Knot Tying – From the Reel to the Fly by Mike Gass

Fly fishing for any type of fish requires several knots. Including backing to fly reel, backing to fly line, fly line to leader, leader to tippet, and tippet to fly. Knots are the weakest link between you and the fly and the fish, therefore it is important for the beginning fly fisher to learn which knots work best for different applications. Good quality knots can be the difference between landing the fish of a lifetime, or having a story of the one that got away.


The first knot you need to learn about is the Arbor Knot. This knot is used to connect your backing to your fly reel. The Arbor knot is not a strong knot by any means, but realistically this knot should never be tested by a fish.

Arbor Knot (Backing to fly reel)

1) Wrap the line around the spool. 2) Tie an overhand knot around the standing line. 3)Then, tie an overhand knot in the tag end. 4) Pull knot tight, and then snug the first knot tightly to the reel arbor.


The nail knot is used to connect your backing to your fly line, and your leader or butt section to your fly line. The nail knot is easy to tie and slides through the rod guides with ease, without getting hung up. This knot is most easily done, using a knot tyer tool. As shown on the right.

Nail Knot (Fly line to backing, Leader to Fly Line)

Note: Tying Instructions using a tie-fast knot tyer, 1 or 2 inches of hollow plastic can work as a substitute. 1) Place tool in palm of hand, with thumb on the thumb pad. 2) Place leader or backing between the tips/slot so that the line goes about 6 inches past the tips. Secure line in place with thumb. 3) Wrap tag end around tips towards your hand, make 4 or 5 turns, hold turns in place with forefinger as you go. 4) Thread the tag end around and back through the wraps and out the slotted tips. 5) Place fly line under wraps and give the tag end a light jerk. To help the knot slide off the tyer and onto your fly line. 6) Lubricate, tighten, and trim tag end.


The Surgeon’s knot and the Blood Knot are both effective in connecting tippets to leaders. The Surgeon’s knot is the quickest and the easiest to tie of the two, but should only be used to connect lines that have a diameter differential of .003″ or less. Use the blood knot to connect lines with different diameters.

Surgeon’s Knot (Leader to Tippet)

1) Overlap end of tippet material, and end of leader approximately six inches. 2)Next, tie an overhand knot in the doubled section of the line, keeping loop open, do not tighten. 3) Bring the double strand through the open loop one more time. 4) Lubricate the knot, then pull on all four ends to tighten the knot.

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Blood Knot (Leader to Tippet)

1) Place the two lines parallel to one another with the tag ends facing in opposite directions. 2) Take the tag end of one line and make 5 turns around the main line of the other, and bring the end back where it’s held between the two lines. 3) Next, make 5 wraps around the other main line with the other tag end in the opposite direction. Then bring the tag end back through the same loop as you did the other tag, but in the opposite direction. 4) Lubricate the knot and pull tight and trim.

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Lastly, is a knot to connect tippet to fly. The most common knot to connect your tippet to your fly is the Clinch knot. The Clinch knot is fast, easy, and strong. Another knot used to connect tippet to fly is the Duncan loop. The Duncan loop lets your fly move freely on the end of your fly line.

Clinch Knot (Tippet to Fly)

1) Slide end of leader through eye of hook about 8 inches. 2)Hold fly with left hand and with right hand make 5 or 6 wraps around the leader. While wrapping, keep a small loop open at the eye of the hook with the thumb and forefinger of your left hand. 3) Put the tag end of the leader through the loop at the eye of the hook, and then bring it back through the large loop that you just created. 4) Hold the tag end of the leader and the fly in your left hand, and pull on the main line with your right hand to tighten the knot.

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Duncan Loop (Tippet to Fly)

1) Pass the tag end of your tippet through the eye of the hook about 8 inches. 2) With the tag end of the tippet, form a loop about 1.5″ in diameter. 3) Wrap the tag end through and around the loop and tippet 5 times, wrapping away from the fly 4) Pull on the tag end to tighten the knot.

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