Sometimes the worst things become the most popular. The industry standard for attaching a leader to a fly line is the loop to loop connection. It’s supposed to be easy. And it’s certainly more accessible to most anglers than tying a nail knot. But the loop to loop has a couple inherent failings that cause major problems. And there’s an easier way to attach a leader to a fly line without ever tying a nail knot. Can you tie a four turn clinch?
Some guys are so thoroughly sold on the loop to loop system that I’ve seen clients show up for a trip with a hand tied loop in the end of their fly line because it wasn’t manufactured with a welded loop. Of course, that makes a bad problem worse. And I recommend promptly cutting off that monstrosity and committing to the nail knot. You have to love yourself first.
Some new guys might not remember when fly lines shipped without loops on both ends. About a decade ago, the trend started with high end lines, and it filtered down to the rest. Ninety percent of fly lines these days come with welded loops. (I made up that figure myself, but it seems about right.)
Honestly, I clipped all those loops off until a few years ago.
The first welded loops were bulky and overdone, and I just couldn’t get past the extra mass at the end of a fine fly line taper. But a few years ago, my favorite line appeared with a slim loop right out of the box. And it was hard to argue that such a lean loop could affect the cast much at all. So I kept it. And instead of slicing the loop off, I tied my clinch knot directly into it.
Oh yeah, the clinch knot . . .
Probably the most seldom used method for attaching a leader is also the simplest. I’m a problem solver at heart. So when I wanted to remove the sometimes thirty plus feet of Mono Rig and swap out for a standard length leader, I started using a simple clinch knot to a tippet ring. You can find that method here:
And when the slim loops appeared in the fly line, I ditched the nail knot and the extra lead piece of Chameleon and the tippet ring. Then I tied straight into the fly line loop.
Why Loop to Loop Sucks
Alright, here’s my Costanza’s Festivus — Airing of Grievances against loop to loop connections. It’s a short but punchy list.
The loop to loop is a clunky connection that hangs up in the guides far too often. No matter how well it’s tied, any perfection loop in a leader still has that blunt end, waiting to bang into one of your rod guides as you strip line through. The clunky bump of the handshake between the two loops sticks in the guides as well. Worse yet, it’ll probably hang up as you stretch out with a fully flexed rod in one hand and a net in the other, straining to reach for the Namer you just fought for five minutes in heavy current. That wild trout of a lifetime decides to take one last joyride. He bolts, the perfection loop sticks on a guide for a split second, and the tippet snaps. You suck.
Even without a trout attached to the end of your line, the loop to loop connection slows down any shooting or stripping line with its constant friction in the guides.
My second point is a gripe from long liners, specifically. In fact, if you’re swapping out a leader much longer than about ten or twelve feet, it’s a pain to bring the full length of the leader through the small fly line loop to attach the new leader. And when you pry the loops apart to change out (which can take some time by itself) you must run the full length of leader through the fly line again. Is it really a pain? I suppose not, but it’s inefficient, and it makes me irritable. And if I’m using a long Mono Rig, there’s no way I’m running thirty plus feet of a leader through the little fly line loop when I can so quickly tie a four turn clinch.
So let’s get to that . . .
Why the Clinch Wins
A simple clinch knot is all that’s needed to attach the leader to a fly line loop. Treat it like the eye of a fly and tie it in. Don’t “improve” the clinch knot with that final move back through the loop either — it’s unnecessary and adds bulk.
The slim profile is exactly why this method works. A clinch knot has the same look as a blood knot. It’s just wraps around the line with no added bulk to create any hard angles or hang in the guides. And you don’t need more than three or four turns. In the heavy diameter of a butt section, a few wraps is all that’s required. Wet the knot before you snug it up, and it will hold. I promise.
Just as important is how quickly leader changes are made with the clinch connection. Clip off the old and tie in the new. Easy peasy. And there’s no leading of long butt sections through the small fly line loop. Ahhh.
If you’re following along mentally here, you’ve likely realized that every leader change will shorten the butt section. Yup. That’s true. I lose about a half inch with each leader change. I’m careful how I tie the knot, though. Even if you lose a full inch with every leader change, who cares? On the long leaders, like a Mono Rig, it takes a lot of leader changes for that to make a difference. On standard length leaders, it matters sooner, of course. But for me, it’s an acceptable trade for some remarkable efficiency and a slim design. And if you tie your own leaders, you can simply change the butt section if it gets too short for your liking.
There Are Other Ways
If you’re a Troutbitten regular you know by now that I’m a nut about efficiency and design. It’s not enough for something to be quick. It has to work right too.
Attaching the leader to the fly line via a clinch knot works for me. But I should mention that I purposely design my leaders to keep any fly line connection out of the guides. That’s why my Mono Rig is so long — because I like slinging streamers across the river to the opposite bank without anything but the butt section of my leader in the guides.
The only connection I’ve found that hangs in the guides less is a needle knot. But you can’t perform that magic trick on the river. Also, tying a nail knot requires its own set of contortions, and even if you can tie a clean one on the river, it wastes a lot more leader material when tied. I’ll also argue that it’s no slimmer than the clinch knot to a loop in the fly line.
Anyway . . . ban the loop to loop. Kick it out and close the door.
Fish hard friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N