Updated
2000-11-22

Swedish version

 

Photo: Rudy van Duijnhoven

THE (ARISING OF THE)
KLINKHAMER SPECIAL 

by Hans van Klinken

  1984 proved to be a very special year for me, mainly due to an excellent season with my grayling bugs and the creation of one of the best parachute pattern I have ever designed. On my arrival at my favourite fishing camp in Norway a departing fishing friend, who had enjoyed considerable success, told me to use big flies fishes as deep as possible in surface film. Principally he used moistened dry flies to get them through the surface. Large Red Tags on size 8 long shank hook did extremely well. However I wanted something new, something completely different. It took me two days of thinking before I got a little brain wave. It was a huge and strongly curved caseless caddis larva, found in the stomach of a grayling, which gave the idea. I created a Parachute on a large Partridge grub hook. I tied the body as close as possible to the barb and made a few more hackle windings than usual. This to ensure that the parachute was strong enough to keep this larger fly floating. I treated the wing and parachute with floatant and drop it in my dish of water time and time again. It kept floating and resisted my test. In spite of the large hook it floated perfectly on the hackle. The complete hook was underwater but because of the hook shape it hung much deeper as all the other parachute flies I made before. The shape was different and when I looked in my test tray it really floats like iceberg. At that moment I didn't realise what I had created.

  My first attempts were amazing. I tried the pattern in a strong rapid of the Glomma River just in front of our tent. I wasn't really fishing but more testing the fly in fast broken water. It was a place where everybody was fishing and catches were very little because of the fishing pressure. A few moments later the fly was taken so aggressively that I hardly could find the words to explain. The first fish I caught hooked themselves. I did nothing because I simply was too astonished to set the hook. A few casts later I caught my second fish and I even got a third one on exactly at the same place.

  Back at my tent, I directly started to make several copies. I perfected the body which I made as fine as possible and tapered it securely until it was a good looking abdomen. I just tied the fly with a slim thorax of polypropylene dubbing. Some weeks later I discover that a nice Peacock herl thorax produced not only more fish than a fly without a thorax but also give the fly a much better appearance. Because of my preference for Poly dubbing in the American "Light Tan" colour I called the resultant fly the L.T. Caddis. The reason was simple: The caddis larva inspired the idea and this pattern performed extremely well during a caddis hatch.

  After my first season with the L.T. Caddis I was totally convinced that deep surface hanging parachute fly in combination with the strongly curved hook prevent indeed less hooking failures than any other fly design. The hooking power with the crooked hook was just incredible but more important was that small fish didn't come up for this huge pattern. I also conclude that most fish was caught in their upperlip, which surely resulted in fewer loosing fish during the playing. The L.T. Caddis proved to be the best pattern to catch Corregone species on dry fly. Corregones have a very small and soft mouth and they really like the shape of this pattern. With normal dry flies I only landed 3 out of 10 takes but the L.T. Caddis bring up the score considerably. The body colour can be very important at times. The fish could take only yellow variations one day while the next day it really doesn't matter what colours you present. At conditions like this I even got some fish on white and black variations in the same pool.

  I was not the only one struck with the idea of designing deep surface hanging parachute flies. At that time unbeknown to me, Tomas Olson, a famous Swedish fly tier, had created a similar pattern in 1983. With his melted technique he developed an identical wingless fly, and in the USA Roy Richardson developed an equal fly in 1986 without knowing about our flies. Therefore I find that they deserve as much credit for their creations as I got for my L.T. Caddis.


Photo: Ina van Klinken

  Although I designed the fly for grayling and corregone fishing in Scandinavia, I started to use this pattern extensively for trout since 1986. This happened after I visit the UK and central and southern of Europe more frequently. It was my first experience with the L.T. Caddis beyond Scandinavia. It provided marvellous results for me on the broken water of many river systems. Following this success, my confidence in the fly was high, and in the winter of 86/87 I produced an article for our Dutch fly-fishing magazine. When this article was edited and checked by the Editorial Staff I was absent from the country, so our Master fly tier Hans de Groot, joking as always, created a new name for my L.T. Caddis. Thus the Klinkhåmer Special was born. It was a perfect Scandinavian and very powerful name. (N.B. Because of the dozens of spelling mistakes I renamed it for the last time in the Klinkhamer Special which was also much easier to type in the English language.)

