Knot-tying training: Now’s the time

It’s a myth that fly-fishing is difficult, and I’m living proof of that. I catch plenty of fish, mostly trout, each year and have since I first wielded a fly rod about 30 years ago. Sure, most of the trout I tempt are probably what would be described as the “easy” ones, but I’ve picked up my share of tougher fish in high-pressure fishing spots as well.

Too, it’s not an expensive sport, or at least it doesn’t have to be. These days there are plenty of well-made rods for the budget conscious angler. Your reel needs to be little more than a line holder, you can forego the high-priced chest waders in favor of hip boots, and you’re pretty much ready to go.

For me, the real hurdle that kept me from getting into the fly-fishing game was my knot-tying abilities. I’ve always been clumsy working with small lines and hooks, and that was when I was young and well before I went half blind. A magnifier has helped as I’ve grown older, but even today I sometimes feel like I’m wearing boxing gloves when tying on a size 16 Adams. And a line-to-leader nail knot usually causes me to break out into a full sweat. I have similar problems at the tying table, although my whip finish is something to be admired, at least by me. Go figure.

That’s why I spend a fair amount of time on the couch during the winter with fly lines, leaders, tippets and flies in my hands, working on my knot tying to bring it to an acceptable level heading into the season. Trust me, you don’t want to be struggling with a Duncan Loop or other knot when there’s a 16-inch brown casually rising in front of you, well within casting distance. Nothing good can come from that. You either can’t get the knot tied or you settle for something less than ideal and the knot slips after you make a perfect cast and stick the trout. Trust me on that one, too.

You really don’t have to have a laundry list of knots in your arsenal. An arbor knot to link fly line to reel; a nail knot or blood knot for the line to leader connection; a surgeon’s loop (I’ve always handled that one for some reason) to the leader to tippet connection; and a couple options for tying the fly to the tippet, depending on what size fly you’re using.

One other piece of advice I’ll dole out is to get one of those knot-tying tools, the kind that looks like it would never help you but, with a little practice, becomes indispensable, particularly when you’re watching rising trout and need to tie on a new leader. Sure, some fly lines have loops for easy connections, but as you progress you’ll actually want to use a knot link, especially when you’re fishing tough trout.

There are countless websites online to assist you in your knot-tying efforts, and now is the time to up your game heading into another fishing season. Do it now and you won’t break a sweat and come unglued when you need to get a fly in front of a rising trout. Your knot won’t slip, either.

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