Tying the Klinkhammer fly pattern

The Klinkhammer is a great emerger fly pattern for river or stillwater fly fishing.

Tying the Klinkhammer fly pattern
© Tim Flagler
Tying the Klinkhammer fly pattern
Picture copyright © Tim Flagler
Tying the Klinkhammer fly pattern
Estimated reading time 4 - 6 minutes

What is a Klinkhammer?

The Klinkhammer fly is a type of parachute fly designed by Dutch angler Hans Van Klinken in the early 1980s. Standard parachute flies are designed to imitate an insect emerging from the water, so the body of the fly is suspended in the water surface.

The fly's hackle gives the impression of the insect's legs from below and the wing post acts as a site aid for the fly fisher, as well as holding the fly up in the water.

Like these parachute flies, the Klinkhammer aims to imitate the profile of a hatching caddis, but it is designed to sit differently in the water.

Avid grayling fisherman Hans Van Klinken adapted the standard parachute pattern after close study of the feeding patterns of the fish, to create a fly that hangs down through the surface of the water rather than sitting in it.

As a result, the Klinkhammer has a different profile to a parachute fly, like the Adams, when in the water; the abdomen actually hangs beneath the surface of the water while the hackle and wing are on or above it.

To achieve this shape Van Klinken bent the hook of a parachute fly so the abdomen section would sink below the surface. You can now buy specially shaped Klinkhammer hooks which help you to achieve this position when presenting the fly.

The flies are often referred to as being like icebergs, as 90% of the fly is below the water, the abdomen acting as the initial primary trigger for the fish and the hackle and wing post making the fly visible for the angler.

When should I use a Klinkhammer?

Van Klinken originally devised these flies when fishing for grayling and trout on rivers, but they are also now recognised as very effective stillwater flies.

These are an excellent fly pattern for the early stages of hatches, when you can see the fish feeding at and near the surface of the water.

Tying the Klinkhammer Special

The Klinkhammer is a very fiddly fly to tie, especially on smaller sized hooks, and therefore is more suited to an intermediate fly tyer rather than a beginner.

Here is Davie McPhail with the classic Klinkhammer pattern, originally named the LT Caddis (light dun) but now renamed the Klinkhammer Special. He uses a special Klinkhammer hook and ties this to the original design.

Hook: Partridge of Redditch Klinkhamer Extreme size 14
Thread: Uni-Thread 8/0
Wing: White Poly Yarn
Hackle: Blue dun cock saddle
Body: Tan SLF and tan rabbit mixed
Thorax: Peacock herl

And here is Tim Flagler tying his version. He has a good tip for achieving the tapered fly body shape characteristic of the pattern.

Hook: Orvis Czech Nymph Hook size 12
Thread: Black 6/0
Wing: White Poly Yarn
Hackle: Medium Dun dry-fly hackle
Body: Tan superfine dubbing
Thorax: Peacock herl

Variations on a theme...

The Klinkhammer can be tied in various colours and sizes, with black and olive being the most prevalent, to imitate different emerging insects.

Many fly tyers also vary the wing post colour, often using hi-vis fluorescent poly yarn in pink, orange or yellow, to increase the fly's visibility for the angler under different light conditions.

There are also variations in the material used to create the wing post. CDC feathers are a popular choice as is foam, often used to increase the fly's durability and increase its buoyancy.

How to fish a Klinkhammer

The most popular way to fish with a Klinkhammer is as a single fly, fished as a dry fly - not actively retrieved, but taking up the slack so you keep in contact with the fly. Their visibility in the water makes them excellent flies for novices.

George with a lovely stillwater brown trout caught on Klinkhammer.

However, for more experienced fly fishers, they can also be very effective when fished in a "Klink and Dink" set up, with the Klinkhammer on a dropper and a nymph (the "dink") on the point.

Also known as New Zealand style, this "duo" set up is a great way to fish with an emerger and a submerged fly pattern simultaneously, allowing the fly fisher to hedge their bets on the right fly to pick. It's also a great method for novices to use since it's less prone to tangling than a dropper based rig.

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