Tying a nail knot in the field... [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Tying a nail knot in the field...

10-20-2003, 05:24 PM
First of all, I always put a large doll needle into my fly box to tie quick nail knots with. Why a needle? You can use the eye to thread the end of the nail knot across and pull the needle out to thread the tag through. Much easier than threading the tag through the loops. Anyway, in my saltwater box after a fulltime guiding year the needle was rusted up and staining my foam flybox so I tossed it. Wouldn't you know I needed it on my most recent charter!

I started to tie an albright but then realized the end of the flyline doubled over forms a very nice channel, like the gap between two fingers when held together.

After wrapping 6-8 wraps of butt, I simply slid the end of the nail knot through the gap between the two folded halves of the end of the fly line. The nail knot was ready to go, but no need for the double line so I then pulled the loose end out to end up single again through the nail knot ready to be tightened. Pull the fly line closer to the awaiting knot and voila! Pull both ends tight (opposite tightens opposite), trim tags and you're fishing.

It's really very easy to do and I don't even think I'll bother with a needle anymore!

Works for me.


10-21-2003, 07:55 AM

You can also take a piece of folded tippet to wrap on. You do it the same way you use your doll needle. Or is that what you just described?


10-21-2003, 08:27 AM
Good point! I like it, another option for sure.

What I meant in this case was just use the groove in the fly line folded over as a threading slot verses the sideways pull device of the needle or tippet trick.

You know that nail knot tool with it's channel to thread; similarly I used the space between the folded fly line as the channel and then once completed (before tightening) I un-folded the flyline, slid to desired location, then pulled the nail knot tight.

10-21-2003, 08:44 AM
I get it now.....

That's a great idea. :smokin:


10-21-2003, 03:12 PM
I've had really good luck lately using a Uni knot in place of a nail knot. The Uni-to-Uni is my replacement for a blood knot as it allows materials of widely different diameters to be joined in a very strong knot. It works great joining monofilament or fluorocarbon to gel-spun polyethylene lines. It's also easy to tie without my reading glasses ( a big plus on the water). The only kicker is that it might need to be adjusted a bit to get the tag end to lie parallel to the line/leader instead of jutting off at an angle.

Here's a link to the U2U knot: http://www.berkley-fishing.com/tips/tipdetail.cfm?TipsContentId=5&All='Yes

The company is not a sponsor, but the info is worthwhile.


The address posts as a hot link, and I'm not sure how to delete that function...

10-21-2003, 03:18 PM
Hi Keith -

Nice chatting with you in Denver recently.

Say, do you use the uni to uni using the fly line?

10-21-2003, 03:59 PM
Sorry I'm a little fuzzy. Did an early morning trip down the Canal to see if the chums were in-- the scouts are, but visibility (because of the floods) was about three inches-- that's a weird condition for saltwater.

Anyway-- I use a single uni knot (tied with 30-pound leader material) on the end of the fly line. If I'm after big fish, I tie a small overhand knot in the fly line and hit the joint with CA glue. I haven't had this fail yet, but I suppose at some point it will.

I tried to find you at the end of the show for a catch up, but you weren't in the booth the two times I walked by... I hope you had a good show. I know CND got exposure-- on the shuttle ride to the airport, three people were talking about the rods.


10-21-2003, 05:14 PM
"but then realized the end of the flyline doubled over forms a very nice channel, like the gap between two fingers when held together."

Yup, I've been doing it that way for quite some time, since I somehow always manage to forget my knot tying tool.

10-21-2003, 05:40 PM
I have had the nail knot fail a couple of times by pulling the coating off the flyline, so I no longer use it. Have you had that experience in saltwater with bigger fish?

10-21-2003, 08:42 PM
Hi Ted -

In SWFF the most common line is the clear or semi-clear intermediate and lines like the Rio, Airflo or Wulff are tough coatings bonded to the core. I've not had any such problems, but I do recall that while winter steelheading with sinktips made from shooting heads I've had the problem once or twice when snagged but never on a fish.

My first choice is a cement splice, which is so streamlined and the same diameter as the line itself. I've found the old nail knot to be a little stronger but neither have given way on a fish for me so far.

Curious, what method do you prefer instead?

10-21-2003, 09:09 PM
I have been using braide loops exclusively for steelhead and salmon fishing for a number of years. They have worked well for me. For larger lines, including many of the spey lines, I use the 50# braid for the loops. There is no danger off that failing with spey lines.

10-22-2003, 07:19 PM

For sink tips, I tie a nail knot over the doubled tip of the sink tip. Just make sure that the nail knot is very close to the loop before you pull it tight. And by using the loop as its own nail knot tool, it makes for a very fast, strong, efficient knot that will not slip because it will hang up and the small bulb the loop provides. Trey Combs showed this method to me some 11 years ago.

07-27-2004, 05:05 AM

To make a nail knot in the field, using a nail or a needle is definetely old-fashioned and difficult!

