Did you practice tying your knots this winter? No, I didn’t either. I’ve been fishing a little and tying knots as usual when I change flies. But I did have to stop and think the first time I hit the water this year. Lucky for me, my muscle memory took over and I tied a good Davy knot. In addition, I swung streamers for Bull Trout and tied my first non-slip loop knot of the year. Again, thanks to muscle memory! I’ve written posts about knots in the past and thought you might learn from my experience…practice a few knots before you get to the water!
I taught a Zoom fly tying class last week, although it wasn’t planned. I intended to watch my friend Jerry tie some flies, but he had technical issues and his Internet connection stopped. After a short pause, I volunteered to teach a Green Drake Hatchmaster. It turns out I had just completed an instructional video of the fly (see link below), so I offered to step in. After tying the fly, someone asked what knot I used to attach the fly to tippet. I use a non-twist knot for bushy flies like this. It’s a knot learned a few years ago and I’ve been pleased how it works.
So, with those two recent experiences, I decided today’s post would rehash a little knot information I believe is important. I hope you are moved to pull out a spool of tippet and tie a knot or two. You’ll thank me when you get to the water!
Let me start with the non-twist knot.
Non-twist knot – Have you experienced your fly twisting the leader? Here is a great idea from the Deschutes Angler Fly Shop in Maupin, OR about how to eliminate the twisting of leader when using large or bushy flies. If you looked closely at the image above, you’ll see the leader threaded through the eye and a knot tied. It’s a triple surgeon that snugs up to the hook eye allowing the fly to twist around the tippet.
I’ve had problems when fishing my Beetle Bailey and other larger flies like the Hatchmaster Green Drake. I generally fish with 6X tippet, which is very light. Bushy flies seem to twist when casting and can create a mess of your tippet.
I tried changing to 5X tippet. It helps, but still, it twists.
The image below shows the triple surgeon knot below the down-turned eye. As mentioned above, the knot allows the fly to rotate around the monofilament. The trick is determining the proper size of each tippet piece for the hook, preventing it from pulling through the hook eye. Try it yourself and you’ll understand. It took me a few tries before settling on two tippet sizes that worked.
Here is a video of Amy demonstrating the non-twist knot.
She used a piece of 10 lb. monofilament with 4X tippet. I wish I could use 4X tippet on the Metolius. My experience tells me I wouldn’t catch many fish because my catch rate increases significantly using 6X. I experimented with several different combinations and settled on a tying a triple surgeon with a piece of 4X and my 6X tippet. You’ll have to conduct your own experiment if you use a larger tippet. Just be sure the knot is tied well and looks like the image above.
Lastly, I’ve tried the non-twist knot on top as well as on the bottom of the hook eye. Most of the flies I tie use a down turned hook eye and I found threading the tippet from the top and tying a triple surgeon below the hook eye worked well. I think it allows the fly to spin more freely. Look at the image again of the knot below the down turned hook eye.
Here are the other knots I use when trout fishing:
- Improved clinch knot
- Davy knot
- Non-slip loop knot
- Triple surgeon
Improved clinch knot – Instructions – I used this fly for years and continue to use it for hook sizes 12 and up. I started using the Davy knot for smaller flies in 2016. More on that below. Many fly fishers tie a simple clinch knot. In fact, my wife uses a knot tying tool similar to the one below to quickly tie a clinch knot. It works for her!
I like the thought of a little extra strength by tucking the tag through the loop as explained in the instructions. Be sure your finished knot looks like this. This knot is seated properly.
This one isn’t.
If your knot looks like this and a fish eats your fly, the knot will break because of friction caused from the slack tightening quickly. Snap! You’ll feel it and find a nice curly cue at the end of the tippet, a tell-tale sign.
Davy knot – Instructions – I began using the Davy knot in 2016. I was wary, but have caught some big fish using 6X tippet on the Metolius. I continue to use it for flies size 14 and smaller. I really like the small profile of the leader attached to the hook eye. If you are like me, you’ll really question using this knot the first few times. How can a simple knot like this really hold a fish? Check out the instructions. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
There is a double Davy knot as well which may work for larger hook sizes. I just haven’t tried it yet. I’m happy with the improved clinch knot.
Non slip loop knot – Instructions – I use this knot when fishing streamers and I want a lot of action. It’s a strong knot I have confidence in. Just try to keep a small loop next to the hook eye. There’s no way to tell, but I think the added movement creates natural movement better. A slightly smaller loop would be better.
Triple surgeon – Instructions – This is the knot I use to attach two pieces of monofilament when creating a tapered leader or adding tippet (or tying the non-twist knot above). Some fly fishers use a double surgeon. I find the triple surgeon works best for me. It’s a simple to tie knot and very strong.
Knot ready to tighten.
Completed knot. Running line is horizontal, tags are on top and below
There are many other effective knots fly fishers use. I’m not suggesting you change if you like what you use and it works. Stick with them. I try to keep it simple and found these knots work really well for me.
If you decide to change, tie several of them at home. Tying them for the first time when fish are rising is a recipe for disaster! Trust me…been there, done that.
The biggest problem I have found learning or teaching knot tying is finger dexterity. How big of a loop to use? How to hold the leader when tying a knot?
Second is how long of a tag to use. Some knots require long tags, others are easier to tie with a short one.
Tie them in the comfort of your own home without rising fish around and you’ll quickly become an expert!
If you are interested in the simple leader system I use, be sure to read my Fly Fishing Leader post from a few years ago.
Find out what works for you and tie a good knot!
Lastly, here is the latest fly tying video from my RiverKeeper Flies YouTube channel where I demonstrate the Green Drake Hatchmaster fly. Be sure to check it out and “like” and subscribe to my channel. My next video will come out shortly tying the Pheasant Tail Veevus Body Quill Perdigon.
Enjoy…go fish, stay safe!
(John Kreft is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.)