Published Apr 25. 2007 - 9 years ago
Updated or edited Jun 5. 2016

Leader knots

The best knots to use for your knotted, tapered fly fishing leaders.

Leader Knots

(For complete tying instructions for the following knots, refer to any quality fly fishing book. These are standard fly fishing knots and are illustrated and discussed in most quality fly fishing books.)
According to extensive research done by Jim Vincent of RIO, the blood knot and the triple surgeon's knot prove the strongest knots to use when combining leader material. He recommends using the blood knot for tippet diameters greater than .007"/0.178 (4X) and the triple surgeon's knot for tippet sizes less than .007"/0.178 (4X).

I tie a 3/3 blood knot on my leader butt material, a 4/4 blood knot on my taper material and a combination
of a 5/5 blood knot and a surgeon's knot for my tippet sections. For bass, steelhead and salmon leaders, I tie all blood knots.

(a 3/3 blood knot means there are 3 twists of leader material on either side of the knot and so on…)

Discussions of the Perfection Loop
There is some rhetorical concern that the perfection loop affects casting energy transmission. My personal feelings are that it may if the connecting loops are quite large, allowing for plenty of "slop" in the connection. I try to keep my perfection loops as small as possible.

Surgeon's knot
This is a quick and easy knot to tie. A double surgeon knot is ample for most tippet to taper connections, however a triple-surgeon's knot adds an extra insurance against slippage.

Blood knot
This is the standard knot used to connect butt to taper and taper to tippet in all leader construction. It is a cumbersome knot to tie manually at first, but after only a few leaders, you see how easy the blood knot is to tie.

Discussions of the Blood Knot
There are two schools of thought regarding the tightening of blood knots: A quick-draw or a slow-draw. In either method, thoroughly wet the area with saliva or mineral oil. Grasp both ends of the leader connection and pull them in opposite directions. You might hear a small "frog chirp" indicating the knot has tightened. If you hear the "chirp", you didn't lubricate the knot connection well enough. The controversy of the blood knot revolves around the element heat caused by friction during tightening. Is more friction developed with a quick-draw or a slow-draw? Heat from friction weakens leader material. The debate remains, it's your call.

Wind knots
Reduces line strength by an estimated 50%. We all get them, especially when fishing long, wispy dry fly leaders!

A Handy Tip: Pick up a copy of Orvis' "Waterproof Vest Pocket Knot Booklet" by Doug Truax. It not only has clear diagrams of tying over 10 basic fly fishing knots, but it also contains tips on tippet selection/care, a hook size chart and some basic leader formulas. (the formulas are included in LeaderCalc )

Knotless leaders
They offer one major advantage over hand-tied leaders: no knots! If you are fishing a weedy lake or cress-filled spring creek, a knot with the slightest of tags will catch anything, and I mean anything floating in the water, including the leader itself. But there is a way to minimize the pesky effect of knots. A little drop of clear acrylic fingernail polish or head cement, layered on
a couple of times forms a nice smooth finish the shape of a football over the knot. Climax offers a similar product specifically formulated for tying leaders. It is offered as part of their leader kits.

Final Notes on Knots
The knots in a leader, according to Ritz, reinforce the rigidity of a leader which assures greater precision in presenting the fly. "Suppleness is only necessary in the point, where a length of 20 inches is, in my opinion, the ideal compromise", writes Ritz.


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