Learn Tying Leader to Fly Line

Tying a leader to a fly line can be done a number of ways, and here, we’re going to focus on the two most effective. You can choose yours depending on your skillset and what you’re trying to achieve. Take a look:

The first one we’re going to focus on is a simple loop through loop fly line to leader connection.

Straighten Your Leader

Your leader will be coiled when you first get it, and one end be thinner, while one end is thicker with a loop tied in it. Put it between your index and middle finger, then undo the coil without getting it tangled up in knots. Run it through your fingers to straighten it out You can get leader straighteners to do this, but it’s easy to do it with your hand. Doing this helps to take the coils out of the leader so that it casts and fishes better for you. 

The Loop Through Loop Method

You should notice that there is a factory welded loop in your fly line. If not you can tie your own, but 99% of them will come with their own loop.

As this is a simple loop through loop connection, take the loop in the line and insert it in the loop through the leader. It’s important you get that right: line through leader. Then take the leader and double it up by pushing that through the loop in the fly line. Then, bring the length of the leader through and you should have a perfectly small knot binding the two together.

Avoid Doing It The Wrong Way

There is a wrong way to go about doing this too, and it’s important you are aware of it so you can avoid it. If you go in the opposite direction by going through the loop in the fly line first, this will create something called a cutting hitch. The loop will kink, and it won’t work properly. Make sure it’s always line through leader then leader through line to get a perfect square knot connection. 

The Nail Knot ​​​​​Connection for Tying Leader to Fly Line

There is another method aside from the loop through loop connection that can work well. This is a nail knot and it’s really easy to do. It’s more of a snell, but it does serve the same purpose as a nail knot, so we call it that for all intents and purposes. Doing this correctly will help you to create an unbreakable connection between your leader and your fly line.

It’s the perfect option for streamers, salt water, and bass fishing. It’s also a good option for those who simply want to move away from the loop through loop for whatever reason. 

Grab Your Stiffener Tool

You’re going to need a lathers wire tool, a stiffener, or snelling tool. This is essentially a thin piece of wire with a loop in the end to make a nail knot tool. Cut the factory loop off the tip of the fly line as you won’t need it. Then, take your fly line, and take your tool in one hand. Lay the fly line parallel with your tool, leaving yourself about half an inch sticking out from your fingers. 

Then, take what is going to become the butt section of your leader, and pinch it up against the tool holding it parallel. Take the other end of the leader and place it so it’s facing the opposite way from your fly line - there should be a loop you have created now. One end of your leader should be facing your left, the other your right, and a loop at the bottom that will be your butt section.

Wrap The Knot 

You are then going to wrap the knot with the other end of the leader around 10 times to create a barrel knot. You’ll need to hold it tight ensuring that everything is straight as you do this. Now, grab the loop (the butt section) - this is easier to do with your teeth as this will be around 4ft or 5 ft when you’re out on a fishing trip - and then pull it out, sliding it down onto the tool. You may like to practice with a shorter piece first to make sure you have the hang of it. 

Tighten It Up

You should be left with something that looks like a nail knot once you have completed the steps above. You can use a pair of pliers to tighten it - make sure you don’t do this to the end of your good functioning butt section, as it can weaken it and cause problems. Also, remember that it shouldn’t be so tight that you can’t get the tool out. 

Straighten Things Up

You may need to straighten things up a bit using your thumb nails to ensure it’s perfectly neat and functioning. Make sure you support with your index finger as you remove the tool so that it doesn't all go spiraling out, and then grab on to the tag in with your pliers and tighten it right up. 

Trim It Closely

You can then trim very closely with your cutters to create a neat and tidy nail knot connection that will last through seasons if you do it correctly. 

Other Methods

Of course, there are other ways you can go about tying your leader to your fly line, but the above two methods are simple, highly effective and can last a long time, whether you’re a beginner or an intermediate.

Some people don’t like the loop to loop connection, so this is down to a matter of preference. If you don’t like the suggestions we’ve mentioned above, you could try something called the Clinch. There’s also the braided loop, welded loops, and more. The options are endless.

Matthew Bernhardt

Matthew Bernhardt

Matthew Bernhardt, a third-generation Coloradan, grew up at the forefront of the state’s fly-fishing revolution, enjoying time on the water side by side with experienced guides and lifelong anglers.


By combining his passion for fly-fishing with input from other experienced fly-fishers and guides and his fine arts degree from Colorado State University, Matthew spent five years carefully developing the Drifthook Fly Fishing System, built to help every angler catch more trout.

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Tying Leader to Fly Line
Learn Tying Leader to Fly Line

Fly Line to Leader Connection

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