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

by | Sep 17, 2017 | 33 comments

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. 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 with the line, 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 a 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 four turn clinch.

Some anglers 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 Wotten

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.

Fish hard, friends.

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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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I 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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33 Comments

  1. 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
    • Brother, I cannot find a link to a Sheep’s Creek Knot anywhere.

      Reply
      • Because I told you the wrong name. It’s the Cross Creek knot.

        It’s super easy to tie. I stopped using the Davy as soon as I learned it. I use it with string and rope too. It’s a slip knot, so you can pull on the tag end to loosen it up.

        The images in the link below might be broken. But they describe how to do it in the thread.

        http://ultralightflyfishing.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=101&t=6756

        Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
    • I have tried the Davey knot with Fluor but does not hold from 5X or smaller tippet regardless of hook size. Also, I do not have much luck reversing bottom snags…the knot fails. I presume there is not enough line material for the knot to “grab on to”.

      Reply
      • Hi Fred,

        With sincere respect, you must be doing something wrong. The Davy holds, or I wouldn’t recommend it.

        There are many, many of us who use the Davy in 5x, 6x and 7x fluoro, every day.

        As I mentioned in the article above, the most common error made is pulling on the tag end while seating or clipping. If you pull on the tag, yes, the knot will fail. Lots of people pull a little bit on the line as they clip it. Can’t do that with the Davy.

        All that said, there are a bunch of fishing knots out there because there are a bunch of fishermen. Just like flies, my favorite may not be yours.

        I think the Davy has significant advantages over other options because of all the reasons I mentioned above. But if you can’t get it to hold, then I agree, it’s not a good match for you.

        Cheers.
        Dom

        Reply
  2. 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?

    Reply
  3. 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
    • 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.

      Reply
      • I sometimes change my nymphs to a fo8 loop knot when i figure out what they are eating.Well this is if using a drop shot rig. I find i get fewer tangles if the flies are on loops.I find a drop shot rig tangles more .But loops on flies help keep them tangles down.I still use the double davy with heavy tippet.But prefer the pitzen 16-20 with 6 & 7x tippet.Think in america it is known as the Eugene knot.The Eugene uses more material but stronger i find.But we all have our favourite knots as you already pointed out.

        Reply
  4. 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
    • 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.

      Reply
  5. 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
  6. 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.

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

    Reply
  8. I have a love/hate relationship with the Davy knot. Love it’s small profile and quickness to tie, especially with an EZ hook /mini grabber.
    But then it happens the nicest trout of the breaks off or knot slips off with the last one of the special fly.
    The lose is not usually from excessive force. (see fight fish fast) I then vow to never tie the knot again.
    I do the 90 degree check but now I am thinking I always pull the tag end to some extent. I will break the vow again and tie without moving the tag.

    Thanks for a great website. It hurts not to be fishing when I read it.

    Reply
    • “Thanks for a great website. It hurts not to be fishing when I read it.”

      Ha! That’s a good quote. I like that.

      So I REALLY bet that you are pulling on the tag ever so slightly when you clip it or preposition it at the end. I don’t do anything but pull on the main line, and clip t with my teeth AS I’m still pulling on the main line. Know what I mean?

      Reply
  9. I always pulled on the tag to get the ninety degree crimp in front of the hook. I know what your doing though my teeth are so out of line I can’t clip with them.

    Reply
  10. I like the knot. So after reading this, why then don’t you like to use the Davy Knot for your tippet ring connections on the Mono Rig?

    Reply
    • Good question. I do use the davy knot for the sighter to tippet connection at the tippet ring. But for the knots in the thicker Chameleon material I like the clinch because the wraps form a barrel style taper, helping those knots to go through the guides if necessary.

      Make sense?

      Reply
  11. I started tying the Davy knot before I knew what to call it. There were a lot of idle hours in my fly shop which I some times filled with experimenting with knots. One more advantage to mention, when you remove a fly by pulling until it breaks off (as I always do with light tippet), the Davy knot usually breaks clean from the hook eye, with no annoying knot turns left on the hook. Saves your teeth.

