Any day now, I expect to hear about a revolutionary new fishing knot. Not that we need one, heaven knows, because we already have more than we can use. But new knots pop up regularly and it seems that one is overdue.
You would think we would reach the end of knot evolution, the limit to the ways you can intertwine a piece of string. But, alas, it seems the number is infinite.
The perfect knot is stronger than the line itself and can be tied in 15 seconds by a blind person with cold, wet hands aboard a pitching, rolling boat. That, or course, is a myth, but the fantasy plays on.
Most anglers probably could get along superbly with a half-dozen knots, but there are dozens to choose from. The best knot authority that I know about is Practical Fishing Knots by Lefty Kreh and Mark Sosin (Crown Publishers, 1976), which gives instructions for tying about two dozen knots, while acknowledging 'there are thousands of knots used by fishermen today.'
The advent of nylon monofilament after World War II started a knot revolution because knots used with cotton and linen lines would not work with the slick synthetic. The manufacturers of monofilament, which have a vested interest in good fishing knots, are quick to promote any new tie they consider superior.
One of oldest and most popular is the clinch knot, which is also one of the best. Most anglers know the clinch, although some might not know its name. Some people call it a jam knot, among other things.
Whether tied in its plain or improved version, the clinch is a classic, quick to tie, and when carefully assembled it's strength is about 90-95 percent of the line itself. If the clinch were the only knot for tying lines to hooks and lures, the world would not be much worse off.
But there are others: Palomar, Duncan loop, Homer Rhode loop, Crawford knot, Trilene knot, Jansik special, offshore swivel knot, and hook snell to name a few.
Then there are knots for connecting lines: blood knot, surgeon's knot, uniknot. Knots for forming loops: surgeon's loop, improved end loop, perfection loop, dropper loop. And knots for doubling lines: Bimini twist and Spider hitch.
Fly fishermen have knots of their own. For connecting leaders to fly lines there is the nail knot and all its variations: the needle knot, 30-second nail knot, to name two.
The turle knot, predating nylon, was developed to attach silkworm gut leaders to flies with turned-down eyes, and some fly-casters still use it with mono leaders.
Surf anglers use the Albright special and what some people call the half-blood knot to tie thick shock leaders to thin running line.
Some knots have two names. The Duncan loop preceded its duplicate, the uniknot, which uses the basic Duncan tie for a whole series of knots for tying to eyes, connecting lines and snelling hooks.
The Trilene knot, claimed by the Berkley company that makes Trilene fishing line, duplicates the older double clinch, a modification of the simple clinch in which the line passes twice through the hook eye. The blood knot is frequently called the barrel knot.
Some knots are named for their inventors and their history is known, but the origin of others is obscure. Does anyone know who invented the clinch?
Knots are like rifle calibers. Riflemen frequently invent new ones - wildcats, they are called -- which often serve little purpose because they duplicate the performance of established calibers. So it is with knots.
If there is a knot that reigns absolutely in its field, it's the Bimini twist. Its only competitor is the Spider hitch, and although it is quicker to tie and about as strong, it has never caught on.
The Bimini -- sometimes called the 20-times-around -- is a complex knot developed by ocean anglers to double the front end of their trolling lines. Few others use it, although it is not difficult to tie.
Most anglers can get by very well with only three or four knots: the clinch for tying lines to hooks and lures; the blood for connecting lines of similar size; surgeon's for connecting lines of dissimiliar size; surgeon's loop for rigging terminal tackle. In addition, a fly fisherman should know the nail knot.
But stay alert. A new knot is probably just over the horizon and you never know the reach of the revolution it will bring. After all, a knot is the weakest link between an angler and his fish.