Learning A Good Fly Fishing Knot

Back in the day when I was about 9 years old and deemed old enough by “Mom” to go fishing alone, it was all I wanted to do – and all I did after chores were done. We lived about a quarter-mile from a river that was stocked for the trout season and had its share of typical river species as well. Unfortunately, my dad was always working in the family business to make ends meet for us, so it was just me and my meager gear.

I’m newer to Instagram (less than 6 months now) and was attracted there to feed my fly tying and fly fishing passion. As a 9-year-old boy and until my early fifties, it was all about spincast fishing with ultra-light gear and some dabbling into baitcasting for big bass. Instagram opened a world of inspiration for me for fly tying and fly fishing. But what I find most striking as I view all the images, are the ones that are posted of a man and his young son or daughter fly fishing together.

What’s better to a lifelong angler than to see another take their child under their wing to teach them and inspire them?

I understand that not all of our kids will be anglers, but they won’t know if they would want to be or not without the experience of their “first fish”. Of my two sons, one never took to fishing. My other son will fish, but he prefers hunting hands-down and is good at that.

Now back to that river I grew up on. Easily 45 years ago, I was bank fishing because hip waders were not an option at my young age (Moms are brilliant creatures). When I arrived at my favorite spot, there was a man in his 70’s I’d guess, wading in the river (it was evident that he was “allowed” to wear hip waders). I watched in awe as he took tiny minnows from a galvanized bait container he had hanging on a strap from his shoulder and was catching brown trout, repeatedly. “This man” I thought, “knows his stuff!” I mostly just watched him hoping I’d learn something I could try on my own one day and I sure didn’t want to bother him asking about his tactics. I’d never seen the man before that day and never saw him again after that day.

I was at the river to fish, so I needed to get busy and stop watching this man. I baited up and began to fish. What transpired for me was wasting bait for 30 minutes or so until I hung up on something on the bottom of the river. The man saw me tugging and tugging until my line finally snapped. He was watching me now! Not a heartbeat in time after my line broke, the man immediately asked me if I needed a hook. I thanked him and told him I had some with me. Then he asked, “Do you know a good knot son?” My response was, “Probably not as good of a knot as you know!” (The epitome of honesty.) After my response, he motioned to me to wait where I was. He then walked out of the water and over the footbridge to come over to me. I grabbed a hook from my tackle box to be ready and not eat up much of this man’s valuable fishing time even though I was catching nothing while he was crushing them.

Hook in hand, and a cleanly clipped butt-end of my line ready for a hook, I waited. The man greeted me with a smile and said, “Let me show you a good knot.” He taught me to tie a “clinch knot“. We went over the knot a bunch of times until he was “absolutely sure” I knew how to tie it myself! After he was sure I was all set, we parted ways with me having learned one of the best fishing lessons of my life.

Ever since that day, for over 45 years now, that knot has landed me thousands of fish. At that same river years later (this time “I” was wearing hip waders) I caught my personal best brown trout with 4 lb. test and a hook tied to it using a clinch knot! I only wished I could tell “the man!” One never knows just how far in life a seemingly simple gesture will go – even as simple as teaching a young boy how to tie a good fishing knot.

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Tight lines and tight bobbins! – Freddy

Do you need help tying knots? Check out our knot tying tool selection here or grab RIO’s Favorite Fly Knots DVD video here.

Written by Freddy Block

I’m a God fearing family man first, all else follows… Avid fly tier and fisherman (multi-species), hunting, photography, hiking, birding (about anything outdoors), and woodworking. I’m always wanting to learn more and get better at the things I’m passionate about while inspiring others and finding inspiration from others. Click here to follow me on Instagram

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6 thoughts on “Learning A Good Fly Fishing Knot

  1. I learned the Improved Clinch Knot (ICK) — simply a Clinch Knot with the tag ending going through the big loop you’ve created — when I first started fishing, from a nice booklet DuPont put out with their Stren monofilament. It has served me well for a lifetime. And, I recall DuPont saying that the ICK has something like >90% of the break strength of the line you are using, from extensive load testing.

    1. Hi John –

      I rarely use the ICK but did last weekend because I felt I needed a little extra “safety”. I truly do not know why I never tie the improved but it might simply be because of all my years on the water and the success with the knot I learned from “the man’!

      Thanks for sharing that!

      All the best – Freddy

  2. The clinch knot it one of the only knots I know how to tie and it has never let me down. I remember as a young kid learning how to tie it.

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