Fifty Tips Tips/Tactics

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #8 — Use the Davy Knot — Here’s why

on
September 17, 2017
I hesitate to include the Davy Knot as a tip in this series. There are a bunch of good fishing knots out there. They all work. Everyone has their favorite, and no one wants to be told what to do.

So I won’t tell you to change to the Davy Knot. I’ll just show you why I use it and why I switched to the Davy after I first saw it tied.

I use the Davy Knot because it’s super quick to tie, it wastes no material, and it has a small profile that allows for more movement of the fly.

THE QUICKNESS

I’ve been through this efficiency point before, and I think it’s an important one. If something takes too much time, anglers avoid it. We are poor analysts of cost vs benefit on the stream. We just want to fish, and if we know that tying a couple knots leads to more minutes away from casting and fishing, we won’t do it. That’s the mindset of most anglers I know. Somewhere in the fisher’s brain, saving seconds matters. And that’s why I use the Davy Knot.

You can tie a Davy knot in half the time it takes to tie a clinch knot. Less than that, really. Go through, over, over, under and pull. Done.

It just saves time. And whether you’re a comp guy or a weekend warrior out for some simple relaxation, we all want to limit our time spent rigging things up.

SAVE TIPPET

Other knots require more finger twists and movements and leave a longer tag end, wasting material. After a few fly changes, you might be left with a tippet section that’s six inches shorter than you intended, then you’re faced with tying more knots to add tippet or just pretending that six inches less doesn’t matter.

If you change flies a lot — or if you just want to feel free to change flies a lot, without shortening your tippet — use the Davy knot.

With a little practice, you can tie the Davy with such a short tag that you may not even want to clip it. Pinch the tag end in your fingers at the hook eye and pull the main line. With practice, you’ll regularly end up with an eighth-inch tag or less. Nice.

SMALL PROFILE

Most knots build up material with their extra twists and turns, and that material ends up next to the eye, limiting the motion of the fly. However slight this may seem, freedom of motion matters a lot when it comes to fooling fish with a fly.

The size of the Davy Knot really couldn’t be any smaller, so any limited motion comes from the tippet itself, not the wraps of the knot.

Here’s another great Tightline Productions video by Tim Flagler, perfectly demonstrating the Davy Knot.

TIPS

To seat the knot, grasp the tag with your fingertips next to the eye of the hook, and pull the mainline. Do not pull the tag end to tighten.

Likewise, when you clip off the tag, be careful not to pull the tag with your nippers. That will ruin the seating of the knot and you’ll lose fish and flies. Just clip through the tag without pulling.

I use the Davy knot from the smallest tippet diameters all the way up to about 12lb Maxima Chameleon. In larger diameters, I prefer a three or four turn clinch.

Some recommend the Double Davy Knot as an alternative. I never find the need for it. A properly tied Davy Knot does not fail. The extra wrap of the Double Davy adds a little bigger profile, takes a little more material, and wastes a little more time. It’s not necessary until you are tying with very large diameter tippets.

The Davy Knot is my go to knot for attaching all dry flies, all nymphs and most streamers. The only other knot I use is a loop knot for large streamers on a stiff line.

ASK DAVY WOTTON

I’ve used the Davy knot for better than a decade, but I’ve always been curious how it originated. So I asked Davy Wotton himself. Here’s what he told me.

Dom,

Back in the 50s, when l was a kid and started to fish, l had no idea of how to tie fishing knots. In those days it was worm fishing for the small wild browns, until one day l watched a man who was a friend of my family who came to fly fish. That’s what got me interested in fly fishing. l figured the knot out myself. It was the only way l knew how to tie on a hook, and later a fly. From that time on and for 1000’s of fish, with a few exceptions l use no other.

Seriously, learn the Davy Knot and love your life.

Photo by Pat Burke

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

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13 Comments
  1. Reply

    Mark Denovich

    September 17, 2017

    Important caveat: Don’t use the Davy with small tippet and larger hooks. Like 5x on a #8. Lost a number of fish along with the fly until I figured it out. Maybe it works with mono.

    I prefer the Sheep’s Creek knot, I’ve only found reference to it in a fishing forum. Probably goes by other names. For me it’s faster than tying a Davy and has been absolutely fool-proof.

    • Reply

      Domenick Swentosky

      September 21, 2017

      Brother, I cannot find a link to a Sheep’s Creek Knot anywhere.

    • Reply

      rickbobrick56

      September 26, 2017

      The Double Davy knot solves that problem completely – just one extra turn is all it takes. Because of the far greater reliability and knot strength I no longer use the single Davy. I do knot demonstrations and I’m continually shocked at the number of accomplished fly fishermen who still use the Improve Clinch knot.

      Here’s a great, practical way to test your knots without worrying about break strength in a comparative competition. The winner will be the knot that combines the ideal configuration for the tippet material/hook you actually use and your personal knot tying style and skills.

      Knot v. Knot

      Materials/Equipment: 2 identical hooks; use the type you most commonly fish.
      A spool of the tippet material you use with those hooks (flies)
      2 needle nose Vise Grips (or needle nose pliers if you dare)
      Eye protection just to play it safe

      Testing Procedure:

      1) Cut a 3′ length of tippet material
      2) Tie one knot (e.g. the Davy) to one end and tie the other hook to the opposite end of the tippet using a second knot (e.g. Double Davy)
      3) Clamp each hook in one of the Vise Grips securely
      4) Now start pulling in ways that best simulate a break off (surges, yanks, etc.) Do not use a steady pull.
      5) Record which knot wins and repeat 9 more times. The better knot will be best for you under actual fishing and fish fighting conditions.

      I did not invent this test, I just can’t remember where I read about many years ago. Good luck.

  2. Reply

    Bruce

    September 18, 2017

    I’ve used the Davy Knot. It’s very good for speed, small flies in particular, and it holds as well as any knot, as far as I’m concerned. But, like the article says, there are a lot of good knots out there. What is the Sheep’s Creek Knot?

  3. Reply

    Alexander Argyros

    September 18, 2017

    A lot of people down here in Texas claim that a loop knot (non-slip, for example), has magical properties. Mainly, they claim that it allows a nymph to move more freely, thereby increasing its attractiveness. I’ve never found a loop knot to be any more effective than a regular knot, plus it’s a lot more time, and material, consuming. I’d love to know your thoughts.

    • Reply

      Domenick Swentosky

      September 21, 2017

      Yeah, I don’t think loop knots matter for nymphs. I think tippet diameter is more important for allowing the nymph to move.

      I sometimes use a loop knot for streamers. Maybe I should use one even more. But using 2x and a Davy knot seems to do well enough for me. There’s no denying that the loop knot will give it a little extra movement, I’m just not convinced that it matters.

  4. Reply

    Rick A

    September 18, 2017

    You might consider the importance of a hook file for tip # 9
    I know the photo is enlarged but that hook point is clearly in need of attention.
    Just bustin’ your stones…

    • Reply

      Domenick Swentosky

      September 21, 2017

      Lol. Ten years ago that hook point would have been considered pretty sharp. Now everyone is enamored with chemically sharpened hooks and tremendously sticky points. I’d be foolish to argue that it doesn’t make a difference. It does. I agree with you. But I honestly don’t take the time to sharpen hooks very much. On medium to large patters, I don’t feel like it matters much either. I know that’s blasphemy to some.

      FWIW, the picture of the fly above was taken right after that fly caught the second largest trout of my life.

      I probably only use my hook sharpener once every other trip. That’s just me.

  5. Reply

    In Pursuit of Trout

    September 18, 2017

    The Davy Knot has been my go to tippet to fly connection for over 8 years now after Aaron Jasper put me onto it. I’m a big loop knot guy with streamers, especially large articulated streamers as it frees up the action a little- on nymphs I have not found any increase in hook up ratio. One thing to note- I wouldn’t use a Davy knot on large pound tippet, say if you were fishing small streamers on 10# or 8#- only because if the fly hangs up in some wood- you are NEVER going to get it back lol. This knot doesn’t like to break.

    • Reply

      Domenick Swentosky

      September 21, 2017

      Right on.

  6. Reply

    Lindsey Flexner

    January 31, 2018

    In terms of sharpness the rule of thumb my father always taught me was drag the point lightly across your thumb nail from base to tip at a 90 degree angle. if it slides easily the hook is dull- hone it. it should grip almost immediately.

  7. Reply

    Lindsey Flexner

    January 31, 2018

    P.S. this knot is amazing why am I just learning about ti now? 🙂

    • Reply

      Domenick Swentosky

      February 1, 2018

      Making fishing knots great again.

What do you think?

Domenick Swentosky
BELLEFONTE, PA

Hi. I'm a father of two young boys, a husband, writer, musician and fisherman. I fly fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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