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Do You Use Loop Connections or Nail Knots for Trout?

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May 15, 2013

Do You Use Loop Connections or Nail Knots for Trout?

By Kirk Deeter

When it comes to attaching my fly line to a leader, I like the streamlined profile of the nail knot. I've been a nail knot guy for years. I think it helps the line and leader run through the guides with less resistance. This is particularly important during the end stages of landing fish, when you crank some leader past the tip.

I also trust the strength of nail knots more than I do loops. Over the years, I've had 10 loops break to every one nail knot that's failed. So now, when I buy a packet of pre-looped leaders (or a loop end fly line), I often cut off the loops and use a nail knot tool to tie the leader on.

But I'm starting to change my mind. There's just something to be said about the convenience of the loop to loop connection. Attaching a pre-looped leader to a pre-looped fly line takes seconds, not minutes, which can actually matter in the heat of the battle. I also think the manufactured loop ends on fly lines are at least 100 times stronger now than they were 15 years ago. I don't know exactly what happened, but most manufacturers seem to have figured it out.

I also have many friends who insist that a loop-to-loop, done right, is far stronger and more reliable than a nail knot, especially on larger fish. At a certain point, when you're using heavy leaders, a loop has always been the natural choice. For example, when Oliver White showed me how to catch the arapaima in Guyana, every rig was a loop connection.

Still, in the context of 4X leaders for trout fishing, I'm on the fence. You tell me, please, what's best?

Comments (15)

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from Dangle wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

Either one works fine especially now that some line makers are mfging small, looped ended lines. Small loop to small lopp "sets in" better than the older, big loops at the end of the fly line. I now mfger small twisted, tapered butt, and midsection leaders with small looped ended mono so I can do either nail knot, or go loop to loop. And there is a WRONG way, and a RIGHT way to connect your looped leader to the looped flyline. Haven't read the paragraphs below the topic, but the picture looks like it ain't doin it the right way.

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from Dangle wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

And to further the discussion. I have approached our local flyshop, and told them that some shops are providing the service of looping the end of one's flyline that does not have the loop. I just talked to a flyshop back East who I ordered a rod/reel/line outfit from, and they told me you can do it yourself....make a "welded" looped end yourself. You need but a curling iron. BUT, they said they don't trust welded looped ends as being as strong as the nail knot connection. And the loop shown in the picture is way, way to big!! The loops then do not "lock in" but slip around, and the transfer of energy is not as good as a nail knot connection.

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from Gtbigsky wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

I tie a 10-12 inch butt section of leader onto my flyline using a nail knot, clip off the loop of the leader I am attaching and then attach the leader to butt section using a blood knot. I can tie a blood knot in under 60 seconds and have never had one fail me. When the leader gets used up clip it off and tie another blood knot using the same butt section as before. THis way you dont have to keep tying nail knots which to me are difficult to tie unless i have a nail know tool which i rarely carry. Also ive noticed i get more tangles and snags with a loop so i ve stopped using them.

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from Koldkut wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

For trout, it's nail knots all day. But where there's trout, there's predators, the streamer rod gets loops so I can quick change it up to chase larger fish.

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from Gtbigsky wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

if i was going to use a loop I would tie a butt section to fly line with a nail know and tie a perfection loop (incredibly easy to tie and strong). I dont trust welded loops!

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from dave00100 wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

I'm with Gtbigsky. I always tie a butt section to the fly line with a nail knot and then tie a perfection loop, which connects to another longer leader. That way I can change it up to chase larger fish as Koldkut says. Also, when the leader gets all banged up, I don't have to tie another nail knot to the fly line, just reconnect another looped leader to the butt section already attached to the fly line. Great topic!

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from Micropterus24 wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

I haven't had any issues with loop to loop, from trout to musky

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from Dangle wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

Micro..And chances of a loop being a problem are seldom. Why not just nail knot on a leader, and then leave a foot long section of that butt when you want to tie on a new leader, and then blood knot to that. You should get the diameters right between the short butt section you nail knotted on, and the butt diameter of the new leader. But I now like loop to loop IF the flyline has a very small loop connection.

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from ejunk wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

I use a sheet bend in the fly line on a leader in the loop. I don't have a loop in my fly line. those loops are ok, but they're a little bulky, so I prefer not to use them. sheet bend to perfection looped leader stretches out nice and neat. I don't think loop to loop is any better or worse than a nail knot and neither of them are better or worse than the system I employ. the only variable that matters is how well you put together the knot system that you choose. arguing any other point is silly.

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from Dangle wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

Not real silly ejunk IF you are really into it. Knot connections like a perfection loop have a tag end sticking out to the side. Get a windy day, and a light tippet can blow off course, and catch on a knot tag. Now strip it in, and get ready to cast, and more than likely you can kiss that leader goodby. Eliminating hangup spots on a leader where a light tippet can catch is a legitimate consideration. My latest change is to use "tippet rings" They will float a dry fly. I connect the last section before the tippet to a ring with a clinch knot, then connect my tippets to the other side of the ring. Use up the tippet, and tie a new tippet on, and not use up your up-leader taper making your leader last a whole lot longer.

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from themadflyfisher wrote 48 weeks 23 hours ago

I have always used loops just for the quickness of attachment. Never had a problem with them. Granted I don't get into big fish as often as some of you western guys but every time I have they have always held up. Now my clinch knot to my fly I can't say the same about. Last monday I lost a real nice brown when he ran hard and my knot failed me :(

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from buckhunter wrote 48 weeks 13 hours ago

Thought I responded to this yesterday but there is no entry. I must be losing my mind. I've liked loops ever since fly lines have come with the small pre-tied loops.

