Below are the knots that most fly anglers use and are the ones I show people how to tie in our fly fishing classes. I’ve broken it down into two categories, basic and good to know.
In the basic section I’ll list knots that get used in order I most frequently tie them. In the good to know section I’ll list knots that I routinely use just now as often.
Fun fact, everyone one has favorites and opinions. I’ll leave those discussions to keyboard anglers and bar top debaters.
I’m a big fan of the Orvis Fly Fishing Learning Center. I’ve pulled the links for these knots from there. There is a ton of good information on the site so be sure to check it out.
Loop Knot – This is my “go to” fly to tippet knot. I use it because it lets the fly swing freely from the tippet. Tip: the smaller the tippet the more wraps. I use 4-6 wraps for 3x-6x tippet. 3-4 wraps for 0x-2x.
Clinch Knot – this knot is fast and simple to tie. I use this to tie dropper tippet to the bend of the hook on a dry dropper rig.
Surgeon’s Knot – After tying flies to tippet, this is the knot I wind up tying most often. The blood knot is neater, but the surgeon’s is faster and easier for many people, myself included.
Loop to Loop Connection – not a knot per se, but how to connect two loops to each other. Used most often to attach leader to fly line. If your leader doesn’t have a loop at the butt end you can use a perfection loop (see below in the good to know section) to create one. Tip: upgrade your selection of leaders, all good one have loops in the butt end. If your fly line doesn’t have a loop in it things are a bit more complicated. You can cut the loop off the leader and attach it to the fly line with with a nail knot. Tip you don’t want to be doing this stream side.
GOOD TO KNOW
Blood Knot – Sometimes called the barrel knot, it’s the classic tippet to leader knot. Learning to tie it is a right of passage for many guides. If I have time, the light is good and my hands don’t shake to much I’ll use it, but most of the time the ravages of old age and hard living have me retreating to the Surgeon’s knot.
Perfection Loop – When you need to put a loop in the end of your leader or tippet this is knot for that. This is an inline loop meaning the center of loop stays centered with the line. You can use a figure eight or surgeon’s loop but they are not as neat.
Nail Knot – I mentioned this above to tie leader to the line if you can’t make a loop to loop connection. Tip: If I’m going to the trouble to Nail Knot a leader to the line, I’ll go ahead and make a loop connector on the fly line with a short (6-8″) section of 15-20 pound mono. I’ll Nail Knot that to the line and fashion a Perfection loop to the other end. This makes changing leaders that much quicker and easier. I have been known to do this with a new leader, by Nail knotting it to the line cutting it at 6″ at the butt end and adding two Perfection Loops. Next time I change leaders the work has been done.
Here are the links to the Orvis animation and video of how to tie the knot.
Note: they use a tool for this knot, you can also use a small diameter straw, toothpick or finish nail in place of the tool.
Nail Knot Animation
Nail Knot Video
Here is a video from Grog Animated Knots showing how to do it with a tube.
Albright Knot – When you replace your fly line you will need to attach it to the backing. This is a good knot for that.
Tip: I add a little UV Knot Sense to the knot for added security. If you are going after big game fish then use a Bimini twist.
Arbor Knot – This is the final knot (pun intended.) This is what you use to attach backing to the reel.