I posted a demonstration a few months ago featuring a video on how to tie an improved clinch knot, both with and without a TYEPRO tool.
I’m sure that quite a few people watched the video, nodded, and then continued using whatever they had been doing already. And that’s OK: The intention of these advice posts is simply to encourage and assist people who are just getting started in the fishing hobby. If a square knot or a granny knot are what you can do right now, then keep at it until you feel comfortable learning a new technique.
But if you’ve been at it for a while and you’re still using one of those knots, you may end up losing lures and losing out on bigger fish too.
Why are Squares So Popular?
The appeal of the square knot—or reef knot, as it’s known in sailor circles—comes from its popularity across a number of “fields,” such as tying sashes or shoelaces...and it’s one of the major knots in Boy Scout culture, featured on numerous badges. It’s still a popular method of tightening things in the medical world as well. People have been doing that for years, dating back to when Greek historian Pliny described how it reportedly caused wounds to heal quicker (not exactly true, but it didn’t hurt). The hitch was also referred to as a “Hercules knot” back in the day.
Why Shouldn't They Be?
Despite that impressive title, unfortunately, a square knot simply isn’t that strong.
If there was a knot-tying Hall of Fame, Clifford Ashley would surely be in it. A sailor, he accumulated all of his knowledge on the subject into his book, The Ashley Book of Knots. Although he acknowledged the square’s usefulness in the right situation, he added an ominous footnote : Ashley claimed it was responsible for more injuries and deaths than every other knot combined. The reason? People trusted its simplicity too much and used it in bad circumstances, resulting in disaster. Now, you losing a sizable trout because of a bad knot choice is not comparable to lives lost at sea during the 19th Century. But the lesson rings true: A square knot simply isn’t optimal for fishing purposes.
The explanation gets very complex (there’s an entire branch of mathematics dedicated to knot theory). We’ll limit ourselves, for the sake of simplicity, to the basics.
The capability of a knot can be measured in efficiency, or how much of of the line’s original strength is maintained by the knot. We’ve found varying reports on the square knot, all ranging between 40 and 50 percent efficiency. An improved clinch knot is rated at 75 percent. That’s a 50 percent increase in strength over the square.
That difference could determine whether a trophy fish snaps your line or ends up next to you in a memorable photo.
Give The Improved Clinch A Try
The improved clinch is far from the best knot but it’s a great starting point for beginning anglers. Once you’ve mastered it, you can start working on more specialized knots. Berkley—famous for its “Knot Wars” competitions—claims that its trilene knot (an adaptation of the improved clinch) has tested at 100 percent. We have doubts, based on science, but it’s quite possible this knot registers above 99 percent.
Again, do what you’re comfortable with for now. There’s absolutely no shame in sticking with a square knot or something similar as you begin in the angling hobby. When you’re ready, however, we promise the improved clinch will be worth your consideration.