One very important part of fly fishing is making sure that you use the right knots for the right situations. The worst thing that can possibly happen, particularly when you are a beginner (and aside from hooking yourself in the eye when trying to cast), is losing a fish due to a poorly tied knot. In this article, we explain some of the knots that you really need to know about, what they should be used for, and how to tie them.
- The Arbor knot
If you buy your backing and your reel separately, you definitely need to know about this knot. It is incredibly important for connecting the backing to the reel in a secure manner, and fairly easy to perform. It’s usually easiest to start by attaching the reel to the reel seat of the rod, then taking the end of the backing and passing it through the line guide closest to the handle of the rod. Next, tie a regular overhand knot at the end of the backing and tighten it. Pass the knotted end between the reel foot and the arbor, wrap it around the arbor and bring it back out so that it’s in line with the rest of the backing. Tie a second overhand knot at the end of the backing, but this time tie it around the standing part of the backing. Pull (carefully) on the standing backing to tighten the two knots and bring them close in against the arbor, making sure to keep hold of the reel at the same time. Trim the tag end of the backing close to the second knot, and wind the backing onto your reel.
- The Albright knot
This knot is best used for connecting the backing to the fly line. Firstly, you will need to unwind about three feet of fly line from its spool. The line should be marked “this end to reel”, make sure that is the end you are unwinding from. Make a 2-3 inch loop at the end of the line, holding both ends, and from the right insert about ten inches of backing through the loop. Pinch the backing with the same fingers you are using to hold the loop, and use your other hand to wrap the end of the backing around the line loop and backing combination, several times. Start next to your fingers and work out towards the end of the loop, aiming for ten to twelve tight wraps.
When you’re done with the wraps, push the end of the backing back through the loop you made, on the same side that it originally came out. Pull on the fly line and the backing, then pull gently on both ends of the fly line loop you have made. This will allow a loopy knot to form, and you can push it down towards the fly line loop end, but don’t let it go over the end. Holding both ends of the fly line and both ends of the backing, pull the knot as tight as possible. Clip the end of both the fly line and the backing. Congratulations, you can now wind the line over the backing and onto the reel!
This knot can also be used for connecting the line to the leader, although you may wish to investigate using a “nail knot” as it provides a smoother finish. That said, it is more complicated than the method described above, and the Albright knot is perfectly fine to use for a line to leader connection.
Although your knots may not be perfect when you are starting out, there are a couple of things you can do to make them stronger and also easier to tie. Try moistening all knots before tightening them, and when you do tighten, make sure you do it slowly. Test the strength of every knot by pulling hard on it – better that you find out it’s weak and re-tie it before you lose the fish of your dreams!
If you would like to see a fly fishing reel set up in its entirety, please watch this video: