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Trouts Journal

Basic Fly Fishing Knots

Ivan Orsic / Oct 25, 2011

Landing the prized fish requires a basic understanding of tying together all of the intricate pieces of fly equipment

It is said, on something like a Promethean scale, that the weakest part of a fly angler’s arsenal of mental attributes and earthly equipment are the knots that tie it all together. Knots, of course, are the physical attachments that bind reel to line and line to lure, but they are also the ethereal attachments, the understanding, that tie a fearless angler to a favorite activity. Knots, when you think about it, don’t really exist: they are but the shapes we make of filament and line. Yet without knots, the real stuff of fishing would hold no bounty.

It is, then, knowledge that one seeks. “Turn him to any cause of policy, the Gordian Knot of it he will unloose,” according to the Archbishop of Canterbury in Henry V.

So it is our intention to unloose that intractable problem, that knotty situation, by assisting our fly fishing followers in their quest of the perfect tying techniques that will lead to the larger trout.

Here are the basic knots associated with fly fishing and some of our suggestions on how to unravel the mystery of making them tight:

  • Constriction knot - Study herpetology, especially as it relates to boas.
  • Water knot - Wait on this one until you are no longer wet behind the ears.
  • Non-slip mono knot - You’ll need an old record player for this one.
  • Arbor knot - You can only learn this one on the last Friday in April.
  • Slip knot - For this you will need lingerie.
  • Improved clinch knot - Watch a boxing match.
  • Trilene knot - This is best learned from three girls named Ilene.
  • Surgeon’s knot - Apply to medical school.
  • Perfection loop - There is no such thing as perfection, but keep trying, keep tying, and you’ll soon find yourself in the loop.
  • Gray’s loop - See above. There is no right way or wrong way; this is a gray area.
  • Double Turle knot - You’ll have to wait your turn (or tirl) to learn this one.
  • Nail knot - Forget this one. It’s too hard to knot a nail.
  • Albright knot - For this you must be Secretary of State, working on Middle East issues.

Of course – and taking the knot out of our tongue firmly placed in our cheek – these are all real knots that are the basics of fly fishing. For a complete understanding of how to tie such knots, it is best to have hands-on teachers and, failing that, drawings can be helpful.

For a complete description of how to tie these knots along with some excellent drawings that will tie it all together, try these websites:

For excellent hands-on teaching, visit Trout’s Fly Fishing, the West’s premier fly fishing shop, online resource and educational center based in the heart of Denver, CO. Call 877-464-0034 for help in untying the mystery of fly fishing knots should you slip on the illustrated instructions.

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