  AGAINST ALL RULES

  Contrary to what the articles, patterns and information in books say, I have learned that small flies are not essential to catch large grayling in Central Europe. Because I learned my fly-fishing techniques in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland I have a different approach to trout and grayling fishing. Experiences build on Scandinavian thoughts, theories and ideas that gave me the confidence to persevere with the Klinkhamer Special and prove its effectiveness throughout Europe. Today, my Klinkhamer is accepted as an excellent, all-round fast-water fly for grayling and trout, irrespective of geographical location.

  The first time that somebody else seriously pays attention to my large parachute fly happened in 1986 at the Welsh Dee. My incredible successes started the first discussion. The breakthrough came in 1987, when I fished the river Ure in Yorkshire with my friend, Mike Mee. I was fishing a size 10 version of the Klinkhamer Special and I caught a good number of superb grayling whilst Mike managed only three. I used my pattern in a part of the river with a nice long rapid. Broken water that I used to fish in Scandinavia. Mike is an acknowledged expert on the Yorkshire rivers and was amazed that I was taking grayling on such a big "dry-fly". "It goes against all rules", Mike complained, but I left him some flies before departed for Holland, and was very happy to hear that they continued to do well for him.

  SALMON & SEA TROUT

  This large in Scandinavia developed pattern continued to produce similar stories on several Germans and Belgium rivers. But most spectacular by far were the reports of salmon and sea trout taken on this fly from estuaries, tidal streams and many small grilse rivers of Norway. Dry-fly fishing for salmon is not very popular in Europe, but for me, it is the most beautiful way to fish for those species. Indeed, for several years it was my most reliable and successful way to hook and land small salmon and sea trout. Since 1988 I even achieve a lot of success with it in saltwater. Especially narrow straits with tidal currents became my hot spots in saltwater fly-fishing. For several years I had in one little Salmon River an average caught of four grilse a day. This was absolutely the most beautiful and best Klinkhamer water for salmon I knew. A three-hour hike trip through the wildest landscapes brought me back to paradise. Sadly, this Garden of Eden disappeared when locals made a road for easy access.

  SUSPICION

  When I introduced my Klinkhamer to friends and several well-known fly-fishermen, nobody ever thought that this huge pattern in combination with my Scandinavian techniques worked well in the traditional waters of Central-Europe. It was no other than John Roberts who popularised my pattern in the UK and far outside enormously. This happened after John and I had fished together in the river Kyll in Germany were I gave him a good demonstration from the Klinkhamer and Leadheaded grayling bugs. Without his articles and favourable words the Klinkhamer never had been the popularity as it has today. Now years later it is good to hear and read that most people change their minds after using my big fly in the proper way. During the years I also sent several of my Klinkhamers to the USA, Canada and New Zealand and the results described by my friends were just dreams for European fly-fishermen. My good friend Hugo Martel also fished the pattern intensively in Russia. His experience with it was very interesting and it proved me that even Russian fish react on it very aggressively.

  CANADIAN EXPERIENCE

  Then in 1996, during my first trip to Canada and full of confidence in my most successful European dry flies my dreams and thoughts became reality. An extreme large Klinkhamer Special was my best dry fly pattern to temp the Canadian salmon. No other dry fly was proof against his unbelievable power. Bombers were great, bugs did well, Wulffs and Fragile Darters succeed but the Klinkhamer Special beat them all. My wife Ina who also has an enormous confidence in this pattern did extremely well with a white variation on the Grey river in Nfld. The Klinkhamer succeed there where bombers and Wulffs failed. The same size for brook trout worked great in Nfld. and NS.

  HOW I CAME TO MY TECHNIQUE

  For many people parachute flies are difficult to tie. Strange as it may sound, in spite of the bad start with fly tying, I have never had any serious problems with producing a parachute. Of course I had my difficulties tying off the parachute but that's quite normal, especially when you don't know the right technique. Once found a good method it can be tied as simple as any other dry fly. My greatest problem was that I was not satisfied with the securing and durability of the hackle. Although I fished intensively for grayling it sometimes happened that I hooked a trout. Those trout often destroyed the parachute during their fight for freedom. From that moment my interest in making more durable flies was a priority and it took me a whole winter season to find a technique which was proof against those sharp little trout teeth. In this period of experiments and improvements I also looked for a much easier way to tie off the parachute hackle.

