How to Tie the Needle Knot for Fly Fishing – A Step-by-Step Guide

A needle knot is pretty much an improved version of a nail not that you would use to connect your leader and tippet to your fly line. This is assuming there is no welded loop at the end of your fly line or you haven’t tied a perfection loop knot at the end of your fly line.

The reason the needle knot came about in fly fishing is that it provides a more streamlined transition and is more reliable than a standard nail knot, and you’ll see why.

It’s an easy knot to tie, not easier than a straight nail knot and you will need to use a needle as a tool.

How To Tie A Needle Knot

Before you start following the tying instructions below, make sure you have a set of sewing needles at hand and pick one that is slightly wider than the butt end of your leader.

how to tie a needle knot

Step 1

Insert the needle into the end of your fly line about 1/8 of an inch. Then push the need out of the side of the fly line and hold it there for a few minutes. This allows your fly line to stretch and create a hole with enough space for you to thread your leader through.

Step 2

Removed the needle and quickly thread the small thinner tippet end of your leader through the hole you just made before the hole closes up. Make sure it leaves the fly line and pull it through leaving around 8 inches in length of the butt end of the leader on the other side.

Step 3

Now that all the threading is complete, it’s time to tie a nail knot fly fishing. Place the needle against the fly line with the eye facing the hole. Pinch it secure 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

Now 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 and make sure it’s secure and won’t slip out.

Step 5

Take the pointy end of the needle and pull it so that the tag end now goes under the wraps you made in the opposite direction of how you made them.

Step 6

Remove the tag end from the needle and pull it tight. Now push the wraps gently down to the exit hole and pull tight again. Cut off the end and you have just tied a needle knot.


  • A needle knot, just like nail knots, has a tendency to unravel. When you tie the knot, make sure to hold it together to make it easier.
  • In Step 2, make sure to insert the light thinner end of the leader through the small hole as it makes it much easier to thread through.
  • Tying this knot might sound like a pain but with some practice it quite simple.
  • Here is a great tutorial video with a tip or two on how to tie the knot.

How does the needle knot work?

The needle knot works by combing a nail knot with your fly line. This allows your fly fishing leader to go directly out the center of your fly line instead of on top of it which is helpful when casting as it’s more streamlined.

You can also visit our post here on tying a loop to loop fishing knot for a step by step guide.

How strong is the needle knot?

The needle knot is pretty strong and retains close to 100% of the line you’re using. The one issue with it is that the leader can cut the fly line when under pressure, leaving it broken so you should check it regularly while fishing and after every time you land a fish.

Do you tie a knot after you thread a needle?

Yes and no. You must thread a needle into the fly line first before tying a nail knot. But, when tieing the nail knot, you will thread the needle in the final steps as per the instructions above.

Are needle knots strong?

Yes, needle knots are strong and can be used in a variety of applications. However, depending on the material and the knot being tied, the strength of the knot may vary. In general, a well-tied knot should be able to hold securely without slipping or coming undone.

Is the nail knot a good knot?

Is the nail knot a good knot?

Yes, the nail knot is a great knot for attaching two lines together, such as your leader to fly line. You can also use a double nail knot to attach your leader to your tippet.

I love it because it sits neatly, has a low profile, comes through the guides of your rods, and when tied correctly is super strong, plus it ensures the leader comes straight out of the line with zero bends.

Photo of author

Jamie Melvin

Growing up fly fishing on trout streams in Kenya and the UK, Jamie has traveled the world in search of fly fishing nirvana. From his time managing bonefish lodges in the Bahamas and running fishing safaris in East Africa, all the way to guiding on the flats of Seychelles, there aren't many species or environments he hasn't experienced firsthand.

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