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Fishing Knots

There are many knots that the fly fisher uses in putting together his fly fishing system. There are, however, just a few knots that are really necessary. Any worth while fly shop will load a purchased fly line and backing to the reel. Also, if the fly line purchased doesn't have a loop a good fly shop will attach one to the end of the fly line. The fly fisher should be familiar with a loop-to-loop connection to attach the leader to the fly line; blood knot or surgeon's knot to attach the tippet to the leader; and, a improved clinch knot or non-slip loop to tie the fly to the tippet or as a dropper.

The good fly fisher will be able to tie each of these know in a matter of seconds or minutes. Remember, you can't catch a fish unless your fly is in the water. Tying a knot should be come second nature to the good fly fisher.

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Knot Strength and Tippet Material


Knots weaken the rope in which they are made.[1] When knotted rope is strained to its breaking point, it almost always fails at the knot or close to it, unless it is defective or damaged elsewhere. The bending, crushing, and chafing forces that hold a knot in place also unevenly stress rope fibers and ultimately lead to a reduction in strength. The exact mechanisms that cause the weakening and failure are complex and are the subject of continued study.

Strength: Relative knot strength, also called knot efficiency, is the breaking strength of a knotted material in proportion to the breaking strength of the material without the knot. Determining a precise value for a particular knot is difficult because many factors can affect a knot efficiency test: the type of material, the style of material, the size of material, whether it is wet or dry, how the knot is dressed before loading, how rapidly it is loaded, whether the knot is repeatedly loaded, and so on. The efficiency of common knots ranges between 40—80% of the rope's original strength.

Monofilament vs. Fluorocarbon Tippet

Nylon monofilament line is exactly what the name says: a single strand (“mono-filament”) of nylon, produced by passing a glob of molten plastic, actually a by-product of crude oil processing, through a die that creates the thin strand of nylon that we know as fishing line. Simple process, simple line.

A more complex and expensive process is used in the creation of fluorocarbon line, in which a polymer of fluorine is actually bonded to carbon at a molecular level. The process is much more scientific than I care to understand or dive into, but the results are quite amazing.

  1. Standard nylon monofilament line will absorb a great deal of water when fishing. This causes the line to become heavier when wet, decreasing cast length and smoothness, and lowers the line’s breaking strength by about 20 percent after only an hour in the water.

    Fluorocarbon line on the other hand has zero water absorption because of its dense chemical structure. In theory, this means that fluorocarbon lines lose none of their strength, even when submerged in water for a number of hours.
  2. The factor that is used to determine a line’s visibility under water is its refractive index (RI), a measure of the amount of light refraction a certain substance has. This being said, it is easy to deduce that the closer a line’s RI is to the RI of water, the more it will blend in with the surrounding water, making it nearly invisible. Standard mono lines have a refractive index as high as 1.62, compared to water’s RI of 1.33. 100 percent fluorocarbon lines have a refractive index of only 1.42, much closer to that of water. The result is a line that is much more transparent to the underwater creatures we seek.
  3. The rate of sink that a line has is determined by its specific gravity. The faster your line sinks, the quicker you can get your bait in front of submerged fish. Standard monofilament lines sink at a rate that is nearly 4 times slower than its fluorocarbon counterpart.
  4. Fluorocarbon line is its limited stretch. Unlike highly elastic monofilament, fluoro lines stretch very little, resulting in greater sensitivity and more powerful hook sets.
  5. A number of tests have shown that over a relatively short period of time, a monofilament line can lose nearly 40 percent of its strength when exposed to UV light. Fluorocarbon, on the other hand showed no mentionable decrease in strength, even after a thousand hours of direct UV exposure.
  6. As temperatures drop, both lines become harder and their knot strength weakens. The advantage once again goes to the fluorocarbon lines, becoming stiffer and weaker about 4 times slower than its monofilament cousin.
  7. Since fluorocarbon is a much more expensive process to produce, it is also more expensive than monofilament to purchase. A 30M of flurocarbon can be as much as 3-4 times the cost of monofilament.

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Surgeon's Knot

Uses: The Surgeon's Knot is an excellent knot to tie two pieces of line together. It is especially useful to connect the leader and tippet materials together. If the diameter of the of the tippet and leader is not the same it can be a good idea to tie a triple surgeon's knot. Be sure to wet the knot before tightening.

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Improved Clinch Knot

Uses:The Improved Clinch knot is one of the basic knots that is used by a lot of fly fishers. It is traditionally used to tie the tippet material to the hook. It can also be used in a two fly rig to tie the bottom fly the bend of the fly above.

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Non-slip Mono Loop

Uses: The non-slip loop has several uses. The primary use is to tie a fly to the tippet so that the fly swings losely. The knot can also be used to attach the leader material to the fly line or the leader to the tippet using a loop-to-loop attachment.

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Blood Knot

Uses: Use this knot to join sections of leader or line together. It works best with lines of approximately equal diameter. This knot, depending on who you talk to is often called the "Blood Knot" or the "Barrel Knot", or the "Clinched Blood Knot".

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Davy Knot and Double Davy

The Davy Knot from Tightline Productions on Vimeo.

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