  Because I only used the normal parachute technique for a very short time I will pay not much attention to it. I only can say that probably the most difficult step with parachutes is the securing of the hackle. This is because most people tie off the hackle at the eye of the hook. Using this method you have to pull away the hackle fibres first which makes the tie off very difficult. There are some special finger techniques possible to prevent this problem but I haven't seen many tiers using them. Although this is a solution to make the tying easier I still don't like it. It has no effect on the durability of the hackle. The hackle quill goes directly from the wing post to the hook eye, which makes it easily breakable by the sharp teeth of a trout. In my opinion it is a fragile construction because when the quill breaks, the parachute comes off very quickly. It happened to me quite often while using my first parachutes. During one of my first improvements I made some extra windings through the thorax before securing the hackle. This makes the hackle more durable, but also the tying more complicated.


Photo: Ina van Klinken

Go to:
The dressing and tying technique of
THE KLINKHAMER SPECIAL

 

  WHAT DO FISH TAKE THIS LARGE PARACHUTE FLY FOR?

  I must confess that my entomology was just started to develop when I first developed the Klinkhamer, and it was meant to be a copy of what I had found in the stomach of a good grayling which were caddis pupae right on the point of hatching. It was their curved body, which I tried to imitate with the grub hook. The emerging wings could be seen as the parachute hackle. This combination surely gave rise to the fly's appearance. Now, years later and with a reasonable knowledge of Scandinavian insect-life I misinterpreted the function of the fly. Today, I see my Klinkhamer not only as wonderfully effective fly or series of flies when the basic pattern is altered to accommodate emerging sedges, midges, upwing flies etc. but also as a perfect imitation for many different types of large struggling terrestrials. This is the only reason I can come up to take it even when there is no evidence of a hatch. In this instance, it makes a truly wonderful dry fly for "search fishing".

  SOME FISHING TIPS

  In Scandinavia I mainly fish and present my fly down streams. I have too many personal arguments to describe all the details but one of them is that I prefer a drift with the fly in front. I like to think as a fish and believe that many fish will refuse the fly because they simply discover the leader or shadow of the leader with upstream fishing. With very fine leaders it is not a real problem but with salmon fishing it is. This is what I discovered in Scandinavia and since I fish down streams the catches improved considerable.

  Although not many people like braided leaders I love them. Especially tapered intermediate ones. Because they give extra power and weight to the leader it prevents wind knots and produce better casting with large dry flies. To secure the leader to the fly line I push the leader over the fly line and tie it off with tying thread and a drop of waterproof super glue. It is a very smooth, durable and unbelievable strong connection and had never a snap. At the tip I make a loop on which I directly put on the tippet. With this technique I reduce the knots in the leader until a minimum.

  CASTING TECHNIQUES

  Cast the line so that it slants trough the air. Stop the rod in a high forward position and pull the rod with stretched arm down towards the surface. Be sure this is being done before the line is completely straight. The line close to the rod tip will fall down and stop the leader. Because the front of the fly-line and leader does not straighten any more, the fly-line will fall down in loose coils to the surface. Now you have an ideal situation for a long float without dragging. You also can fish more difficult lies in a strong current much easier without the problem of the current whipping your fly line downstream as soon as it has landed.
An alternative casting technique you can also do by pulling back the line with your left (non-casting) hand before it is straighten completely in the air, the fly will go further and you see that the braided leader will give some extra power to the fly.

  FISHING TECHNIQUES

  My method for fishing the large Scandinavian rivers for grayling is to work downstream. In this fashion, I can delay the drag on the fly for as long as possible producing a long downstream drift, which I believe, entices deep-feeding grayling to rise up to the fly, as they have plenty of time to see it. Often they will follow the fly and take it at the very last moment.
There are other reasons why I like to fish downstream: with this type of presentation the fly is the first thing the grayling sees, the leader and fly line are all upstream of the fly. I think this is the main reason accounting for my success with specimen grayling. With small fish it not important, but big grayling are full of experience and can be extremely wary of leaders and fly lines. When downstream fishing a stretch of fast, smooth water the chance of hooking big trout is small, so I can get away with using fine tippets, too.

  FOOD SEAM

  There is another indirect benefit of working downstream in the large rivers. As you wade, insects from the bottom will wash loose from rocks and weeds under your feet to form a feeding "track" downstream of your path. In this food seam big grayling will hunt for dislodged insects. Remember this because most anglers are overly keen to cast across the river, not realising that their wading has caused the fish to move directly downstream of them. How more the water is fished the more fish will hunt for disoriented insects. Downstream dry fly is not only less dangerous, but also less tiring, so that longer distances can be covered easily. Thus, you will undoubtedly cover more fish.

 

The article continues on:
The dressing and tying technique of
THE KLINKHAMER SPECIAL

Text, photo and drawings by:
Hans van Klinken and Ina van Klinken

Related article: The Klinkhåmer Special fifteen years later (2000)

 

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