At the business end, it’s time to tie on a fly; forcing a choice from an almost infinite number of line to hook knot options. Want to start an argument? Ask experienced anglers which knot they prefer!
In the end, as Phil Monahan wrote on Orvis.com, correctly tying the knot you learn is more important than the knot you select. Consistency matters! Tying a decent knot perfectly every time is better than tying the “best” knot poorly.
As a new fly angler, ignore the complexities and follow Phil’s recommendation to use the tried-and-true clinch knot since it is fast and easy to tie using forceps and typically delivers a decent percent of line strength before breaking.
Ok… just to make the point on breaking strength… I saw test results for 6X tippet with a nominal strength of 3.5 pounds. The highly regarded Palomar knot broke at 2.85 pounds and the clinch separated at 2.4 pounds; 81% and 69% respectively.
The improved clinch knot bumps the breaking point up to 2.5 pounds/71%, and the best knot tested, the Trilene knot, broke at 2.86 pounds/82%.
Conclusions? First, even a casual search finds multiple claims the Palomar breaks at 95%; demonstrating all tests are situational and depend on how they were conducted. Second, tests are done in a sterile, controlled, dry-land situation, not on a stream where current, abrasion and random, desperate tugs come into play. Finally, who cares if the 6X breaks at 2.85 versus 2.4 pounds… it is insignificant in practice where jerks and pulls probably exceed the difference. If concerned, bump up to 5X (rated at 4.5 pounds) since Orvis confirms 5X performs well for smaller flies down to size 18 and, using the same percentage (69%), the 5X clinch knot breaks at 3.3 pounds.