Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Photo Rainbow Trout Photo Utah Tiger Trout
Photo Utah Rainbow Trout
Photo Strawberry Cut Throat Trout

As a gregarious, novice fisherman, I used to seek out "experienced" fishermen and ask for advice and tips. I learned early that others experience and advice was a much faster way of learning than learning the "ropes" on my own. This is how I learned to catch more fish fly fishing, by following some simple techniques learned from others who gave me the same guarantee.

I met one old timer on a small stream. He was quite old and grizzled, but I said "Hi" and he was quite friendly. Armed with an old bamboo fly rod and automatic fly reel, he had a creel full of nice trout where I had caught nothing. So I said, "What's the secret to fly fishing?" His answer surprised me, he said; "Well, before you do anything else, tie good knots."

Frankly, I thought his answer was kind of stupid. I used an improved clinch knot and thought that would suffice for just about all fishing. But, shortly after meeting the old man, I lost a nice fish, careful inspection showed me that the knot had come undone and I lost both the fish and fly! I began to think more carefully about the old man's advice.

With trial and testing I began a lifelong study of knots. I used up a good deal of line carefully tying two knots to a swivel and pulling to test which one would break first. I would also experiment in the field to see which worked best. From all this testing, I developed a few simple knots and rules which have served me exceptionally well.


Wherever possible, double the line through they eye of the hook.

My recommended knot for most line end situations is a Palomar Knot aka Duncan loop.

The Palomar is quick, easy to tie, exceptionally strong and complies with knot rule #1.

I even use the Palomar for rigging two flies on the same line - I simply leave a 12" or longer tag end after the knot to tie on another (bottom) fly and I use the Palomar to tie on the bottom fly as well.

The double improved clinch knot (DICK) will be slightly stronger, however the Palomar is so much easier to tie, I just don't use the DICK.

The only exception to this rule is when the eye of your fly is too small to accept a double loop of leader. When this happens, I use a improved clinch knot.


Spit and Polish

Use saliva to lubricate your knot as you carefully tighten the knot. This step is critical: watch carefully as you tighten to make sure it snugs up correctly. Often, your loop catches over the shaft of the fly rather than the line itself and will be significantly weaker than a correctly tied Palomar.


Inspect often

Carefully inspect your knot (and fly) regularly especially after catching a fish or a troublesome snag. Years ago, While fishing a remote mountain lake, the Cutthroat Trout were hitting my fly on nearly every cast but I kept losing the fish. They would hit, stay on for a few moments and then get off. It was very frustrating. Finally I inspected the fly and the point of the hook had broken off! All I had was the bend of the hook terminating in a dull stump. "Old Stumpy" would get the fish to rise but would not get them landed and he taught me a valuable lesson about inspecting your fly and knots.

For tying leader to fly line I use two Surgeons Loops as I find the loops slip through the guides more easily than a knot. Occasionally however, I will use a Nail Knot in the same situation. For most of my loops, when needed I use the Surgeons Loop which is basically a doubled Palomar knot. To tie tippet to leader I use Surgeons Knot - not to be confused with the Surgeons Loop

Practice the knots you intend to use. You could even start with a piece of rope or other cordage till you get the feel for them. Then practice on lengths of your fishing line or tippet until you can just about tie them blindfolded.

I have learned to use only two or three simple knots. I tie them carefully and consistently and I seldom loose fish because of knot breakage. If you are not following the knot rules, I suggest you try them and I guarantee that you will catch more fish. Remember the old man's advice"
"Before you do anything else, tie good knots."


F. Fleigenbinder

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