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Fly Fishing Knots – Leader to Tippet

Published: 19th March 2020 | Author: Sean Platt

In the last installment of this series, we covered fly to tippet connections ( Today I want to discuss the best knots to use when our leaders run out of tippet material. At one point or another each of us has been in this situation, or if you’re like me attaching tippet material is the first thing you do when unpacking a fresh leader. The following three knots each have their strengths and weaknesses and require practice and patience to master.

There are a few general considerations to keep in mind for attaching tippet material to your leader. The first being size – a simple guideline to use when attaching two different size materials is to keep it within 2x i.e. 6x-4x, 3x-5x. 2x should be the maximum difference between materials, that’s not to say you can’t go bigger, but ideally, we should only be stepping down 1x. The second consideration is speed, there is nothing worse than being on the water during the witching hour and having, be it an accident or lack of attention, to suddenly add material while fish are erupting around you and daylight is fleeting. Probably not the best time to be messing with a new knot or worse have no idea what to do. The final consideration I want to touch on and by no means, the last is what are you asking of the knot? Is it just a straight tippet connection? Are you hoping to leave a tag end longer for a dropper? Or like we mentioned earlier do you just need something fast and efficient? 

Triple Surgeons Knot

This knot is by far the most widely used knot of the three, at least that I have encountered in my time Fly Fishing and with good reason, it is simple to tie, strong and with a few hacks can become second nature. If you just need to attach material to your leader, especially if speed is a consideration, this is the knot to go with. That said it does have some downfalls, the primary one being that the tag ends don’t come off at a 90-degree angle, which for attaching a dropper or creating a euro setup is, in my opinion, a must-have in order to minimize tangled flies. Another aspect of this knot that can be a hindrance, as with all knots, is not seating it properly. The best way to avoid this is to first apply tightening pressure slowly and evenly and secondly as with all knots be sure to lubricate before cinching down. With a little practice and vigilance, this simple knot will surely become one of your go-to tippet connections on the water.

Blood Knot

The first time I ever tried to tie a blood knot I almost fainted, well not really, but almost. Initially this may be one of the toughest knots to become competent with, but once learned it is a phenomenal tool to have in your kit. Full disclosure, I use this knot more than any other tippet-leader connection. It’s kind of like the bar chord of knots, it sucks to learn, but once you get it the sky is the limit. I prefer this knot for three reasons. Firstly it is super clean and you can immediately tell when you have seated it correctly. Secondly the tag ends set off at a 90 degree angle which is ideal for droppers, euro rigs and double streamer setups. Thirdly, you will catch more fish with this knot because as we all know trout appreciate the extra care given and will more readily eat your fly… ok so that’s total BS but the first two are solid reasons to consider adding this knot to your quiver. Just be patient and practice and you’ll have it in no time.

Orvis Tippet Knot

This is typically a lesser-known knot compared to the previous two but has a very special place in technical angling and when added can definitely decrease time rigging and increase your flies’ time in the water. The two areas in fishing that this knot prevails are euro nymphing and loch style fishing, although anytime you want to fish two or more flies it is certainly worth considering this knot. The beauty of this knot is its ability to quickly add material to your leader especially when you have a point fly already rigged. This knot allows you to pass that bottom fly through with a bit more ease than a triple surgeon, so whether your dropper material has run out or a lake monster has snapped your tag clean, this knot is a great way to quickly add another bit of material to the system. In order to achieve that 90 tag end that we have mentioned a simple half hitch can be thrown in.

I hope this has been informative and given you a few things to practice for your next outing. As I always say, take this advice with a grain of salt and get out there on the water to find out what works best for you. Thanks for reading, see you on the water soon.

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