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from Dangle wrote 48 weeks 10 hours ago

And that is the key...the manufactured made "welded" small loops. And no one seems to know who to properly engage, the loops. That is a big key..how you go loop to loop.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from haverodwilltravel wrote 47 weeks 5 days ago

I've been doing loops for years...(Fly Line to leader only, blood knot for tippet) and I've never had one break from Tarpon to Tiddlers.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 47 weeks 4 days ago

Still no one knows how to connect the two loops? The end of the flyline loop to the butt loop on a leader?..pretty incredible.

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Post a Comment

from Dangle wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

Either one works fine especially now that some line makers are mfging small, looped ended lines. Small loop to small lopp "sets in" better than the older, big loops at the end of the fly line. I now mfger small twisted, tapered butt, and midsection leaders with small looped ended mono so I can do either nail knot, or go loop to loop. And there is a WRONG way, and a RIGHT way to connect your looped leader to the looped flyline. Haven't read the paragraphs below the topic, but the picture looks like it ain't doin it the right way.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

And to further the discussion. I have approached our local flyshop, and told them that some shops are providing the service of looping the end of one's flyline that does not have the loop. I just talked to a flyshop back East who I ordered a rod/reel/line outfit from, and they told me you can do it yourself....make a "welded" looped end yourself. You need but a curling iron. BUT, they said they don't trust welded looped ends as being as strong as the nail knot connection. And the loop shown in the picture is way, way to big!! The loops then do not "lock in" but slip around, and the transfer of energy is not as good as a nail knot connection.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gtbigsky wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

I tie a 10-12 inch butt section of leader onto my flyline using a nail knot, clip off the loop of the leader I am attaching and then attach the leader to butt section using a blood knot. I can tie a blood knot in under 60 seconds and have never had one fail me. When the leader gets used up clip it off and tie another blood knot using the same butt section as before. THis way you dont have to keep tying nail knots which to me are difficult to tie unless i have a nail know tool which i rarely carry. Also ive noticed i get more tangles and snags with a loop so i ve stopped using them.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

For trout, it's nail knots all day. But where there's trout, there's predators, the streamer rod gets loops so I can quick change it up to chase larger fish.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gtbigsky wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

if i was going to use a loop I would tie a butt section to fly line with a nail know and tie a perfection loop (incredibly easy to tie and strong). I dont trust welded loops!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from dave00100 wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

I'm with Gtbigsky. I always tie a butt section to the fly line with a nail knot and then tie a perfection loop, which connects to another longer leader. That way I can change it up to chase larger fish as Koldkut says. Also, when the leader gets all banged up, I don't have to tie another nail knot to the fly line, just reconnect another looped leader to the butt section already attached to the fly line. Great topic!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Micropterus24 wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

I haven't had any issues with loop to loop, from trout to musky

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

Micro..And chances of a loop being a problem are seldom. Why not just nail knot on a leader, and then leave a foot long section of that butt when you want to tie on a new leader, and then blood knot to that. You should get the diameters right between the short butt section you nail knotted on, and the butt diameter of the new leader. But I now like loop to loop IF the flyline has a very small loop connection.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ejunk wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

I use a sheet bend in the fly line on a leader in the loop. I don't have a loop in my fly line. those loops are ok, but they're a little bulky, so I prefer not to use them. sheet bend to perfection looped leader stretches out nice and neat. I don't think loop to loop is any better or worse than a nail knot and neither of them are better or worse than the system I employ. the only variable that matters is how well you put together the knot system that you choose. arguing any other point is silly.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

Not real silly ejunk IF you are really into it. Knot connections like a perfection loop have a tag end sticking out to the side. Get a windy day, and a light tippet can blow off course, and catch on a knot tag. Now strip it in, and get ready to cast, and more than likely you can kiss that leader goodby. Eliminating hangup spots on a leader where a light tippet can catch is a legitimate consideration. My latest change is to use "tippet rings" They will float a dry fly. I connect the last section before the tippet to a ring with a clinch knot, then connect my tippets to the other side of the ring. Use up the tippet, and tie a new tippet on, and not use up your up-leader taper making your leader last a whole lot longer.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from themadflyfisher wrote 48 weeks 23 hours ago

I have always used loops just for the quickness of attachment. Never had a problem with them. Granted I don't get into big fish as often as some of you western guys but every time I have they have always held up. Now my clinch knot to my fly I can't say the same about. Last monday I lost a real nice brown when he ran hard and my knot failed me :(

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 48 weeks 13 hours ago

Thought I responded to this yesterday but there is no entry. I must be losing my mind. I've liked loops ever since fly lines have come with the small pre-tied loops.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 48 weeks 10 hours ago

And that is the key...the manufactured made "welded" small loops. And no one seems to know who to properly engage, the loops. That is a big key..how you go loop to loop.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from haverodwilltravel wrote 47 weeks 5 days ago

I've been doing loops for years...(Fly Line to leader only, blood knot for tippet) and I've never had one break from Tarpon to Tiddlers.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 47 weeks 4 days ago

Still no one knows how to connect the two loops? The end of the flyline loop to the butt loop on a leader?..pretty incredible.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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