The (Arising of the) KLINKHAMER Special |
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Category: Flies for Fly Fishing | Author: Hans van Klinken

The story behind the creation of one of the best parachute patterns ever designed.


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 and use them 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 death 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 efforts to sink it. 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 than all the other parachute flies I had made before. The shape was different and when I looked in my test tray it really floated like iceberg. At that moment I didn't fully 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 floatability of the fly in fast broken water. It was a place where everybody was fishing and catches were very little because of the highest fishing pressure in the area. 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 immediately started to make several copies. I perfected the body, which I made as fine and as durable 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 in my Scandinavia dream waters.

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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 prevented hooking failures more 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 upper lip, which surely resulted in fewer fish lost during the playing. The L.T. Caddis proved to be the best pattern to catch the Corregone species on dry fly as well. 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 didn't matter what colours you presented. Under 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. Unknown to me to me at that time, Tomas Olsen, 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. Mike Monroe (also from US) made a similar fly even 4 years before any of our patterns existed and in a time that we hardly knew what was going on at the US tying scene. He called this fly the 'Paratilt'. Mike wrote an article about his new design that was published in the summer of 1979 so probably he was the first from all of us unless new information will show up. Therefore I find that all the others deserve as much credit for their creations as I got it for my Klinkhåmer Special or L.T. Caddis.

Although I designed the fly for grayling and Corregone fishing in Scandinavia, I started to use this pattern extensively for trout in 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 Hans de Groot, joking as always, created a new name for my L.T. Caddis. Thus The Klinkhåmer Special was born. A perfect Scandinavian and very powerful name.


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 Klinkhåmer Special and prove its effectiveness throughout Europe. Today, my Klinkhåmer 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 discussions. 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 Klinkhåmer 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 he 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.

3 Klinkhåmers


This large pattern, developed in Scandinavia, continued to produce similar stories on several German 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 have even achieved 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 catch of four grilse a day. My best day catch with my Klinkhåmer was even more then a dozen and that story sadly reached the Norwegian newspaper and unfortunately spoiled the place. This was absolutely the most beautiful and best Klinkhåmer water for salmon I discovered so far. A three-hour hiking trip through the wildest landscapes brought me back to paradise. Sadly, this Garden of Eden disappeared in the early nineties when locals made a road for easy access.


When I introduced my Klinkhåmer to friends and several well-known fly-fishermen, no one 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 as well. This happened after John and I had fished together in the river Kyll in Germany were I gave him a good demonstration from the Klinkhåmer and Leadheaded grayling bugs. Without his articles and favourable words the Klinkhåmer never had been the popularity 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 Klinkhåmers to the USA, Canada and New Zealand and the incredible 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.


Since 1996, during my trips to Canada and full of confidence in my most successful European dry flies my dreams and thoughts became reality. An extremely large Klinkhåmer Special was my best dry fly pattern to tempt the Canadian Atlantic salmon. No other dry fly was as successful against its unbelievable power. Bombers were great, bugs did well, Wulffs and Fragile Darters succeed but the Klinkhåmer 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 Newfoundland. The Klinkhåmer succeed there where bombers and Wulffs failed. The same size for brook trout worked great in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. In BC, the Yukon, N.W.T and Alaska Klinkhåmers as big to size 4 and 2 made it possible to catch enormous grayling and lake trout.

Photo credit Leon Links.

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