Ask the Experts: What Knot Do You Use to Tie on a Fly?

A couple years ago, we introduced a weekly “Ask the Experts” Column and asked you to pose some questions for our panel of experts. Our latest question for them to chew on is:What knot do you use to attach the fly to the tippet and why?”

Their answers are below. If you’ve got a question you’d like to ask our panel, write it in the comments section below.

Capt. Lucas Bissett, Low Tide Fly Fishing Guide (Slidell, Louisiana):
I like to use the non-slip mono loop. This loop is easy to tie, and I’ve never had one fail when it was properly tied. It also gives the fly a more life-like movement because the eye of the hook can move freely.

Tim Linehan, Linehan Outfitting Co. (Troy, Montana):
I usually use a clinch knot to attach dry flies and nymphs in sizes 20 to 20. I find it very easy to tie and greatly appreciate the strength and cleanliness it provides, especially when I’m using fine tippets and smaller size flies. I don’t generally bother with the extra step involved in tying an improved clinch knot and decided many years ago that for the most part, if a fish breaks off, it’s likely operator error and not necessarily that the knot failed. For flies in sizes 8 or bigger, and more specifically for streamers, I prefer a loop knot. They are easy to tie and provide bigger flies and streamers with a bit of room to move independently from the tippet, which can be important.

Capt. Dave Pecci, Obsession Charters (Charlotte Harbor, Florida):
I use two different types of knots.

1. Standard knots: For topwater flies and suspending flies, like crab and shrimp patterns, I like the Orvis knot and the improved clinch.

2. Loop knots: For baitfish patterns, loop knots allow the flies to tip over and drop between strips and then dart when stripped. I like the non-slip mono loop. Try to make the loop as small as possible.

All three of these knots test in the high 80% for strength with both mono and fluorocarbon materials. Always wet your knots before snugging them up, and pull-test them!

Alvin Dedeaux, All Water Guides (Austin, Texas):
I use the clinch knot most of the time. It;s super fast and easy to tie. I don’t waste much tippet, and I can usually tie it close enough that I don’t have to clip the tag.

Joe Demalderis, Cross Current Guide Service (Milford, Pennsylvania):
I’m sure anglers have debated the virtues of one knot over the other since the first hook was attached to a line. From my view, there is no single knot for the job. It depends on the style of fly, the species of fish, and the size or type of tippet I’m using.

With dry flies, I favor the improved clinch knot. Easy to tie, strong, and gets the job done; fly connected to the leader. I also use this knot for nymphs, with the exception of using a non-slip loop knot much of the time, too, to give the fly more wiggle.

I almost exclusively use a non-slip loop knot when I’m fishing a streamer in fresh or salt water.. I use this for bonefish flies, too. It’s strong, easy, and fast to tie and, again, it imparts more action to the fly. The exception is when I’m using a wire bite guide for toothy critters. Here is where I’ll use a two- or three-turn clinch knot, or use a small snap that I either tie on with a clinch knot or crimp on the end of the bite leader.

The double Turle knot is the third knot, one that I most frequently use for a fly to tippet knot. It’s named after a British major from the 1800’s, Major Turle. This is a wet-fly or soft-hackle knot for me. Again, it’s strong and easy to tie, connecting to the hook shank just behind the eye. It only works well with either an upturned eye or a down turned eye. Since it was developed when stiffer materials were used for tippet, tying the double Turle–rather than the single Turle–prevents today’s softer leader material from folding over on itself and ruining the knot. The hook shank connection with the tippet coming through the hook eye gives a straight pull on the fly, keeping wet flies and soft hackles fishing well. I’ll also use this knot when fishing classic, long-shank streamers on a swing.

So I use three knots: Improved clinch, non-slip mono loop, and double Turle. All easy, strong, and practical. The key with any knot you use is to tie it well. There are many other good knots out there too, so don’t sweat it.

Loop knots give a streamer more action in the water.

Mike Canady, Ellensburg Angler (Ellensburg, Washington):
My answer is pretty short and sweet: I use the Improved clinch knot 99 percent of the time, especially when trout fishing, I think the main reason I use it is that it has been a good knot for me, but mainly because this is the knot that I have used forever and it has just become habit to tie it. I am sure there are other great knots out there, but I have confidence in the improved clinch and can tie it pretty darn quick. As a guide, sometimes tying a knot fast and strong is important.

Rob Woodruff, Woodruff Guide Service (Quitman, Texas):
The majority of the time, I use an improved clinch knot because it works and I can tie it quickly and efficiently.

Capt. Chuck Hawkins, Hawkins Outfitters (Traverse City, Michigan):
I’m in Argentina, tying the non-slip mono loop every day. It’s a 100% knot that lets a fly move!