    Reply
  12. I’ve been using the Double Davy Knot ever since I saw Tim Flagler’s Vimeo video. The only exception is on stiff mono in leader construction. I know the single is strong, and I use it on size 18 and smaller flies, but that extra wrap on the double is for me a confidence factor and adds minimally to knot’s bulk.

    Reply
  13. I’ve been using the Davy knot for a couple years for midge fishing with 18-28 flies and 6 and 7x tippet. I also use it to tie my tippet and my leader onto a tippet ring. One of the key points in its strength I feel is there is very little friction when seating the knot as compared to a clinch knot. Seldom do I get a friction burn in my tippet near the knot. If I do, I cut and retie the knot. I seldom have it fail even on 5-6 lb fish however a full flex rods helps in the equation. I like to use the non slip mono knot if time is not an issue as it doesn’t lock the fly in one position. I’ve had more break offs with the loop knot than the Davy I assume due to friction in seating the knot. It’s a great knot to use with tiny flies. Rio has a you tube video to tie it slightly different but both methods hold up well. It’s a good quick knot to use when searching for the right pattern and changing a lot of flies. Like any knot with light tippers, be sure to retie the knot after catching a big fish or after catching a couple fish. I also use it with heavier tippets in the same fashion with a Euro rig. Thanks for the video.

    Reply
  14. Cool. I can’t believe that simple knot is stronger than the improved clinch but I’ll “trust but verify!” What do you use for a knot for tippet more than 12 lbs (15-20 lb for me when streamer or bonefishing)? What loop knot do you use? Thanks. Great website and info!

    Reply
    • Regular clinch for lines above 12, usually.

      Non slip mono loop.

      People get personal about knots. I have good reasons for using what I do, but I wouldn’t second guess anyone’s choices if they’re working and you’re comfortable.

      Dom

      Reply
  15. I risk being misunderstood, but here goes. If my world is trout, which it mostly is now, it matters little what knot I use (terminal to hook eye) other than a preferred loop knot that lets the fly swim naturally.

    So, for a tight to the hook (eye) knot, slim and seats easily are the only real concerns. Yes, # test strength (hold) a given, but I would never choose a knot X pound test break just catching trout. No, I’m not talking about New Zealand or Alaska, and other destination trouts.

    And all out the window if saltwater.

    A Davy is slim, easy to tie, and will land any run of the mill rainbow, brookie, or brown… as will a clinch. The worry is seating (offset and/or coils). So, I avoid the Davy and Clinch and go with Duncan Loop for all my trout needs.

    Not a big deal, but fun to “talk” about and give credit to preferences.

    BTW, the guy that said he invented the Duncan admitted before meeting his maker that “his” Uni Knot was actually Norman Duncan’s knot. Duncan alive and well living in the Gables in Miami and writes for us occasionally.

    Reply
  16. This is a little off topic, but your mention of Davy Wotton made me wonder if anyone has tried to fish wet flies in the “traditional” method that he advocates (i.e. cast of three or more flies, often with an upstream presentation, imparting movement to the flies with the hands and rod tip) with the monoleader. He has a video on Amazon Prime, “Wetfly Ways”, explaining the method, and recently did an interview on the method with Tom Rosebauer on the Orvis Flyfishing podcast. If so, did you have good results?

    Reply
    • I meant “monorig”, not “monoleader”.

      Reply
      • So I can’t speak for Davy, but I have no problem using wet flies at night with the Mono Rig. The thing there is that my wets are larger, so they hold more water and weight more. In the daylight, I assume you’d use smaller wets. And many of them may weight next to nothing and have some wind resistance built in with hackle and feathers. Basically, my answer is that it depends on those kinds of variables. Bottom line is to go out and give it a try with your setup. See if it works for you.

        Sorry for the “maybe” answer.

        Dom

        Reply

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