Fly Fishing 101: Five Essential Knots
Backcountry Expert Gearhead Matt Pizza is an avid fly fisherman who has been fly fishing since he was a teen. He has fished all over Utah, as well as Idaho, Wyoming, a bit in Colorado, and even upstate Wisconsin and New York. Although trout makes up the bulk of his prey, he has been known to land pike and walleye, and has found a new love for catching bass on the fly. Here, he breaks down one of the essential skills for fly fishing, tying knots.
Tying knots is a huge part of fly fishing. There are dozens of knots to learn and they each serve a specific purpose. This guide will help you learn and become proficient with some of the more common knots so they don’t take up so much of your time … giving you more time to drink beer and catch fish!
This is the knot you will tie the most. You will use this knot to tie your fly onto your line.
- Pass the end of the line through the eye of the hook. Double back making at least 5 turns around the standing line.
- Bring the end of the line back through the first loop formed behind the eye of the hook and then through the big loop you have just formed.
- Wet the line and pull on the tag end to tighten the coils, slide tight against the eye.
- Clip tag end.
The perfection loop is tied at the end of a piece of line in order to easily attach and detach from another piece of line, most commonly attaching leader or tippet to the fly line.
- Form a loop at the end of the line wrapping the tag end behind the standing line.
- Grab the tag line and take a turn around the standing line forming a second loop. Hold in place and take another turn around the line, this time cross on top of new loop.
- Hold tag end in place and pass the second loop through the first.
- Wet line and pull the second loop up until the knot becomes tight.
- Trim tag end.
Once you have two pieces of line with a perfection loop at the end, you can attach them using this loop-to-loop connection. For purposes here the connection will be explained using a leader and the fly line.
- Pass the loop of the leader through the loop of the fly line.
- Pass the tag end of the leader through the leader loop.
- Wet both loops and pull standing ends of the lines tight.
The primary purpose of this knot is to attach two pieces of similarly sized line, such as two pieces of tippet.
- Overlap the ends of the lines. Twist one around the other making five turns. Bring the tag end back between the two lines.
- Repeat with the other end, wrapping in the opposite direction 5 turns.
- Wet the lines and slowly pull the lines in opposite directions until all the wraps come tightly together.
- Clip both tag ends.
This knot is most commonly used for joining two lines of different diameter or attaching, tying the backing to the fly line.
- Bend a loop in the tag end of the heavier line and hold between thumb and index finger. Insert tag of the lighter line through the loop from the top.
- Put tag end of lighter line under thumb and tightly pinch it against the heavier strands of the loop. Wrap the first turn of the lighter line over itself and continue wrapping toward the bend of the loop. Take at least 12 turns of the lighter line around all remaining strands.
- Insert the tag end of the lighter line through the end of the loop from the bottom, enter and exit the loop on the same side.
- With thumb and index finger, slide the coils of the lighter line toward the end of the loop (approximately 1/8”). Pull the tag end of the lighter line tight.
- Wet the lines, and while holding the heavier line pull the standing part of the lighter line. Pull tag end of the lighter line and the standing part a second time. Finally, pull the standing end of both lines.
- Trim both tag ends.
There you have it—five knots every fly fisher should know. Practice to the point where they come easily, and your day on the river gets that much better.