Kip Vieth, Wildwood Float Trips (Monticello, Minnesota):
I use a simple non-slip loop knot that Don Larmouth taught several of us guides here in the Midwest. I use it on all my smallmouth flies, musky, pike, and trout Steamers. For all other flies, I just tie a clinch knot.

Stefan Woodruff, Ellensburg Angler (Ellensburg, Washington):
When attaching the fly to the tippet, there are two knots I use, depending on the pattern and the kind of fishing I’m doing.

When attaching a small nymph or dry fly, I always use a standard clinch knot. With most trout-sized tippets (3X-6X), I will wrap 6 or 7 turns into my clinch and then bring the tag end back through. I don’t worry about adding the extra step to make it an “improved” clinch; the standard clinch saves time, and I haven’t noticed a huge difference in knot strength.

For attaching streamers, steelhead swing flies, or even larger stonefly nymphs, I will use a non-slip mono loop. It follows many of the same basic steps as the clinch, but the loop acts as a shock-absorber for hard grabs while also adding some extra movement to flies fished on a tight line.

There are a ton of options out there for the fly-to-tippet connection; try as many as you can and find one that you find easy and makes sense for the type of fishing you’re doing. Whatever knot you choose, practice makes perfect. Start with large-diameter monofilament or dacron backing, then work your way down to thin diameter flouro or nylon. Developing muscle memory will allow you to spend more time fishing and less time out of the water!

Winston Cundiff, All Water Guides (Austin, Texas):
I use 2 knots:
1. Clinch Knot: I use this knot when I’m throwing surface flies for bass and I want the popper/diver/whatever to maintain a straight-line retrieve. I want the full kerplunk when I strip, and I feel this knot helps with that.

2.Loop knot: Any time I’m throwing a streamer, I use a loop knot. I want the fly to twitch/jackknife after a long strip, and the loop allows the fly a little more freedom as it slows down to a stop. When I’m really on my “A” game, I like the fly to “jackknife” upstream, and the loop helps me get this deadly presentation.

13 thoughts on “Ask the Experts: What Knot Do You Use to Tie on a Fly?”

  1. Surprised at how many accomplished anglers are recommending the clinch or improved clinch. It is an inferior knot in just about every way. So many better options. Double Davy is easier, stronger, faster, has a smaller footprint, and wastes less tippet material.

    1. The Davy knot changed knots for me. I’ve thought myself differently versions for different applications. Love this knot because u can control leader waste.

    2. True, but what a lot of people leave out about the clinch is it can be untied by hand which makes fly changes super fast!

  2. My grandfather taught me a knot and I was hoping someone could help me identify this knot I’ll try to explain it. holding on to the gap of the hook run the tippet down through I allow in the fly to slide down the line. Step 2 holding the tag end in dominant handgrab the tag and with your other hand and make it backwards Loop. step 3 pull main line backup to sit just below said backwards Loop forming your main Loop behind the backwards Loop. Step 4 take tag end go underneath main line coming up through the backwards Loop wrapping Mainline and backwards Loop together twice step 5 moisten, cinch to just barely tight enough so it won’t slip apart step 6 reach up grab the fly slide down to the knot. Step 7 Press the tag end to the body of The Fly and flip the mainline loop from the bottom side of the fly going up over the entire fly and cinch tight so that you’re sliding Loop rests on the top of the fly eye (careful not to get any fur or material caught in the knot during tightening) with the knot on the underside of the eye trim tag end

  3. I have to say that I have fallen in love with the Double Davy knot. (DDK) When first introduced to it the angler said he had landed a 10 pound steelhead on the knot. I like the simple method so I tried it on a week long trout trip. Using a tippet ring, I tied the leader to the ring with an improved clinch knot. I tied the tippet to the ring with a DDK and then I tied the fly to the tippet with a DDK.
    When I used a dropper, it was tied to the tippet ring with a DDK as was the fly tied to leader with a DDK. I fished all week, caught a fair number of respectable trout. I changed tippets a lot but never changed the tippet ring. With two flies I was using four DDK at a time and did not have a single knot failure for the week. It is now my go to knot for all trout fishing. I do have to agree with the non-slip loop knot for streamers and large flies.

  4. Seems like I am always using 5-7X tippet and #14-22 flies. I learned the Orvis knot 20+ years ago and its all I have used since for the little stuff. I have found it is much less likely to burn 7x tippet when tightening knot than a clinch so it is consistently strong. I can make big loops when tying, which is great for cold hands or bad light, while still wasting almost no tippet. The knot can also be loosened by pulling on the tag end if needed. For some reason I have had breakoffs while bass fishing with the Orvis knot. Anything over 8lb mono and I use a Trilene knot or Non-slip loop.

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