The simplicity of fly-fishing is what draws many folks to the sport. The rub is that certain aspects of fly-fishing aren’t all that simple. If you’re not particularly talented at tying knots, you may find yourself throwing your hands in the air and wishing you’d just bought golf clubs instead. Well, don’t get in too much of a dither. Here’s a list of 10 knots every fly fisher needs to know, and once you master them, the hard part will be over and done.

1. Albright Knot

This line is used to attach the backing to the fly line and the whole works to the reel. It’s more or less the first step in getting your fly reel set up.

  • Double back a few inches of fly line, forming a loop.
  • Insert about 10 inches of backing through the loop.
  • Wrap the backing around both lines of the fly line about 10 times.
  • Run the end of the line through the loop.
  • Pull tight and trim off the excess.

2. Double Surgeon’s Knot

This knot is used to attach the leader to the tippet and works well when you need some extra assurance everything will hold together.

  • Place leader and tippet side by side, overlapping about five inches.
  • Create a loop, passing the tag line through it twice.
  • Pull both strands tight.

3. Arbor Knot

Arbor Knot

Image credits: Hiroshi15 via Instructables

The arbor knot works well with monofilament line and is pretty easy to get the hang of for beginners when attaching the backing to the line.

  • Run line around reel arbor.
  • Tie an overhand knot around the line, then tie a second overhand knot.
  • Pull tight and trim excess.

4. Non-Slip Loop Knot

This knot gives a fly better action when floating on the water. It works best when you require extra zip to attract fish.

  • Tie an overhand knot in the leader line, keeping the slack loose.
  • Pull the tag end through the hook eye.
  • Run the tag end through the loop going overhand of the loose knot line, then under the base of the loop.
  • Wrap the end around the line five times and run through the loop.
  • Pull tight and trim the tag end.

5. Double Uni Knot

Double Uni Knot

Image credits: Hiroshi15 via Instructables

This knot is handy because it can be used for just about every application and can be counted on not to jam up the works in your reel or rod.

  • Overlap two lines or a line and leader.
  • Double back an overhand loop four or five times, tucking the tag end on the inside of the last twist.
  • Repeat with second-line or leader.
  • Pull both ends towards each other and trim ends.

6. Davy Knot

This knot is used to attach the line to the fly and is quite sturdy when properly executed. Just make sure to get it good and tight.

  • Pass line through the hook eye.
  • Tie a square knot.
  • Double the end through the square knot.
  • Pull darn tight.

7. Jack’s Knot

The Jack’s knot is used to attach the line to the fly. It’s fancier than a Davy knot, but stronger and less liable to unravel.

  • Run line through the hook eye.
  • Form loop and run end across the line. Utilizing a thumb and forefinger to hold in place.
  • Wrap once around the line and run the tag end through the loop.
  • Pull on end to tighten and trim excess, if needed.

8. Riffle Hitch

This knot allows you to put some leverage on the fly to make it dance a bit in riffles. It’s best used when you have some experience.

  • Attach the fly with a Davy Knot.
  • Form a loop in the line.
  • Push the fly through and tighten the loop around the fly body.
  • Form a second loop and repeat.
  • Pull tight around the body again.

9. Surgeon’s End Loop

This knot allows for some play in whatever you choose to attach to the loop. It is simple and has a lot of utility.

  • Double the line.
  • Form a loop with both lines, making two passes on the inside with the loop head sticking out.
  • Pull tight and trim excess.

10. Improved Clinch Knot

Improved Clinch Knot

Image credits: Hiroshi15 via Instructables

This knot is used to attach the line to the fly and closely resembles a hangman’s knot but holds tighter in most applications.

  • Run line through the hook eye.
  • Wrap end around line four or five times.
  • Run end through loop formed by hook eye.
  • Run end under return loop.
  • Pull darn tight and cut the excess.

A final Thought

Whether you’re tying knots out in the field or sitting at your kitchen table, there are a few things you can do to make life easier. First, wet down the lines a bit to make them grab and stick better. A little lubrication goes a long way. Next, keep in mind that there is only one right way to tie fishing tackle together, and that’s the way that works for you. If your knots aren’t especially pretty, but they hold and pass through the reel and eyes, then that’s good enough. The noble square knot doesn’t get nearly enough respect in this world. Any fool can tie it, and it’s the default choice to really trust in a pinch.