What are the essential accessories for fly fishing? If your starting out in this fascinating sport I strongly recommend these items to start. It seems like in fly fishing we try to make things a little more complicated through the use of special knots and names. Don’t let this intimidate you fly fishing at its core is pretty easy, but with a couple essential tools in your fly fishing vest you can make the learning a little faster.

Here’s My Short List:

  1. Nail Knot Tool
  2. Dr. Slick Scissor Clamps
  3. Multi-tool like the highly recommended Leatherman 830039 Wave <- AMAZON LINK FOR PRICE
  4. Thermometer
  5. Line Nippers
  6. Hook Sharpener

1. Nail Knot Tool

There are about 4 or 5 knots you need to learn for fly fishing. A knot that I keep finding more and more uses for is the NAIL KNOT. Recently when I ask fly fishing guide Steve Martinez what his favorite tool for fly fishing is he said the nail knot tool.

My hands down recommendation is the Tie-Fast Nail Knot Tool <- LINK TO AMAZON FOR PRICE CHECK AND REVIEWS.

The tie fast nail knot tier is a KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) tool. Nothing extra is added, constructed of stainless steel with a glare reducing finish and a loop for connecting to a lanyard or vest. It fits in your hand nicely, the thumb tab is in a natural position and the “U” has smooth edges to protect your line from nicks.

Why Use a Nail Knot Tool

The main use for a nail knot is to attach a leader to your fly line and backing to fly line. These knots can be tied without a tool, but it is so much easier using a tool it doesn’t even make sense not to use one. A nail knot squeezes the fly line and leader together, actually the knot grips more as you pull on it. The flat and low profile allows the knot to pass through fly rod guides easily. I use the nail knot tool for a couple other knots as well. I particularly like using it for making loops on the end of a fly line for loop to loop connections.

How To Use a Nail Knot Tool

The best way to learn how to tie a nail knot and use this tool is watch my video on YOUTUBE. Check out my YOUTUBE play list of Fly Fishing Accessories HERE.

How To Tie a Nail Knot Video

What Else Can You Use the TIE FAST NAIL KNOT TOOL For

I use this fly fishing accessory for two other knots. The first is a SNELL KNOT used for super tying strong knots onto a hook shank. The other use is for tying on a LOOP for LOOP TO LOOP connections. This is my little “hack” knot I discovered using the nail knot tool.

There are cheaper tools, but I’ve found that the “U” on the TIE-FAST is just the right size and having smooth edges eliminates the risk of nicking the line. For easy price checks use MY LINK TO AMAZON HERE TIE-FAST NAIL KNOT TOOL.

2. Dr. Slick Scissor Clamps

Face it whenever you play with string you’ve got to cut it. When fly fishing you also need to tie knots, crush down hook barbs and remove hooks from fish. I’ve found the handiest tool for this is the Dr. Slick Scissor Clamps <-AMAZON LINK for reviews and price check.

Best Hemostats Dr Slick Scissor Clamps
Best Hemostats Dr Slick Scissor Clamps

Sincerely, I’ve owned, lost and bought a dozen different Hemostat/Scissors. The Dr Slicks have turned out to be my favorites. I use them on every outing. I’ve already filmed a video about the 6 hacks I use this essential fly fishing accessory. The Dr. Slick’s have serrated scissors, a clamp and a hook eye cleaner. They come in black, gold and stainless (silver) color. Another nice feature is the large loops for your fingers. I don’t have big hands, but I’ve had problems with some of my other scissors having loops that are to small.

I’ll tell you one of the secrets to catching more fish – keep a fly in the water as much as possible. This might seem silly, but having these scissors will save time tying knots, cutting line which in turn will help catch more fish. I can’t say enough positive things about DR. SLICK SCISSOR/CLAMPS – amazon link.

3. Multitool like the Leatherman 830039 Wave

There are so many good things to say about the LEATHERMAN WAVE a proven product with 17 essential tools built in. I especially like being able to deploy the locking knife with ONE HANDED. Leatherman backs this product with a 25 year warranty. What is so sweet is that so many gadgets can fold up into a convenient 4 inch package.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Needle Nose Pliers
  • Regular Pliers behind the needle nose
  • Wire Cutter
  • A Wire Stripper
  • A replaceable single hand locking 420 HC Knife
  • Opposite the knife is a Serrated Knife which is great for cutting rope
  • A small saw for cutting all those branches my fly seems to get into
  • Scissors
  • The frame of the Wave has an eight inch ruler
  • Can Opener
  • Bottle Opener
  • A combo wood and metal file – handy for rounding sharp edges that could nick an expensive fly line
  • A diamond file – perfect for sharpening hooks and knives
  • A couple sizes of regular and phillips screwdriver head

I highly recommend this international best selling model, the design has been a proven winner since 2004. GET THE LEATHERMAN WAVE <- AMAZON Link for reviews and the latest price.

4. A Stream Thermometer

While fishing you quickly start thinking about what fish want. Food, Shelter and Comfort – this last one comfort is environmental. This is where “Reading the Water” comes in. Check out my article on reading the water for nymph fishing HERE. All fish have a comfort zone, where they’re metabolism works most efficiently. For trout this is in the mid-50s Fahrenheit, remember the high the water temperature the lower the amount of dissolved oxygen will be in the water. So temperature is a key factor in unraveling how to catch fish on a fly. To check the temperature you need one of those “Mystery Tools” called a STREAM THERMOMETER. 🙂

Easy to use, just clip it onto the tip of your rod and lower into water. Now to really start understanding how water temperature affects fishing you MUST KEEP A FISHING JOURNAL. I write down little notes for every trip. Place, time, air temp, water temp and flies. Plus those little memories of the fish caught. So to get back on topic…

I Highly RECOMMEND the ORVIS STREAM THERMOMETER <-Amazon Link for prices and reviews Under $20 bucks rugged and encased. I’ve broken those ones that don’t have a protective tube so avoid those if you see them.

5. Fly Line Nippers

Oh my gosh, I’m see nippers that cost over a $100 buck. Sorry I can’t do it. Years ago I found some nippers (I think it was ebay) They were based on that common finger nail clipper design. I made a bunch of lanyards with those and gave them to friends. Of course I’ve never been able to find them again.

What do I like about them – The clipper gave me a little bit of leverage to cut almost any line. Braids, 40 lb mono, even wire could be snipped. The FLAT cutting blades allowed me to sharpen them with my diamond hook file. The large thumb tab could be operated with gloves on. The best part I think they were a couple bucks. If you can find this style – buy them.

6. A DIAMOND Hook Sharpener

The point of a hook is fragile, if you touch it on anything odds are you just made it dull. If you look next to a guide in his boat, guess what you usually see – HOOK SHARPENER. I’ve found those inexpensive ones with the diamond dust work best. Just a couple strokes and your back in business. These things are CHEAP – Order it from AMAZON – Link Diamond Fishing Hook & Knife Sharpening Stone

To test to see if your hook is sharp, gently drag the point over your finger nail. It it sticks or scratches the hook is sharp. If the hook slides off you need to sharpen it. With the recommended sharpener you have two options for grit. I typically select the finer one for hooks. Stroke the hook in the groove, you want to keep the hook at a low angle to sharpen at the same angle as the original point. Usually three to five strokes will bring the needle point back. Test again on your finger nail to confirm. Done

I’m not sure how the diamond dust works so well but it does. Years ago I made a video called How to sharpen a fishing hook. Check it out below.

So there it is – my six essential fly fishing accessories. Having these little items in your fly fishing vest will make your outings more enjoyable and can actually help you catch more fish.

Tight Lines!

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