Fly Fishing 101: How to Tie your Fly Line
Backcountry Expert Gearhead Matt Pizza is an avid fly fisherman who has been fly fishing since he was a teen. Here, he breaks down the essential step of rigging your line.
We all know that there must be some work before you can play; it makes plucking that hog out from his favorite hiding spot all the sweeter. Preparing your fly line is necessarily painstaking, but doesn’t have to be painful. Here are some guidelines for making that all-important first step of rigging up your fly line a little bit easier.
Dry flies simulate natural patterns hatching and landing on the water’s surface, so presentation is key. After you have attached your tapered leader to your fly line, you will need to attach your dry fly. For this, you will want to tie an Improved Clinch Knot.
- Pass the line through the eye of the hook.
- Wrap the tag end around the standing end of the line 6 times.
- Pass the tag end through the opening between the eye of the hook and the first wrap.
- Now push the tag end through the loop you have just created, moisten, and pull the knot tight.
Streamers simulate leeches and other larger bugs that swim beneath the water’s surface. For streamer fishing, you will not want to use a 9ft or even 7.5ft tapered leader; instead, use a shorter and stiffer leader. I recommend about a 5ft leader somewhere between 8lb and 15lb test monofilament, ideally tapering from 15lb down to 8lb.
To attach the streamer to the line I like to use the Non-Slip Loop Knot. It gives the streamer a more realistic appearance in the water than the Improved Clinch Knot.
- Make an overhand knot about 10 inches from the end of the line.
- Pass the tag end through the eye of the hook and back through the loop of the overhand knot.
- Wrap the tag end around the standing part of the line six times.
- Pass the tag end back through the overhand knot, entering the side that you exited before.
- Moisten the knot and pull the tag end to cinch the wraps together.
- Pull the loop and the standing line in opposite directions until tight.
Nymphing simulates small bugs developing beneath the water’s surface, which means you’ll be fishing more by feel of the line than by sight.
Nymph Rig, Deep Water
- Start off with a 9ft tapered leader off the end of your fly line with your strike indicator somewhere on the leader to get you to the appropriate depth.
- Attach the leader to some tippet (depending on what size flies you are using and what size fish you are planning to catch you’ll want to use tippet anywhere from about 3x to 6x) with a Surgeon’s Knot.
- Lay the line and leader on top of one another overlapping each other by several inches.
- Pass both the tag end and the entire leader through the loop 2 times.
- Moisten knot and pull all 4 ends tight.
- Run about 36 inches of tippet to your fly and attach the appropriate amount of weight somewhere in between (adjusting for depth as needed).
Nymph Rig, Shallow Water
- Start off with a 9ft tapered leader off the end of your fly line. For shallow water nymphing all of your tippet lengths will need to be adjusted to depth (depending on what size flies you are using and what size fish you are planning to catch, you’ll want to use tippet anywhere from about 3x to 6x).
- Tie a section of tippet off the end of the leader using a Surgeon’s Knot and attach it to your first fly using an Improved Clinch Knot.
- From the hook shank, use a Blood Knot and tie your second section of tippet to your second fly and attach using an Improved Clinch Knot.
- You can alternate between weighted flies and non-weighted flies to get your rig to the proper depth.
Czech Nymph Rig
- Off of the fly line attach a 15in piece of fluorocarbon or braided leader using a Loop to Loop Connection. To the end of this, attach a 5-6ft piece of tippet, anywhere from 3-6x using a Surgeons Knot or Blood Knot.
- At the very end of this 5-6ft piece of tippet you are going to attach one of your three flies. This fly is the point fly; if any fly in the rig is to be weighted it should be this one.
- About 18 inches up from your point fly, tie and overhand knot in your tippet, just like when you start to tie your shoes. Then tie a 6in piece of tippet above that overhand knot, slide it down onto the knot and tie another overhand knot above the 6in piece of tippet you just attached. Tie your fly onto the end of that 6in section, this fly should be some type of nymph.
- Repeat the above process 18in up from your second fly and tie on a third fly, your dropper fly–this should be a dry fly, foam terrestrials work well here.
- Start off with a 9ft tapered leader off the end of your fly line with your strike indicator somewhere on the leader.
- Attach the leader to some tippet (depending on what size flies you are using and what size fish you are planning to catch, you’ll want to use tippet anywhere from about 3x to 6x) with a Surgeon’s Knot.
- Run about 18in of tippet to your first fly, attaching with an Improved Clinch Knot.
- Tie a 6-12in piece of tippet to the hook shank of the first fly using a Clinch Knot, and attach the end of that piece of tippet to your dropper fly using an Improved Clinch Knot.
- Off of the dropper’s hook shank tie a 4-6in piece of tippet using a Blood Knot; at the end of this section of tippet tie an overhand knot and attach your weight above the knot.