A much better option is to cut a 2-3cm (about one inch) piece from an Earwig (or cotton buds, whatever you call them), so it forms a small plastic tube.

Then simply tie the nail knot so that the tube is inside the knot, thread in the end of the leader and remove the tube and tighten.

It's very easy to tie this knot even with cold and shaking hands.

I put the plastic tubes in every pocket of my fly vest and wading jacket, so they are always available. So far the nail-knots have not failed once, even when fishing salmon or big pike. The ready-made loops however, have failed twice.

Samuli from Finland

07-27-2004, 05:16 AM
Samuli -

I don't think you read the post, or understood it in any case. I have used the "tube" method and it is much more difficult than what I am doing.

I am putting the tag end of the line thru the eye of the needle sideways after wrapping the loops, then just pulling the needle out to finish the nail knot.

This is SO much easier than threading the line thru the middle hole in a tube, pushing it all the way through the length of the knot, pulling out the tube, then tightening up the knot.

If you are thinking I am using a needle like the old "nail" method, I can understand why you think it's difficult. But that is not the case at all.

What I am doing is far easier and faster than a q-tip tube. I only need to place the tag into the needle eye, then pull the needle out and it does all the work. It takes about half of the time by the tube method and with much less difficulty.

But thanks for the suggestion just the same. I've tried them both but found the tube method may be much easier than the "old" nail method, but not nearly as easy as the side-eye method I am suggesting.

07-27-2004, 05:33 AM

You're right, it seems I misunderstood the way you are using the needle to make the knot. I stand corrected :smile: The problem with needles is that I always seem to lose the one I'm carrying, so having a cheap replacement (tubes) has served me well.

I suppose the next phase is to practice to make the nail knot without any tools, using the doubled flyline.

Thanks for the great tips!

07-27-2004, 05:52 AM
Thanks for the reply. I use foam flyboxes most of the time (except for the swingleaf wheatleys) and the needles are poked into the foam and always available. I prefer the double-ended (eyes on both ends) because there is no point on them. I tie a loop of 30# backing thru the other eye and it stays on a zinger.

You just gave me a great idea... why not just drill a hole across a small nylon tube fly tube? That way it's cheap, not sharp and pulls the line thru the wraps for you too. A combination of the two ideas.

07-28-2004, 04:45 PM
Juro, great idea on the doubled flyline to complete the nail knot.

I'm curious about the uni-knot connection of the butt section to the flyline. I suppose it works the same as the albright or blood knot - wraps digging into the flyline coating.

I have found that the blood knot on Rio clear intermediate lines does not hold. That is, the crimped flyline coating separates from the monofilament core. Thus, I now use an albright on this particular intermediate line with a light coating of Knot Sense to taper and smooth the knot.

As suggested, a blood knot on doubled flyline should conceivable work the same as an albright.

Good thread.


07-28-2004, 05:15 PM

The albright with a uni-knot tied with the tag end of the backing or leader that gets pulled up tight against the doubled fly line loop of the albright makes for an extremely secure connection. It is how I attach the backing to all my fly lines.

Also, a nail knot or uni-knot tied over double fly line end makes for a very secure line-leader connection. Just remember to place 2 turns of the knot under the fly line tag either in the middle of the knot or at the very end near the fly line's loop to make sure it won't slip. This works with any fly line.

07-29-2004, 07:22 AM

An albright with a lock (3-turn uni-knot) coated with Knot Sense is my standard flyline to butt section connection on my saltwater lines.

Thanks for the info on the blood or uni-knot on the doubled flyline with a two-turn lock on the tag end. Is this a more secure connection than the albright with a lock?


07-29-2004, 08:33 AM
I assume you guys are talking nail knot, not blood knot in the above - or are you actually tying a blood knot between flyline and butt?

I've never had to do it for braided core lines of any kind but mono core lines are a different story - I like a doubled nail with the butt passing thru the folded over line best.

My favorite of all is the epoxy splice but it's not something you do in the field.

07-29-2004, 12:21 PM
I meant nail not blood knot when referring to connect butt to flyline.

I have used the epoxy splice on trout size connections, but admit a twinge of concern on larger species; alhtough, Dave Whitlok uses it with confidence on his connections. This splice can only be used on multifilament cores, I believe.


07-29-2004, 12:35 PM
Thanks for the correction Jim, you're right that splice comment should have included "only for braided cores".

07-29-2004, 05:56 PM

The nail knot or uni-knot on the doubled fly line does not have 2 or 3 turns in front of the doubled line like with the albright knot. Instead, what you do is tie the nail or uni-knot on the doubled fly line and as you are tying the knot, make sure that 2 or 3 turns of the knot go over both line legs, then 2 or 3 turns go over only one of the line legs (not both of them), followed by having another 2 turns of the knot over both line legs. With the nail knot, you then insert the tag end of the mono, thread it through the knot loops, and pull it tight. With the uni-knot, all you need do is pull the knot tight.

