By Louis Cahill
There are a couple of easy ways to attach a leader to a fly line, but which is best?
I know the method I like, but there are pluses and minuses to each. In the end, the best method is the one that works best for you and the way you fish. I’ll go over the three most common ways to attach a leader to a fly line and you can decide which one is for you.
The Nail Knot
The venerable Nail Knot has been attaching fly lines to leaders for as long as there have been fly lines and leaders to attach. If you have been fly fishing for a long time, it’s probably how you learned to doit. It is, for the record, my least favorite and I have not used it for years. Still, it does have its advantages.
The Nail Knot uses friction to hold the leader to the fly line. It’s fairly simple to tie, though some kind of tool helps. You can use a nail or small tube, a Nail Knot tool of course, and I have always used hemostats.
The upside of this knot is that it is the easiest to bring through your guides, especially if you coat it with a little UV resin. That I suppose, is helpful if you are a euro-nympher. I personally have not felt the need to bring my leader into my guides since sometime in the 1980s. It’s just a good way to break off fish, in my opinion. If you like to do it, the Nail Knot may be a good choice.
The downside of the Nail Knot is that it’s the weakest connection you can use. That’s a pretty big drawback, for me. It’s not that there is anything wrong with the knot, but it only holds your leader to the coating of the fly line, which is the weakest part of the line. What commonly happens is that the Nail Knot strips the coating off of the line rather than the knot failing. The connection is fine for general trout fishing. It’s far stronger than your 5X tippet but I wouldn’t trust it for streamer fishing and never for saltwater.
Loop To Loop
Most fly lines these days come with a loop at the end for attaching the leader. Although I generally cut these off and whip my own loop, this is the connection I most often use. It’s convenient and very strong. I change my leaders like I change my socks, so it works for me. There are a couple of things to keep in mind for a good Loop To Loop connection. The welded loops are pretty good, but for saltwater fishing I always whip my own, for strength. You also need to make the connection properly. See the video below. There are several choices for the loop knot you use on the leader. Choose wisely.
The upside of the Loop To Loop connection is that it is both very strong and very easy to change. When it comes to leaders, there are two things I strongly believe. Use a fresh leader. Why take a chance? Use the right leader for the job. I change my leader often for the type of fishing I’m doing or for the conditions.
The downside, not much in my opinion. The Loop To Loop doesn’t pass through the guides as well as the Nail Knot. That’s true. Someone has probably already skipped to the comments section and written that the Loop To Loop creates a hinge point. That is a myth. Once synched it is a very stable connection. Leaders with too fine a butt section cause hinge points, not Loop To Loop connections. If you don’t believe me, test it for yourself.
Here’s a great video on how to properly make a loop to loop connection.
The Albright Knot
The Albright Knot is a great choice for any application. It has the slim profile of the Nail Knot and, when tied properly, the strength of the Loop To Loop. Hit it with a little UV resin and it will pass through the guides easily and it’s strong enough to hold a tarpon.
Upside, as I said, slim profile and very strong. In addition to attaching leaders to fly lines the Albright Knot works well for attaching lots of lines which are different in size or material. It’s a good knot to know.
Downsides are simple. It’s harder to change leaders, and eats up a little fly line each time. The work around is to Albright a piece of heavy leader material to your line, then tie a loop in it to connect the leader. Of course, then you are using a Loop To Loop, aren’t you? The other downside is that it’s a slightly challenging knot to tie. If you screw it up, and plenty of folks do, it will fail. I would still encourage you to learn and use this great knot. Just take your time and test the knot thoroughly.
So there are the three most common methods for attaching a fly line and leader. I’d encourage you to learn and use all three. There have been plenty of days, yesterday in fact, when I have been forced to repair a connection on the water and chosen a different method. Yesterday I damaged the tip of a fly line, cut it off and used an Albright Knot where there had been a loop. It always pays to have a plan B.
If you have another method you like tell us about it in the comments!Louis Cahill Gink & Gasoline www.ginkandgasoline.com firstname.lastname@example.org Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!