8 Essential Fly Fishing Knots Every Angler Should Know

Proper rigging for fly fishing involves the knowledge of a handful or various knots. While every angler has their preferences of what knots to use in specific scenarios, it is best to be prepared for every angling situation. The 8 knots listed below are the most commonly used and essential knots every angler should have in their memory bank. Understanding the benefits to each knot can lead to faster success with rigging and more time spent fly fishing rather than re-rigging.

1. The Clinch or Fishermens Knot 

Purpose: Attaching fly to tippet or tippet onto the bend of the hook.

The Clinch Knot or Fishermen’s Knot is the most widely used knot in the fishing world. It is the first knot every angler should learn and master as for most it is the most used knot out on the water. It can be tied very fast and when it is properly seated, the knot is very strong. The key to the success of this knot is after making the 5-7 turns and threading it back through be sure to pull the long end of the two pieces of tippet in order to seat the knot.

Many anglers also use the Improved Clinch Knot. While I only utilize this knot for very small tippet and fly scenarios. Some anglers swear it has stronger breaking strength. The improved clinch just adds one additional step as seen in the video below.

2. The Double Surgeon’s Loop 

Purpose: For connecting backing to the fly line. Or creating a loop to loop connection in your leader.

This knot is very straight forward, fast, and easy to tie. The knot is most commonly used to create a large loop in the backing and attach the pre-welded loop of the fly line to the backing. I also use the knot when trying to create a loop on my butt section of line to leader connection. Or for thicker diameter loop to loop connections within the leader. This knot is stronger than the perfection loop but not as clean and small. A single surgeon loop knot is a bit lower profile knot and still has strong breaking strength. Learn this knot for a quick on the river loop.

3. The Surgeon’s Knot

Purpose: Attaching tippet to the leader. Or leader to leader.

This knot is essential to on the water re-rigging. When you need to add tippet onto your leader after breaking off flies or changing tippet size due to fly selection this knot is your go to. When using a nymphing indicator rig, it is also useful to add this knot 6-12 inches above your top fly. This creates a place for your split shot to sit above to prevent the split shot from sliding down onto your fly.

While this knot is a bit more time consuming and challenging than the others listed above it is essential out on the water. Practice and practice until you have this knot down that you can do it in the dark. For even stronger breaking strength, make this knot a triple surgeon. You can do this by adding an additional pass through.

4. The Non-Slip Loop Knot

Purpose: Attaching fly to tippet material, creating more movement of the fly. (Used commonly when fishing streamers or other baitfish patterns).

The Non-Slip Loop Knot is a sleeper knot every angler should know that can step up your rigging to the next level. The knot creates a loop connection from your fly to the tippet. This gives the fly freedom to move, resulting in more life like action and movement. It is a staple for many streamer fishermen and the knot also is widely used in saltwater fly fishing. Some anglers even use this knot when fishing hoppers resulting in a more life like action from the fly. Sometimes a smaller loop will be more effective. As a larger loop exposes more tippet that can be susceptible to breaking. It takes some practice with this knot to control the size of the loop. It is recommended to try this knot at home to really get it down. Some anglers also state it can be harder to set the hook on fish with this knot rather than the standard clinch knot.

5. The Nail Knot 

Purpose: Attaching the leader to the fly line.

The old school nail knot was a staple back in the day before fly line manufactures developed the widely used and liked welded loops that are sold on fly lines. But even now with the welded loops on all (most) of our fly lines, anglers still utilized this knot. The biggest advantage to this knot is that you can connect very thin diameters with thick diameters. So you can imagine a variety of different scenarios for this knot other than the classic leader to fly line application. Whether you broke your fly line and need to connect it back together. Or your welded loop on your fly line broke. Or you’re trying to attach very thick leader material to the tippet. The scenarios are endless.

But, the biggest disadvantage to this knot is that using a nail knot tool can be essential to properly setting the knot. One secret, if you don’t have the tool, is to use your forceps as a tool to lay the groundwork to set this knot up. Here is a recommended tool to add to your fishing bag just in case you need some on the river emergency re-rigging SIERRA STREAM AND MOUNTAIN TIE-FAST KNOT TYER.

6. The Blood Knot

Purpose: For connecting two pieces of leader material.

While the Blood Knot may be a bit more complicated to tie for many people (hence the name) than the comparable Double Surgeons Knot it is to believed to be stronger than the Surgeons Knot. Personally, I use the Blood Knot only when I need a lower profile line to line connection. The Double Surgeons Knot is a little higher profile. Which can result in getting the knot caught in the rod guides easier and other challenges like snagging weeds. By understanding and efficiently tying the blood knot it can turn into your go-to knot for connecting additional tippet to the leader material.

7. The Perfection Loop 

Purpose: For connecting backing to the fly line. Or creating a loop to loop connection in your leader.

The Perfection Loop is an essential on the water knot to know when you need to create a new loop to loop connection. While it does look a little complicated to understand and learn. Once mastered the knot is fast and easy to tie and control the size of the loops. I believe it does not have as strong breaking strength as the Double Surgeons Loop. But it is easier to make smaller loops and it is also lower profile. So based on the rigging scenario you are in the Perfection Loop should be in every anglers bag of tricks.

8. The Uni-Knot 

Purpose: The Knot to Rule Them All

Considered the most versatile fishing knot of them all, the Uni-Knot is best known for the strongest tippet to fly knots. (stronger than the clinch knot). The knot is versatile as it can perform with very small diameter tippets to thick wire and monofilament. Also when doubled up into the Double Uni Knot. It can connect lines of similar and different diameters very well. While not every fly anglers utilize this knot, some anglers trust and abide by it.

By learning and understanding each of the knots listed above anglers will be equipped for almost every rigging scenario on and off the water. Practice makes perfect so be sure to practice your knots with a variety of different diameters of line on and off the water. Be sure to swing by the shop and we can personally teach you or help you with any technical rigging and knot tying questions you may have.

Patrick Perry, Content Contributor, and Former Guide, @patperry