron to plastic) the most common knot here is the Albright knot. The Albright knot slides easily through your guides when hopefully, you have a fish strong enough to "take you into your backing" on a drag screaming run.
Albright Knot Instructions
For connecting your leader to your fly line (step 3)
Double Surgeons Knot
Attaching your leader to your fly line is the next step. Your leader is designed to turn your fly over when casting. The nail knot provides a clean and effective connection that leaves the leader in a straight connection from the fly line. This is important for casting accuracy. Some anglers prefer a Dacron or Mono loop here and some fly lines already have a loop connection built into the end of the line. If yours already does then you can attach your leader with a loop to loop connection.
Nail Knot Instructions
Used to connect your tippet to your leader (step 4)
Improved Clinch Knot
Next thing to attach is your tippet. The double surgeons knot is suitable when connecting two similar diameters of monofilament together like the tippet and leader end. The tippet is the section of mono fishing line between your fly and your leader. Leaders are typically knotless tapered (pre-made leaders) or knotted tapered made by you. By adding a tippet section you can extend the life of your tapered leader by simply replacing a worn section or changing the tippet diameter for a smaller or larger fly. Tippets can also help control drag, the effect of water currents on your fly, and assist in getting a drag free drift.
Double Surgeons Knot Instructions
A knot for connecting your fly to your tippet. (step 5)
Effective Knot Tying Note
Finally you attach your fly to your tippet. As the final step it is also the most frequently performed by anglers. It is critical to insure you have a strong knot here or you will certainly lose flies and fish. There are many choices for attaching your fly to your tippet. The most important for you is consistency. Learn a few different knots for this and practice until perfect. We will not cover every knot for every condition, as this has already been done before in many good books and videos.
Improved Clinch Knot Instructions
Few knots are 100% of the line's rated strength but if you moisten all knots before drawing them tight, tighten them slowly, and test every knot by pulling on it hard, you will reduce the chance for knot failures and maybe losing that fish of a lifetime. Be sure to replace leaders, tippets and lines when they show wear or abrasion.
Don't be a Jerk
Never discard used monofilament anywhere but in a trash receptacle or recycling bin.
One of the worst things left by some anglers is trash. When making knots on the river or outdoors be sure to save your clippings in your pocket. Bring along a small sandwich bag to stuff all the unused mono into and put it in your vest. There is absolutely no excuse for littering and fishing line counts as trash. Do your part and be responsible.
Mono, especially the new fluorocarbon lines, will stay in then environment and continue to harm other fish, mammals and reptiles because of some peoples carelessness. NO EXCUSE. If you see mono laying around, pick it up and put it in your bag. Mother nature will thank you and the fish gods will reward you for your efforts.
About Your Fly Line
New fly line is a wonder of technology. It will float, sink, or float and sink. It will stay soft and pliable. Resist wear from rod guides and tips. And it will do all this under all kinds of conditions. Heat, cold. wet, dry, freshwater, saltwater. Line performance, however, depends on the condition of the coating.
Protecting Your Fly LineThere are a few things -all part of fly- fishing -that can damage your fly line: Stepping on the line, casting without a leader, pinching the line between the spool and frame of your reel or cracking the line like a whip when casting. Some common liquids contain solvents that may damage the coating. Suntan lotions, insect repellents, fly floatants, fuels and some line cleaners. Remember that DEET will damage fly lines so you are best off using a aerosol insect repellent and try to keep it away from your hands and line.
Cleaning Your Fly Line
About Fly Casting
The one thing you can't avoid that will decrease performance of your line -and, in particular, a floating line -is dirt. Dirt gets on your line because of algae. It's found in all the waters you'll fish and simply builds up on your line through normal use. Over time, the algae will pick up dirt and absorb water. Sometimes, dirt gets on your line in other situations like stripping your line when you're fishing from shore. Or after you've handled a fish. You'll know when this happens because your line won't float as well or slide as easily through the rod guides.
This is easy to fix. We suggest using a Scientific Anglers cleaning pad, available at any Scientific Anglers dealer. Otherwise, you can wash the line with a few drops of mild soap -no detergents (they might damage the coating) -on a soft, clean, damp cloth. cleaning the fist 30 -60 feet of the line (the part you use the most) will take care of the problem.
Fly Line Storage
The safest place for your line is on the reel. Just make sure when you store it the line isn't exposed to direct sunlight, chemicals or solvents, or excessive heat, like you find in the trunk of your car or behind the furnace. Sometimes, after it's been stored awhile the line may have memory and may coil. Just stretch it slowly -you'll feel it give -and your line will perform perfectly.
With your balanced fly fishing outfit in hand, there's one more thing to consider before heading off to your favorite waters. Fly Casting.
It has often been said, "The worst time to practice casting is when you're fishing." The excitement of working on feeding fish makes it pretty tough for most of us to do our best casting, let alone think about practicing! So get instruction and practice before you get into the field.
Consider taking a fly fishing class or instruction available from just about any fly shop around. They will take the time to get you familiar with casting basics and this will help you get off to a great start.
Guides also provide much needed instruction to help you learn the art of fly fishing. There are many Fly Fishing Shops and guides whom teach basic fly fishing classes both off the water and on. Call your local fly shop or FFF chapter for more information.