It is very secure because the 2 or 3 turns that go only over one and not both line legs locks the knot in place and prevents it from sliding off the end of the line or pulling the coating off the end of the line. This is how Aiflow recommended a leader butt be tied to the old single filament kevlar core lines they made back in the mid-late 80's.

Personally, I find the albright with the 3 turn uni-knot lock is easier and faster to tie. Back when I used the modified nail or uni-knots (as per the instructions above) they were very secure and would be comparable to the albright with uni-knot lock. Some folks don't like the look of the albright knot though and that is why I mentioned the slightly more compact modified nail or uni-knots.

07-29-2004, 07:32 PM
Flytyer, thanks for the info on the uni/nail knot approach to a butt section on a doubled flyline. I'm so used to the albright with the lock, that tying a different knot, unless it is superior, will be my preferred approach.

New Question:Attaching LC13 or T14 to a running line, e.g. Rio Intermediate (.030 or .035) seamlessly, what approach do you recommend. What I have done is to use (per Bill Nash?) 50lb Guidebrod braid. He recommends about four inches per line, or a total of 8 inches with about an inch of overlap. Nail knot the overlap and the ends of the braid. It appears to be secure and somewhat smooth, but a more seamless method would be ideal. Any thoughts?



07-29-2004, 11:24 PM

I really like Gudebrod braided mono because it is stiffer than the other braided monos I've found on the market. I use it is either 35# or 50# for making loop on tips or line bellies. I either strip about 3"to4" of the line coating to expose the core, put a drop of super glue on the very tip of the core, slinking the core up inside the braided mono, double the mono-line core to form a loop of about 1/2" to 5/8", then nail knot the loop end to the line with 3 nail knots (the first one is place just in front of and tight against where the line coating ends) made with 10# mono (type of mono makes no difference). I then overwrap the loop from the first nail knot to the end of the line tag with flat waxed nylon or 3/0 Uni-thread. Cover the whole thing (including the loop) with Aquaseal or Loon SunCure to smooth it and stiffen the loop.

The other method I use at time is put a 4" to 5" piece of 20# or 25# maxima in the braided mono to stiffen it, loop this over the line end, then nail knot it to the line with 3 nail knots made with 10# mono. This also gets covered with flat waxed nylon or 3/0 Uni-thread to smooth it and tje whole thing including loop is likewise covered with Aquaseal or Loon SunCure.

If you are in a hurry, you can form the loop with the second method using the 20# mono in the braided mono and then use a piece of shrink tubing to cover the nail knots and smooth it out. The problem I've found with using shrink tubing is the line coating will crack and fail next to the shrink tubing after about 60 days of use. This is due to the heat needed to shrink the shrink tubing and the extra stiffness the shrink tubing imparts right where there is a lot of energy being transfered into the tip. The Aquaseal or SunCure coated loop will not have the line coating crack until the line is worn out.

07-30-2004, 06:09 AM
Jim -

If I understand correctly your question is not about making loops but seamless connections.

To make the best seamless connections at least one of the two sides should have a braided core. You mentioned t-14 and clear int running. I am not certain if t-14 has a braided core but you can sure find many running lines with it. (I have a bunch and will check)

Another option is to use about a 6" joiner section that has a braided core to pull both the clear int and t14 into from either side.

Then just follow the standard pin vise splicing methods for seamless splicing.


07-30-2004, 09:04 AM
Flytyer, thanks for the info on tip and belly loops. Of particular interest was the use of three and not two nail knots for the tips, and covering them with flat-waxed or uni-thread. Coating the entire loop/braid with Aquaseal or Knot Sense is a terrific idea for smoothness. In the past I have only coated the nail knots.

Juro, the only way I know to connect LC-13/T-14 to a monocore running line is with Gudebrod #50 braid. I have some multifilament running lines, but they are floaters, and I want to use intermediate to get maximum depth with the heads.

Thanks again guys for the input.


08-13-2004, 06:34 PM
for T-14. You can make a nice loop for the end of T-14 with braided mono.

10-13-2004, 05:38 PM
Check this tool out. I keep it on my lanyard. It makes tying nail knots a piece of cake.


01-13-2005, 10:42 AM
ON the water i discovered i had left my nail not tool at home....boo....

after a moment of thinking i simply used my index finger and thumb pressed together(similar to the shape your hand takes when you signal to a waiter that you are ready for your check) With my fingers held in this fashion I pinched the section of fly line i wanted to tie onto. I then wrapped the mono around my fingers 5 or 6 times then pinched the tag with my thumb and forefinger thus pulling the tag back under/through the wraps made around my thumb. After tightening carefully you get a nail knot. I also use this knot doubled on itself to tie flies to the leader(its a much better knot than an improved clinch)
sorry if it didnt make sense its one of those knots you have to see done for it to make sense i think.

sidenote is that unless you practice this a bunch an albright will be easier