The main focus for many trout anglers is understandably at the rod end of the line. Smartly turned out in the latest waistcoat, waterproof equipment and using a treasured rod gives a satisfying feeling of pride. Owning the latest “kit” is great fun and partly what fishing is all about. However, whilst our focus is perhaps at the rod end of the line, our quarry of course has interest only in the other end! To increase our fishing success perhaps more focus may be needed on the business end of the line. Let’s think progressively from the tip of the rod right through to the fly…


Starting with the line itself, my advice is always buy one that is matched to your rod and of the best quality you can afford. Why not take your rod into the shop and ask your tackle dealer for advice? If fishing to a budget, buy a good line and if necessary, perhaps compromise on choosing that absolute top of the range reel. Most modern good quality lines are well designed with balanced tapers and slick coatings. The shift towards forward taper profiles has also greatly enhanced casting ease and line turnover. Fly presentation, that’s the important thing!

Ask your dealer to load the line onto the reel for you; or have some fun - buy an Orvis nail knotting tool and do it yourself. Don’t forget to load on sufficient backing or the line will not fill the reel adequately. The Orvis fly fishing catalogue always contains a full description of line and backing quantities required for each reel, so you shouldn’t go wrong.


So we now have a good rod and line. What join should we best use to attach the leader? The range is quite extensive, braided loops, monofilament loops, welded loop, nail knot joins – to name just a few. Personally I would avoid braided loops and braided tapered leaders for dry fly fishing. They shed water when false casting and can quickly become worn which results in the braid “bristling”. Also in my experience braided compression loops “let go” too often when into a good fish! To avoid this some people use superglue but this can produce a stiff joint at the end of the fly line unless very carefully attached.

The new welded loops are quite neat and of course come as part of the fly line. Alternatively, my preference is to nail knot a loop of monofilament nylon (pinched flat to streamline) or perhaps even nail knot a complete tapered leader directly to the fly line and add tippet as appropriate. Eventually a fresh leader can be attached which will only loose you half an inch of fly line on each occasion. Fewer knots and joins lessen breakage risk and lead to better presentation!

Most Orvis lines come with braided loops attached – your dealer or Orvis store will be able to help you change this, if you want to, to monofilament or another solution.


Well, do we need tapered leaders? YES WE DO. I can never understand why trout fishermen buy the very best equipment they can afford and then spoil the performance of the rod and line by the false economy of not using tapered leaders. Modern rods and lines are designed to impart energy, via the casting action, from the rod through the fly line and leader out to the fly via a series of carefully linked tapers. Good casting action combined with well chosen lines and leaders will achieve perfect “turnover” and fly presentation. DON’T just attach 9ft of straight monofilament to the end of your line – it’s no use - the progressive power transfer just comes to an abrupt stop and this can be observed by watching the fly falling back when casting and presenting.

A small investment will pay dividends. Spend an extra few pounds on a good tapered leader or two. Orvis tapered leaders all come with a pre-looped end, so you can easily loop your leader onto the end of your line. Using simple join knots, tippet can be replaced during several fishing trips using the same butt end of tapered leader. Tapered leaders also give options to the angler. Extra fine tippet can be added to increase delicacy for those awkward summer fish or a short length of fluorocarbon can be added to sink between fly and leader.


Tying knots is often considered a black art, and great debates are had about their relative strength and breakage… We can’t avoid tying knots, so which ones to use?

I’ve tried them all over the years, and while there are several knot books that provide excellent illustrations of the “best thirty” (!) fishing knots, I like these three:

  1. A loop knot – the “Perfection Loop”
  2. A join knot for tippet – the “Surgeon’s Knot”
  3. A knot for attaching a fly – the “Orvis Knot”

See how these are tied by clicking here:

Finally, inspect your fly lines regularly! It is amazing how many people come to the river with a brittle and cracked fly line attached to a superb rod and reel. Invest in a little line care equipment to help focus on the business end! Fly line cleaners prolong performance and maintain slickness, so give your line a regular polish. A nylon straightener will help to care for your tapered leader by removing the inevitable kinks. Some sinkant will disguise the leader when fishing dry and a drying patch or fly drying preparation will rescue a waterlogged dry fly. Last of all, apply your floatant - and don’t forget to rub in a little hope at the same time! And then cast away with confidence.

Trust me, a little bit more focus on the trout end of the equipment will pay dividends.

Tight lines,

Graham Wood, Orvis Ghillie on the Test and Itchen.

Orvis run an extensive range of Fly Fishing Academies for beginners, improvers and experienced fishermen alike. Orvis also sell day tickets on our beats of the Test and Itchen in Hampshire. Graham can be contacted through our Academies and river lettings service – Please call Orvis on 01264-349519, or look at this web page: