Lessons From Knot Theory

July 11, 2009 By: Marshall Cutchin

Fly fishers could jump to all kinds of conclusions about what knot theory tells us about keeping our fly lines and leaders from becoming a tangled mess. So why not?
On Live Science, Jeanna Bryner talks about the extensive experiments conducted by two physicists using string-tumbling experiments to determine what caused the “knottiest knots.” “From the model, they created a simplified ‘lifecycle’ of a knot from tidy beginning to titanic tangle. Once dropped, the string formed concentric coils. Next, the string’s free end weaved through the coils, with a 50 percent likelihood of crossing under or over the coil and following a path to the left or right.” They concluded that longer (to a point), more flexible string in larger containers created the most “Gordian” result.
The takeaway: stiffer fly lines and leaders are less likely to tangle, especially if kept short. And forget about those oversized stripping baskets.