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The Only Three Fly-fishing Knots You Need on the Water (14 of 35)

When you’re on the water, you need a knot to attach a fly, a knot to connect tippet material, and a knot to put a loop in your leader. That’s all you need. Practice these knots at home and you’ll have more fun and less frustration when you get out on the water. (And, OK, if you like a loop knot to attach streamers and nymphs, you might also want to learn the Non-Slip Mono Loop, which you can find here.

Video Transcript:

Knots. Knots are an intimidating part of fly fishing, and they really don't have to be. I'm gonna show you the three knots that I think are the essential knots that you have to know when you're on the stream. These are my favorites. These are also the knots that I have found in years of talking to guides that most guides us and guides are on the river day in and day out or on a lake or on the ocean day in and day out. They want reliable knots. So, these are the knots that most people use. Again, there are other knots if you wanna explore lots and lots of different knots. Sometimes it's fun, have at it. Go nuts. But I'm gonna show you the knots that I believe in and that I use on the water. One of the things I'd suggest is that pick a knot and practice it at home. Practicing at home with good light so that you can almost tie it with your eyes closed. Don't practice knots on the river when you wanna go fishing, do it at home or do it in a nice quiet place where you can concentrate because you will have to develop some muscle memory in your fingers to tie these knots properly. So, just like casting, little practice is gonna help. Another thing is to always test your knots before you throw your fly out there. You always wanna test your knots because even a knot that looks great can fail. And so you got to test it. The other thing to do is you wanna wet your knots. You wanna moisten them with saliva or water, just lick them. But you wanna moisten your knots. They'll seek better and eliminate friction that can heat up the tip of the material and weaken the knot. So, those are the important things to remember about knots. Now, I'm gonna show you those three knots that I recommend. So, for tying in a fly, the first one is the clinch knot. And the clinch knot is very, very simple. But all you do is you pass the end of the tippet or leader through the eye of the fly. And it doesn't matter which way you go up or down sideways, just pass it through the eye. And you form a loop in front of the fly just by keeping your fingers there in front of it, and then you just wrap the tag end. The tag end is the end that you're gonna end up cutting off. So, you just take this tag end and you wrap it around five or six times. And again, you'll develop muscle memory so that your fingers will do what you want them to do eventually. And then that loop that you've been holding in front of the eye should stay open. And then you can pass the end of the leader through that loop. And then you wanna hold the fly and the tag end together and tighten. Now, you don't wanna pull on the tag end, you just wanna keep it from slipping through that loop. You just wanna hold it there in place and you wanna apply pressure on the fly and the standing part. So, you're gonna wet the knot. And then the best way to tighten all these knots is to just give them a quick firm pull just like that. That will seat those barrels on the knot. Always test your knots, make sure that they're strong, make sure that they'll hold up, they're not gonna slip out, and then just trim the tag end. Easy knot. You probably... if you've fished at all, you probably use the clinch knot. That's the knot I used to tie on all my flies. Well, most of my flies. They're some exceptions, but we're gonna talk about those here. 90% of the time, I'm using a clinch knot. The next knot you need is you need to attach two pieces of tippet material. You're gonna break tippet, you're gonna have to extend your tippet, you're gonna need to tie two pieces of leader material or tippet material together. You need to know how to tie a surgeon's knot. It's important and this is the knot... not only is this the knot you would use to attach two pieces of tippet putting a new tippet on your leader, but it's also a great knot for adding droppers. So, if you're adding a second fly onto your leader, you can also use the same knot. So, it's very, very useful. This is a triple surgeon's knot. This is the knot I like to use for tying on tippet. So, let's do it. So, I got two pieces of material here. What you wanna do is overlap these two pieces. I don't know. About three or four inches. Go a little bit longer when you're starting out. And then I like to wet it. It just helps keep the ends together when you're tying this. And this is gonna be... this side is gonna be my tippet. Okay. This is the piece that's gonna attach to the fly, the other side is going to go to the rest of my leader and my fly line. So, all you do is you first form a loop, just a simple loop like so. And then you take that tippet and the short strand that goes with it, and you go around the loop three times. So, one, you got to make sure that both ends go through, two, three. Now, very important, although this is easy not to tie, it needs to be tightened properly as all knots. And to tighten this properly, you need to make sure that you're holding both long ends and both short ends tightly. If you lose control of one of those ends, the knot can fail. It's not gonna seat properly, not gonna tighten properly. So, again, just like with all knots, you wet it, and then you hold all four ends, making sure that you've got a good grip on them. And then as with all knots, give it a quick firm pull to tighten like so. And that is the triple surgeons and then, of course, you're going to snip both of the short ends off, but that is the surgeon's knot. There's one more knot that you might need, and that's a knot to tie a loop into a piece of leader material. You don't use it that often, but it's a good idea to know how to put a loop in the end of the leader. And so this is the perfection loop. And this is a little trickier knot, but you start and you bring the short end back around the long end, behind it, and then you take a loop around. Again, go completely around so that you have a big loop and a little loop. And then you take this tag in and you flip it over to the far side between the loops, and then you pull the short loop through the long loop. You have a perfection loop. So, don't agonize over knots. They're not that hard. Pick one. Pick the one that you like. If you wanna use different knots than I do, that's perfectly fine. Try them out, try them all out. See which is easiest for you to tie. But you need to have some knot to attach your fly and some knot to attach two pieces of leader material. Practice them at home, get comfortable with them and you'll have a lot more fun and be lot more relaxed on the water.