Tying the Improved Clinch Knot

Tying the Improved Clinch Knot with The Blue Quill Angler in Evergreen, CO

If you’ve ever tied a fish hook onto a line, you likely used the Clinch Knot. When connecting your leader to a fly, we recommend using the Improved Clinch Knot which is very similar with only a slight difference. The Improved Clinch Knot is effective with up to a 12-pound test, and not recommended for line rated above twelve pounds. This is among the easier knots to master, but we do suggest tying it a few times before heading out fly fishing for the first time. That way, you can focus on fishing and not rigging while you’re on the water. Work through the following steps to tie the Improved Clinch Knot, and check out our Introduction to Fly Fishing Class to learn this and everything else you’ll need to know when starting out on the adventure of fly fishing.

Step One for Tying the Improved Clinch Knot

Thread the leader tippet through the eye of your hook then wrap the end of the leader around the standing line 5 times for a line rated up to 8-pound test. If the line is rated between 8 and 12 pounds, only wrap 4 times. Another way to do this step is to cross the leader end over the standing line and simply twist the hook four or five times.

Improved Clinch Knot Step Two

Once you have the appropriate number of wraps, or twists, take the tag end of the leader and pass it through the gap between the eye of the hook and the first wrap. Before tightening, continue the tag end back through the loop that was just created as shown in the diagram.

Final Step for the Improved Clinch Knot

Now, lubricate the knot with your mouth or by getting it wet. While holding the hook in your left-hand, pull on the standing leader allowing the Knot to seat tightly against the hook. Trim off the extra tag line that’s sticking out, and you’re ready for more fishing

Improved Clinch Knot Figure 1



In all honesty, midge-fishing is only as difficult as you make it!  Many anglers shy away from fishing with tiny flies and spider web thin tippets, but trust me–that is a huge oversight!  The most challenging part of midge-fishing is tying on the minuscule offering that is oftentimes required to catch trout during the winter.

Recently, I caught a beautiful rainbow on the Farmington River, a tailwater in northwestern Connecticut, with a size 28 adult midge on 7X tippet.  That experience was about as rewarding as they get! Thank goodness for a fly box with a threader, otherwise; I might still be standing in the river trying to tie that tiny midge imitation on.

The small fly game is simple but effective! None of these will win a fly tying contest, but they do fool selective, hard-fished, tailwater trout throughout the winter months. Savvy anglers show up to the river with a thorough assortment of midges in sizes 20-26.

It’s important to note, what midges lack in size, they make up in numbers.  Midges produce 3 to 5 broods per calendar year, which punctuates the importance of continuously imitating the various stages of their lifecycle (larvae, pupae, and adults).

Some of my favorite midge larvae and pupae include: Pale Olive Larvae, Red Larvae, Mercury Blood Midges, Mercury Black Beauties, Mercury Midges, Manhattan Midges (black and red), Top Secret Midges, and Minute Midges.  Other favorites include (not pictured above): Bling Midges, Zebra Midges,  Jujubee Midges, South Platte Brassies, Miracle Nymphs, San Juan Emergers, Medallion Midges, and the Neon Nightmare. As far as the adults are concerned, it’s hard to go wrong with a Matt’s Midge, Griffith Gnat, or Parachute Adams.

In some watersheds, midges make up as much as 50% of a trout’s diet. What they lack in size, they make up with their huge populations that emerge day in and day out.

This time of year, it’s never a bad idea to fish with a egg-midge combo. A micro egg (size 18, tied from McFlyfoam) is the perfect attractor trailed by two midge imitations. I typically run a larva as my second fly,  then trail a pupa below it. Make sure you check your local regulations with regard to the number of flies you can legally fish in a tandem rig. In some states like New Mexico and Montana, you can only use two flies, but in Colorado, you can fish with 3 flies. I find the 3rd fly increases your odds exponentially.

Mid-column midge-fishing requires a lot of finesse and skill to master. I recommend using a yarn strike indicator and a number 6 split shot in your nymphing rig. It’s important that you do not use too much weight, otherwise; your offerings are presented below the fish, instead of mid-column, where you’ll find the majority of fish keying on pupae. I make small adjustments with JP’s Nymphing mud and move the indicator up and down the leader to achieve the proper depth. Observation is important when trying to determine which part of the water column the trout are feeding in.

Trout overwinter in the slow, deep pools. Avoid fast riffles and runs and these areas tend to be void of fish between November and March.

It’s important to target the soft water margins,  concentrating your efforts in the slower pools and tailouts during the winter. 6 and 7X tippets and long leaders are mandatory for success.  Only a keen eye detects the subtle strikes this time of year.  If the indicator slows down, twitches, twists or turns, set the hook, as this is a good indication a trout has taken your fly.  Make sure  you set the hook downstream, back into the trout’s jaw with a firm stroke, but short range of motion. Wide-gap hooks like a Tiemco 2488 help with your hook-up to landing ratios.

The good news is that anglers willing to battle the elements typically a few cooperative fish on just about any winter outting. Sometime just getting out is half the battle, catching a fish or two is a bonus! If you can consistently catch a handful of fish during the winter, the rest of the year seems a little bit easier.


Fall fly fishing in Colorado is some of the best fishing of the year and is one of the best times of the year to fish with streamers. Many anglers get trapped in a rut and rarely do anything but nymph-fish. One of my biggest tips for fly fishing in the fall is to remain open-minded, experiment with your tactics and techniques, and think outside the box from time to time.

During the autumn months, I typically carry a separate rod rigged with two streamers so that I have the flexibility to change tactics when necessary. I’ll routinely nymph a riffle or run first, then come back through with a tandem streamer rig looking for any opportunistic feeders that I may have missed. Some of the biggest fish of the year are fooled with streamers between September and November.

Fall Fly Fishing in Colorado

Make sure you carry an ample supply of streamers this time of year. I recommend using a tandem rig, with one light streamer as the lead fly, trailing a darker offering behind it.

Some of my favorite streamers for fall fly fishing in Colorado include: Size 1/0-2 Barr’s Meat Whistle (black, olive, white, ginger, and brown), 8-10 Crystal Bugger (white, and olive), 8-10 Heng’s Autumn Splendor, 10 Pine Squirrel Leech (natural), 10 Goat Leech (brown and black), 2-6 Bennett’s Lunch Money (rainbow trout, easter bunny, olive, brown trout, sculpin brown, and black), Barr’s Slump Buster (natural, olive, and rust), and a Cone Head Sculpin.

Another tip for fly fishing in the fall is that when I am walk-wading, I typically fish these with a floating line, but don’t rule out using a Scientific Anglers Sonar Sink 25 Cold to increase your sink rates when your fishing from a drift boat or inflatable raft.  It is designed with a 25 foot sinking head that gets your streamers deep quickly. When you want to get “down and dirty”, this fly line is a must-have!

Tight Lines!

Pat Dorsey

Learn to Fly Fish – Rocky Mountain Fly Fishing Schools in Denver, Colorado

Ever wanted to learn to fly fish yet seem to be overwhelmed with all the terminology, gear and flies you may need for this river or that river?  Let the Blue Quill Angler Rocky Mountain Fly Fishing School101 class get you started on the right track with courteous, veteran instructors that will have you on the right track in no time.

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