Saturday, January 2, 2010


Today, I'll be talking about knots.  Mid week, I'm going to put up a couple more flies.  As promised, I'll put up the Black Bird Soft Hackle fly using starling feathers and I'll add a bonus fly too.  Next week, I'm going to be showing some basic foam bodied topwater flies and the week after will have some basic poppers.  Even though I don't use the fly that much, I will do a couple variations on the Woolie Bugger this winter and have a few more that need to be restocked in the fly box.  I may do some traditional trout flies closer to spring.  I'm going to the Smokey Mountains in April and will need to stock up on some Quill Gordans, Tellico Nymphs and George's Nymphs so I'll post them too as a change of pace to the warm water focus.  I'm looking forward to posting some new flies and hearing your comments.

Yes, there are thousands of knots out there and I suppose most of them work to one extent or another.  Most of the instructions to tie these knots must have been designed by Rube Goldberg or someone with 4 hands.  I couldn't imagine trying to tie these multi step knots out on a stream.  Fishing is supposed to be fun and if your idea of fun is to tie the most complex knot known to man, then this is probably not the article for you.

 With most of the popular knots, I believe learning how to tie it consistently, and quickly under "on the water" conditions is more important than a slight percentage strength advantage one knot has over another.  What follows after the jump are the knots I use.  You may use others, these may not be the "strongest" knots but they work for me.  I can honestly say that I rarely loose a fish because the knot failed.  The knots fail when I tie them sloppy, or fail to check them from time to time.  Line abrasion and fatigue account for far more line brakes in my experience than does an honest knot failure.

Read more after the jump, including a couple videos I found on You Tube and my favorite knot tying tool.

(None of the following videos are mine.  They are all publicly available on You Tube.  I find watching a video to be an easier way to learn a knot than looking at diagrams, your mileage may vary).

I'll start with attaching backing to the reel.  I use the "Arbor Knot".  This is one of the easiest of all knots to tie and one ties a limited number of these.  Only when you set up a new reel or change the backing does he/she need to tie this knot.

Now, for attaching backing to fly line.  There are different schools of thought regarding this  I've read where some use the nail knot and some use the Allbright Knot.  I've used both and here are what I see as advantages and disadvantages.

The nail knot is a smaller knot and will slide through the eyes better.  If you honestly think you'll be catching a lot of fish that will take you into the backing, this may be a knot to look into.  Now, what I see as a downside, the Dacron material of the backing doesn't seem to "bite" into the plastic coating of the fly lines like mono line does.  I have never had a nail knot slip off the end, but it seems as if it could be a possibility.

The Arbor Knot is a bit larger but I don't see how it could slip off.  The truth is, for most of us 99% of the time, this is an academic discussion as I can really count on both hands the number of times I've had a fish take me to the backing.  I've never had a bass, bluegill or crappie take me to the backing, they just don't run that long.  I've had a couple large trout in fast water, a couple catfish and one that I have no idea what it was because it broke off at the tippet.  I assume it was a carp the way it was ruining.

Here's a video of the Allbright Knot:

The Nail knot is one you'll need to learn to tie.  As mentioned, it is OK for tying backing to fly line (although I prefer the Allbright.  It is also used to tie a leader to the fly line or to tie a loop section to a fly line that does not have a loop already in the end.

I highly recommend doing yourself a favor and getting a Tie-Fast Tool.  They're sold at any fly shop, Bass Pro, Cabalas etc.

Here's a link to the instructions page on their website:
Tie Fast Tool

Here's a video on using this tool to make a nail knot.

Now, for attaching leaders to the fly line.

Remember, fishing is to be fun and relaxing.  I would suggest doing yourself a favor and getting a fly line with a loop already in the end and getting leaders with a loop already tied in the end and just using those with a loop to loop connection.

However, what to do if your loop gets damaged or you just like tying your own.

Use the nail knot shown in the video above.  Here is a tip.  When your pre built leader gets too used up to tie any more tippet to, keep the heavy end with the loop already on it, and nail knot that piece to the end of your fly line.  Presto, instant loop at the end of your line.  I've done this on several lines and it works,, is cheap (read free because it's a piece you were going to throw away) and "green" because you used something you would have otherwise thrown in the trash (You were not going to toss it in the stream were you?).

If you want to tie your own loops, the perfection loop is a good one.
Here's a pretty good video.  This is an easy knot to tie, just be careful to not make the loop too big.

Now, for tying tippet to leader.  The opinions are as varied as there are fly fishers tying tippets to leaders.  The blood knot, the double surgeon's knot seem to get the most of the coverage and they both work just fine.

Here is the blood knot:

Here is the double surgeons knot:

The knot I've been using for the past couple years is the "splice" knot using the Tie-Fast tool.  This is essentially a variation of the double uni knot.  I've tested it against the blood knot and the double surgeons and it seems slightly stronger than a blood knot and about equal with the surgeon's knot.  I find it easier to tie than both of them, especially stream side or lake side.

Here's a link to the instruction page:
Tie-Fast Knots

Last knot in the chain is the one to tie a fly to the tippet.  There have been books written about this aspect of fly fishing.  I'm not going to write a book.  All knots have their place and if you have the manual dexterity to tie some of the more challenging ones that are supposed to be stronger, there's nothing wrong with it.

Personally, I find the clinch knot works, is easy to tie, and holds just fine.  It may not be as strong as some of the other knots out there today,  but it has served me well for over 40 years of fishing and I don't really see much reason to change.

I've also used the Palomer Knot but keep going back to the simple clinch or improved clinch knot.  Here's a video for the Paolmer Knot.

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