We, as a culture, love competitions. It’s not enough that both a Lamborghini and a similarly priced Ferrari both offer 600 horsepower. We need to know the top speed for both. Therefore the testers at Motor Trend bring them out to a track and confirm that the Ferrari can go 208, where the Lamborghini maxes out at 205. Auto fanatics nod approvingly and concur that Ferrari is obviously the better product.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not likely to notice a .98 percent difference in performance, especially when it’s occurring at those stomach-churning speeds.
Which brings us to one of the most popular arguments among casual fishing fans. What’s the better knot: A palomar or an improved clinch?
It’s surprising how much we want to pit the two knots against each other. Google’s search page will offer suggestions when you begin typing a search term, to help you find the most popular searches. Type “palomar” and the first result is “palomar vs improved clinch.” The second most popular search is “palomar knot.” Society is more interested in learning which is better than how to tie them.
To find the answer, we’ll turn to experts in the field to get precise, data-supported information on what knot truly is better for your day on the lake. We’ll look to John Berwin, one of the most respected fishing writers in modern history. Prior to his passing in 2013, he did plenty of knot examinations and ruminations for Field & Stream.
His early tests showed that a Palomar knot maintains 91 percent strength, meaning it would keep 9.1 lbs. of a 10-lb. test line’s reported strength. During that same test, he suggested that an improved clinch knot maintained 86 percent of line test. The Palomar is better. End of story, right?
Merwin clarified his thoughts on found data in another article, which is notably titled “Knot Strength Isn’t All About Line Strength.”
“If you're comfortable with an improved clinch, say, or a Palomar knot, by all means keep using it,” he wrote. “The best fishing knots are those you're most comfortable in tying and that still seem adequately strong. Hey, if it works for you, stick with it.”
And maybe you should stick to improved clinch knots if that’s what you know. An extra five percent of performance ability goes out the window if you tie an amateur palomar knot, or vice-versa. The results achieved by expert testing revolve around tying a top notch knot to begin with.
But even then, the results of experts may hinge on their own preferences. We can safely assume that Berwin was a qualified judge. Yet a similar study from Fly Fisherman magazine found the improved clinch to be the third best of 15 knots tested, beating out the palomar.
The difference in results could be attributed to problems with the initial knot, or it could be attributed to differences in testing methods. Either way, it suggests that the difference between these knots is minute enough that it won’t matter in the long run, assuming that you tie them right.
The ultimate message here is that you should tie what you’re comfortable tying, and do it right. That may not be a satisfying conclusion for those who demand hard numbers, but it’s the kind of wisdom that won’t do you wrong when you’re out fishing.