By Phil Magness.

One of the most difficult things to learn when you are new to fly fishing are the different types of knots that you need to know. The following diagram provides a good overview of the most common knots that you will use.



You will probably hear a variety of other, perfectly valid alternatives (the uni, davy, blood and others); however knowing those presented above is a good guide for beginners to the sport. As you advance, then you may be more inclined to try alternatives and to see which ones you find easier to tie and will best suit your purpose.

As always, the club is there to help and we are happy to show you any of these knots at any time.

An excellent interactive website for knots is Animated Knots available on this link:


Tie your fly to the tippet

This is the knot that you will use the most and you need to know it. every time you change (or lose) a fly, you need to tie a clinch knot. There are two types – the clinch and the improved clinch. The following videos will show you how to tie them. Which to use? Well there’s a lot of debate on the topic and I’ve spoken to trout guides who only ever use one or the other. In my experience, I use the clinch for light tippets (7x, 6x, 5x, 4x) and the improved clinch for anything heavier.

Knot Use Discussion
Arbor Tie the backing to the fly reel The Arbor Knot is used to tie the backing to the fly reel. The Albright Knot is used to tie the backing to the fly line. If you bought your fly fishing line from a local fly fishing store, then they are likely to help you with these. So it’s not something you need to use very often. But just in case, the following videos will provide you with a good illustration of these knots:

Albright Tie the backing to the fly line
Nail Tie the fly line to the leader This is a knot that is used to tie your fly line to your leader and one that you can do at home before you leave for your fishing trip. Unless you need to change leaders, then you are unlikely to need to use it whilst fishing. But you need to know in case you have chosen too heavy (or light a leader), or it gets too badly damaged whilst fishing, and needs to be changed. It is important to note that you may or may not need to use it depending on the type of fly line and your leader. If you have a loop at the end of your fly line (called a perfection loop) and a loop at the end of your leader, then you simply connect them together and there is no need for the nail knot. This can be shown in the following:

Perfection Loop(source: you don’t have a loop, then you need to either learn how to tie a perfection loop or learn the nail knot.

When I first started fly fishing, I used to always buy fly line and leaders with the perfection loop because it is very simple to use. What I found over time is that the point at where they connect would often get caught in the final rung of my fly rod. So I cut the loop off the end of my fly line, started using the nail knot, and stopped having this problem.

Now there are a lot of different videos showing you how to tie a nail knot. Many involve the use of a pen tube, a nail or something else to help. But in my opinion, your best option is to go to your local fly fishing store and purchase a nail knot tool. They will cost somewhere between $10-$20 and will be one of the best investments you can ever make in your fly fishing adventures. They make tying the nail knot a breeze and you can tie it within a minute. The tool looks like this:

Nail Knot Tool

This is a good video to show you how to tie the nail knot using the tool:

Surgeons Tie a section of tippet to the end of your leader This is used to tie a section of tippet to the end of your leader. It is incredibly simple and something that you will use often. An alternative is the blood knot, but this is much more advanced to tie. The following videos show you how to tie the surgeons knot.

A question that arises is how many times should you pass the tippet through the leader (in the videos above one says two times and one says three). My recommendation would use three turns for light tippets (7x, 6x, 5x, 4x) and two turns for anything 3x or above.

Smartphone users:

For those of you who have a smart phone, then they are numerous free (or low cost) apps that you can download that provide step by step animations of the above knots. The website of is once such site that has a fantastic app for iPhone and Android handsets. If you find yourself in the middle of nowhere and you’ve forgotten how to tie a knot, then having instructions on your smartphone may just save your fishing day.

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