Fly Fishing Knots 101 – Know Your Knots!

Man in Nature Enjoying Fly Fishing

One of the greatest things about fly fishing, is just what a practical and useful skill it is. This you using your body and your brain for what it was designed for: tracking, hunting and outsmarting prey.

What’s more, is that it’s a task that will get you outside and teach you to get closer to nature. You’ll be using fly fishing as a way to get closer to spots of natural beauty and to learn to survive off the land.

picture of knots

Theoretically, you could use these skills to feed yourself if you ever got stranded on an island! And there are a ton of additional skills that you will learn as a fly fisher – many of which have a ton of different applications and uses outside of fishing.

Take fly fishing knots for example. There are a large number of different knots you’ll need to learn as a fly fisher and this will in turn make it easier for you to create knots for climbing, for creating shelters and much more.

This post will examine some of the different types of knots for fly fishing and exactly how you will end up using them!

Why You Need Knots For Fly Fishing

The first thing you might be asking is why you even need knots for fly fishing!

The answer is that you need a way to attach your fly tackle to your line. Actually, you’re going to tie your fly tackle to your tippet and from there, you’ll need to tie the tippet to the leader and the leader to the line!

tying knot fly fishing

The balance system is one of the most important concepts to think about when fly fishing, as it tells you whether a line is suitable for a rod and whether a rod is suitable for a reel. As long as everything is balanced, you’re on the right track but then you’re going to need to tie it all together!

You’ll want some nail clippers available to help you with this and maybe some lubricant to help you get a tighter knot.

Basic Fly Fishing Knots

Arbor Knot

Starting at the reel then, the first knot you’ll need is to tie your reel to your backing. Backing comes in 20lb or 30lb strength (and several others) and you’ll need to choose the right amount. To tie the arbor knot, you’re going to tie an overhand knot on the backing end and then tighten it.

You’ll then insert that knot between the reel foot and arbor, circle the arbor once and then pull the knotted end out. You’ll then tie a second overhand knot with the tag end to the standing end of the backing. Pull the knots tight against the arbor and then wind the reel!

Albright Knot

Now you’ll tie an Albright knot to connect your backing to the fly line. This will need about 2-3 feet of fly line and is similar to a figure eight knot. You create a loop with the fly line and then push the backing through. Then you wrap the backing around both ends of that loop.

albright knot fly fishing

Do this about 10-12 times. Then you bring the tag end of the backing through the loop on the opposite side to where it entered. Pull gently on both ends of the fly line loop and squeeze the knot. It may need a little lubricant and should then join the two lines.

If you’re struggling with this, then look for videos on how to tie fly fishing knots on YouTube!

To connect the fly line to the leader, you’re going to use the Albright knot again. You can also use the nail knot, which provides a smoother finish but which also needs a very slim tube. For simplicity, we’ll stick with the Albright knot but if you want to learn all the best fly fishing knots, then this is another one to learn.

Double Surgeon’s Knot

Now you need to connect your leader to the tippet and the best knot for the job is the double surgeon’s knot. Place the tippet and the leader side by side so they overlap. Now create an overhand knot with the leader tag end and with the tippet.

The entire length of the tippet needs to go through the overhand knot loop but don’t tighten yet!

Now grasp your loop and pass through it once again a second time. Now pull simultaneously on the leader and tippet, moistening to tighten the connection.

The good news is that you can find many fly fishing leaders and tippets that come pre-knotted and this will save you that job!

Improved Clinch Knot

Finally, you need to use the improved clinch knot to connect your tippet to the fly. This involves making five wraps turns around the tag end after looping through the hook eye.

Double Clinch Knot

Push the tag end through the opening between the hook eye and first wrap and then pull gently until it tightens. Again, you’ll want to moisten the knot to get it tighter and you’ll want to trim the ends.

Tips And Closing Comments

These knots should be designed to tighten as the fish pulls on your line, making them stronger than any contraption that would connect them. It can seem a little fiddly at first learning all these knots but they will bring a great sense of satisfaction and help you catch much bigger fish in the long run!


Practice these fly fishing knots and remember to use a little lubricant to get them nice and strong. These knots won’t be 100% as strong as the line, tippet and leader but they’ll be pretty close!

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