How to Master the Needle Knot: A 6 Step Guide

needle knot

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The needle knot, considered by many to be an enhanced version of the nail knot, is a fly fisher’s go-to for connecting their leader and tippet to their fly line. This is especially the case when the fly line lacks a welded loop or a perfection loop knot.

The needle knot’s rise in popularity among fly fishing enthusiasts can be attributed to its streamlined transition and superior reliability compared to a traditional nail knot.

While it may seem daunting, tying a needle knot is relatively straightforward. The only additional tool you’ll need is a sewing needle.

Before we dive into the step-by-step guide, ensure you have a collection of sewing needles handy. You’ll need one slightly wider than the butt end of your leader.

How To Tie A Needle Knot: A Step-by-Step Guide

how to tie a needle knot

Step 1

Insert the needle into the end of your fly line, approximately 1/8 of an inch deep. Push the needle out of the side of the fly line and hold it there for a few minutes. This process allows your fly line to stretch and create a hole large enough for your leader to be threaded through

Step 2

Remove the needle and immediately thread the thinner tippet end of your leader through the hole before it closes up. Ensure the leader exits the fly line and pull it through, leaving roughly 8 inches of the butt end of the leader on the other side.

Step 3

With all the threading complete, it’s time to tie a nail knot. Position the needle against the fly line with the eye facing the hole. Secure it in place with your finger and thumb. Take the tag end and wrap it around the top end of the needle, fly line, and itself.

Needle Knot

Step 4

Make 5-7 wraps around the needle, fly line, and leader, working back towards the end of the fly line. Thread the tag end through the eye of the needle, ensuring it’s secure and won’t slip out.

Step 5

Pull the pointy end of the needle so that the tag end now goes under the wraps you made in the opposite direction.

Step 6

Remove the tag end from the needle and pull it tight. Gently push the wraps down to the exit hole and pull tight again. Cut off the end, and voila, you’ve just tied a needle knot.


  • Needle knots, like nail knots, have a tendency to unravel. To prevent this, hold the knot together when tying.
  • In Step 2, insert the thinner end of the leader through the small hole. It’ll make it much easier to thread through.
  • Tying this knot might seem complicated, but with some practice, it’s quite simple.
  • For more guidance, check out this tutorial video with tips on how to tie the knot.

Why Use a Needle Knot?

The needle knot combines a nail knot with your fly line. This combination allows your fly fishing leader to exit directly from the center of your fly line instead of atop it, providing a more streamlined cast.

How Strong is a Needle Knot?

While the needle knot is robust and retains almost 100% of the line strength, it’s not invincible. The leader can cut the fly line under pressure, potentially leading to a break. Therefore, it’s crucial to check your knot regularly while fishing and after every catch.

Is the nail knot a good knot?

In Conclusion

Mastering the needle knot is an essential skill for any fly fisher. Its strength and streamlined design make it an invaluable tool in your fishing arsenal. Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t nail it the first time.

Now that you’ve got the hang of the needle knot, why not check out our step-by-step guide on tying a loop-to-loop fishing knot?

Interested in learning more about fly fishing? Download our series of fly fishing books below.

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