Being able to tie a quick and secure nail knot that won’t slip under pressure is vital in fly fishing.
If you aren’t confident with this, you are risking losing the fish of a lifetime or not being able to keep fishing if a leader breaks while you are out on a stream or lake.
Our fly fishing expert Rick Wallace breaks down the 5 best nail knot tying tools available. With these even the most ham-fisted knot tyer can make a secure connection between fly line and leader that won’t fail under pressure.
Our top three knot tying tools- each of which will create great knots and save time – are listed in order below along with the others we tested.
- Best Value: The 3M Scientific Anglers Tie-Knot Tyer – simple, cheap, durable, and effective
- Most Versatile: The Dr Slick Knot-Tying Nippers
- Easiest to Use: The Loon Outdoors Ergo Knot Tying Tool
Nail Knot Tying Tools Reviewed:
This is a great example of the pressed stainless-steel style nail knot tying tool.
It's cheap, 3M is a great brand and the tool is easy to use and produces strong and effective line-to-leader connections.
At 4.5 inches long, this tool is about the right size too for this type of tool - small enough to fit in a vest pocket but not so small it is hard to control the knot.
Here is a great video that shows how easy nail knot tying can be with the right gadget.
If you want to treat yourself to a high-quality set of nippers that also has a nail-knot tying tool attached, this is your best choice.
I use Dr. Slick nippers and can vouch for the quality of this combined tool ties a great nail knot and is competitively priced. This product also has a hook eye cleaning pin.
With its looped plastic handle, this is one of the easiest nail knot tying tools available and in our experience, it ties great knots.
Loon has a good reputation, particularly for its fly fishing dressings and floatants etc, but with this nail knot tool, it has shown it can produce a great knot tying product too.
This type is fully enclosed using tubular aluminum rather than the stainless-steel channel in the other type.
This product is simple to use, lightweight, and well-priced and it's backed by the Orvis brand.
Similar in construction to the 3M tool this one includes a lanyard/zinger too as well as a hook-eye cleaner.
If you are after versatility and don't already have fishing nippers that fulfill this role, this accessory is a good choice.
Is the Nail Knot Hard to Tie?
While the nail knot is the most difficult knot for many fly fishers, it is actually not that difficult even when tied with a simple nail (see our nail knot tying article for full instructions). But with these nail knot tying tools it slashes the difficulty rating and makes it easy to tie a perfect knot in a minute or two.
Is a Nail Knot Better Than a Loop Connection?
Both have their pros and cons, and this is a topic that is debated endlessly by serious fly fishers, but for me, the nail knot is often the best choice for:
Better casting: Compared to the loop connection, the nail knot really maximizes the energy flow to the tippet during the cast. The rigid connection prevents the hingeing you sometimes see with a loop-to-loop connection and makes for longer and more accurate casts.
Easier fishing: The nail knot, especially if covered with glue or resin to aid slipperiness, flows more easily through the guides of your fly rod. This makes line management easier and can prevent a losing fishing when it goes on an unexpected final run and the fly-line-to-leader connection is through the guides. A bulkier loop can hang up in the guides causing a bust-off!
Better stealth: Tied right the nail knot is more compact than a loop-to-loop connection and therefore makes less impact when the leader splashes down on the water.
The main reason against choosing the nail knot is convenience, and that’s where these tools come in. They make creating the nail knot connection – even when you are tying with wet or cold fingers on the stream or river bank – just as easy as a looped connection.
Where Can I Get More Knot Tying Information?
Check out the guide to the seven essential fishing knots and how to tie them. We also break down these knots in extended form in these articles: tying the Pitzen Knot, the Improved Loop Knot, the Nail Knot, the Double Uni Knot, the FG knot, the Orvis tippet knot and the Arbor Knot. We also discuss which knots work best with monofilament line, fluorocarbon line and braided line.
How Strong Is the Nail Knot?
The nail knot, in my opinion, is just as strong as a loop connection, whose main point of failure is the loop knot in the mono or fluoro leader. For more info on knot strength check out this article, which includes the nail knot (called the needle knot in this piece).
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