the nail knot vs. loop-to-loop
Fly Fishing Techniques

The Nail Knot vs. Loop-to-Loop

Over the last ten to fifteen years, the fly line industry has manufactured its lines with a loop at the leader end. There is no question that it is easier to attach leaders, which are also made with a loop, than using a nail knot. Do we remember the old-fashioned nail knot?

the nail knot vs. loop-to-loop
The Nail Knot

Like most everyone else, I transitioned from using a nail knot to attach my leader and used the loops on both the line and leader to attach them “loop-to-loop”. But recently, I began to cut off the loops and have returned to using a nail knot. The obvious question is “why”?

Some casters note a hinge effect when using loop-to-loop connections. I found this to be true when attaching sinking tip leaders to floating lines. But I do not honestly notice hinging with a loop-to-loop connection between a mono leader and a floating line.

The reason that I have abandoned the loops is that I find myself using longer leaders. Whether tight-lining or dry-fly fishing over increasingly spooky trout, my leaders generally extend at least 15-16 feet. Fishing with my 10 foot rod, it’s difficult to put a fish into the net without the line/leader connection passing into the guides on the rod. Many times, when a fish sees the net, a last dash to freedom is made. If the line/leader connection is inside the guides, the loop-to-loop connection’s bulk can get caught in a guide. This often leads to a snapping of the tippet, and loss of a big fish! Even worse is a broken rod tip.

Because of this, I want a low-profile line/leader connection. Dominick Swentosky of agrees, and uses a clinch knot to attach his leaders to the line loop. But call me old-fashioned, I prefer the nail knot. To further assure a smooth passage of the line/leader connection through the guides, I apply a few drops of Super Glue to the knot, covering the clipped ends of the leader and line. There is no opportunity for the line/leader connection to run afoul of the guides and losing the fish of the day.

So, if you are fishing with a rod that is 11 feet or less in length, and using long leaders requiring the line/leader connection to pass inside the guides in order to net your fish, consider the profile of the line/leader connection. Sometimes less is more!

the nail knot vs. loop-to-loop
The profile of a nail knot connection vs. a loop-to-loop connection

Related blog-

Tying the Nail Knot- Without the Nail

written by Al Simpson, September, 2021.


2 thoughts on “The Nail Knot vs. Loop-to-Loop

  1. I recently discover the Cutthroat braided leaders. They go loop to loop with no transition “bump” and then when fine delicate tippet is required, that is added to the end with the tiny tippet ring. This week in CO, it’s 7x, size 22 Palomino midge time…works for me.

  2. Hi Al. My name is Stu and I have a very simple streamlined attachment for fly line to to leader. I have used it for many years now and have never had any let downs. you cam=n email me at if you wish to know what this engineer has come up with!
    Cheerio Stu 🙂

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