My flies keep breaking off!! What’s up with my knot??

There are many knots to use to tie on a fly and most of them work just fine But sometimes anglers suffer from the fly coming off with only very little pressure being applied, resulting in the loss of a perfectly good fly, the loss of a fish and/or a great deal of frustration. The most common knots used for tying on the fly are the clinch knot and the improved clinch knot, they are essentially the same knot (with one minor variation) and are also known as the fisherman’s knot but if the knot is not formed and tightened correctly, it will surely fail. I recall a day in the 1980’s when the fish were rising like mad. I was using an improved clinch knot and I proceeded to hook and loose 21 fish in a row (obviously I lost 21 flies as well). Each fish took my fly and when I set the hook, it simply came untied leaving a ‘pig tail’ at the end of the leader. I thought I had bad tippet but when I changed to a brand new spool that I had in my vest, I continued losing flies and fish until I had no more flies and I don’t ever remember being more frustrated on the water. It turned out that I was not tightening the knot correctly… Now, I really like the clinch knot because it is very quick and easy to tie and it is very reliable. Provided the knot is formed and tightened correctly, one should never experience failure.

knotMost fishermen know this knot and tie it correctly but the problem occurs (as it did with me), when the knot is tightened, this is the critical part. The clinch knot is properly formed by passing the line through the eye of the fly and then wrapping the tag end around the standing end 5-7 times, before passing the tag end back through the loop of the line at the base of the twisted section (which is at the eye of the hook). A diagram may be helpful here but I am going to operate on the assumption that most fishermen know this knot up to this point. Tightening the knot properly is the critical part and it is where many people get into trouble. To properly tighten the clinch knot, after the knot is formed, hold the ‘HOOK’ in one hand and the ‘MAIN LINE’ in the other. Simply moisten the knot for lubrication and tighten down the knot. If you hold the ‘tag end’ of the leader in one hand and the ‘main line’ in the other hand while tightening it, it will fail!!

Some anglers prefer the improved clinch knot, which adds a step. After the knot is formed and the tag end has been passed through the loop, the tag end is then passed through a second loop, which was formed when bringing the tag end down to the first loop. I use the clinch knot but never use the improved clinch! It adds a step and my knots aren’t failing. I use it on trout, salmon, bonefish, permit, tarpon and more. The proof is always in the pudding. If you are using a knot that you like, and it is knot failing, keep using it. But if your clinch knots are failing, try tightening them this way.

Eddie Robinson