Ask 5 angling professionals which 5 knots are most important, and you may very well get 25 answers. In our humble opinion, here are the 5 knots you need to know for fly fishing, in priority order.
- Non-Slip Mono Loop. For attaching any sub-surface fly to your leader, this is our go-to knot. It’s extremely strong when tied properly, and being a loop knot, allows your fly to dance around with plenty of action. The non-slip mono loop also gives you a strong loop any time you need one – at either end of your running line or at the back end of your leader, to name just a couple of examples.
- Improved Clinch Knot. Yes, this is the knot most likely to have been taught to you by your dad and therefore not a secret to anyone. Even so, it’s your best, strongest, simplest option when attaching dry flies to your leader, or in any other situation where you don’t need the ‘play’ of a loop knot.
- Blood Knot. For attaching tippet to your leader, the blood knot is probably your best option. If you’re connecting two pieces of mono (or fluoro) with very different diameters you should use a surgeon’s knot instead, but big differences in diameter tend to result in crappy casting performance anyhow!
- Surgeon’s Loop. The surgeon’s loop isn’t as strong as the non-slip mono loop in most situations, but it results in lower-profile loops that are often plenty strong. The most common example in our book would be tying a surgeon’s loop in the front end of your backing to enable a loop-to-loop connection with the back end of a fly line used for trout fishing.
- Bimini Twist. We’re not looking to start any religious wars here, but the Bimini Twist is generally considered to be the strongest loop knot you can tie with most materials. If you tie tarpon leaders you definitely know this knot, but we use it most often in the front end of our backing – attaching it to a loop on the back end of a fly line or running line used to chase king salmon, steelhead, or any fish in the saltwater. Bonus: you look really cool when you’re tying a Bimini Twist.