Fly Fisherman Fighting Fish

Feeling Knotty by David Perry

Last month, we discussed fishing multiple nymphs. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to try it, kept the spacing of those nymphs correct and had some success. One thing that I have experimented with for some time is the correct knot to use as well as the most efficient way to tie the knot. All of this is important, but the most crucial rule of knot-tying is simple. There are no fish caught while the knot is in the process of being tied. So tying an efficient knot three times, on one line, in a short period, becomes critical.

There are as many knots as there variations of the Copper John and the correct knot for one angler may not be the best for another. The fish, however, really don’t care which knot is used. Their hope is the angler’s knot unravels and they get to swim away to fight another day.  Doing your best to make sure the fish swims away, only after the hero shot, is of the utmost importance.

There are many, many knots that will work, but the two knots I like to use are a simple overhand knot and the Trilene Knot.  Let’s start at the top fly. After attaching the leader to the fly line correctly and the tippet is tied to the leader, it is time to tie that first fly to the tippet. The first fly is the fly closest to the surface. I thread the first fly onto the tippet and leave a long tag-end of about two feet. At this point, I tie an overhand knot into the line. Do not tie any part of the knot onto the eye of the hook; tie the overhand knot below the top fly.  If the eye of the top fly has a large eye, tie a double overhand knot.  It is that simple. The eye on the hook of the top fly will actually slide up the tippet, but cannot slide down the tippet and past the overhand knot.  When fishing three flies, you can also attach the middle fly to the tippet in the same fashion.  Now we have the top fly or top two flies attached and we are ready for the bottom fly.

For me, the bottom fly is normally the fly that sees the most action throughout the day. I have experimented with colors, sizes and shapes, but day-in, day-out on the river, the bottom fly will usually produce more fish.  Like I stated earlier, there are multiple knots that an angler can use to attach a fly. The knot I like to use for the last fly on the nymph rig is a Trilene knot. This knot can be used for each fly on the rig, however remember time in the water is the concern. 

I started tying the Trilene Knot while I was living in Knoxville in the late 1990’s. I had tried the theory of “tie a lot of knots if you can’t tie a good one” and that just wasn’t working. I tried several different knots along the way, some worked well and some did not, but my goal was to tie a strong knot that was easy to tie in low light. I found the Trilene knot on the back of a fishing line box and tied it for about two straight hours in my garage one night. I’ve been using it ever since and can tie it on hooks as large as a #2 and as small as a #26. 

The one thing that has saved time and helped to produce many hero shots is that we use the same piece of tippet for all three flies and all three flies are attached in a direct line with the other flies. Generally, these flies will track in a straight line in the water column and can catch fish that hang at different depths. In essence cover more water at different depths, while searching for the fish.  Next month we will talk about fly size, color and Dr. Seuss.

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