Sunday, February 02, 2014

When is a klink not a klink?

There was an interesting discussion on the Fly Fishing Forum a week or two ago. One of the members asked the question: must a Klinkhamer be tied with high quality genetic cock hackle? This led to all sorts of response from anglers at either end of the spectrum ranging from a) yes, the hackle is absolutely essential to prevent the fly becoming waterlogged and sinking, to b) no, provided the balance of the fly is correct, then the rigidity and quality of the hackle need not be quite so great.

More on that later, but the first thing that struck me as the discussion gathered pace was this: we UK anglers tend to refer to any pattern tied on a curved shank hook and with a para-hackle, as a 'klink'. I've noticed it in the past, but the phenomenon seems more prevalent now than ever before, and I think it's worth understanding a little more about the origin of the true Klinkhamer, before we get too carried away with how the hackle should be tied.

The (arising of the) Klinkhamer Special

The link above, written by Hans Van Klinken himself, details how this famous pattern evolved, for what reason and with what result. It was developed especially to cope with a certain set of conditions, that is large, brawling Scandinavian rivers where grayling need to be enticed up in heavy flows from quite a depth. The Klinkhamer is a large fly (often tied on #8-10 hooks), heavily hackled with genetic grade cock feather. It is easy to see how it so successfully fit the bill for Hans in its chosen application - a big profile presented sub surface, supremely buoyant and visually easy to for an angler to track on its downstream drift in turbulent flows.

But how many UK flyfishers carry 'true' Klinkhamers in their fly boxes? I bet it isn't all that many, especially if you discount oversized parachute hackle jobs which are intended to support nymphs in a duo or trio setup. Conversely, I've no doubt that nearly every one of the above will have a few smaller versions  - para-emergers, I call them - nestled away somewhere; flies in # 12-18 range tied to represent the emerging insects we see on our home waters.Yet we still refer to them as 'klinks'. Why?

Not that there is any harm in this of course, and I might be accused of pedantry in making the point. But I think it is important....especially when on the same internet forum as mentioned above, I regularly see questions posted along the lines of "why doesn't my klink float?" The thing is, I think that somewhere down the line we became obsessed with the heavily dressed, long-posted make-up of the original fly and forgot to scale all that down along with hook size when we translated Hans' blueprint to our own better mannered and more manageable streams. What we are now talking about isn't a Klinkhamer in the correct sense, but more a 'para-hackle emerger', tied with a particular hatch in mind. Some anglers seem hellbent on achieving this aim by trying to cram as many turns of top quality hackle on to a thick, overlong post, as possible....and then wonder why it doesn't fool all that many fish, and in a lot of cases doesn't even float properly, despite having more buoyant tying material lashed to it than your average Chernobyl Ant! So a couple of 'para myths' to debunk here:

1. More hackle turns does not result in better buoyancy. Far better to find a nice balance between imitation size, hackle barb length and number of turns. I'm a firm believer (because it has been demonstrated to me through experience time and again), that a hackle of fewer turns, but with longer barb length, results in a fly which fishes more 'realistically' than one with a stack of half a dozen turns of short hackle. A sparse hackle is particularly useful for this and sometimes that means leaving the Gold Grade Whiting in the drawer. This sparseness lends the fly a delicate profile when viewed from below, whilst the slightly longer barb length 'outrigs' the fly nicely, stabilising it and allowing it to ride nice and low in the surface film, but not to the point where it keeps sinking through it.
In fact, too much hackle on a small parachute emerger just results in the fly alighting on the surface poorly, causing it to quickly become waterlogged. Thus the paradox......less is more.

2. The post doesn't float the fly. Jeez I wish I had a quid for every time I heard this one. Why are we so obsessed about wing post material? Granted we don't want an overly absorbent material which actively wicks moisture up from the fly abdomen.....but in the normal course of things any polyprop yarn should be fine, with the TMC Aero-dry wing being a firm favourite amongst many, myself included. What beats me is the way some people tie in so many plys thickness of said material, and cut the post half an inch long in the mistaken belief that it will somehow aid buoyancy of the resultant pattern. All this achieves is to compromise balance; and then when the presented fly lands on its side time after time and quickly sinks, the angler asks.....why?

To sum it up, I think we sometimes tie small para-emergers to be overly top-heavy i.e. with an abdomen to match our particular hatch, but a top half which would better suit a proper Klinkhamer tied on a #10 hook or bigger. This is ok if we have a bunch of sub-surface fluff and iron to act as counterballast and hold the whole shebang down......but on a #16 olive imitation? I'm convinced that sparse and leggy is the way to go and a good balance between buoyancy and delicacy can most certainly be struck with a bit of trial and error.

So magnificent pattern though it is, perhaps it's time we UK anglers stopped thinking about our parachute emerger patterns as Klinkhamers, and more as, well, parachute emergers....and concentrate on adapting them to the specific task in hand?


mcloughlinirl said...

Ref John Goddard's waterside guide...1988! new patterns..Parachute Emerger... not a new phenomenon!

Matthew Eastham said...

Yes that's right - they've been around donkeys, just like the duo, washing line, Tenkara and all the other stuff....

ssj said...

Good thoughts.

Ben Lupton said...

I'm with you Matt. You can only call it a klink if it is tied as it should be, how Hans designed it. Anything else should be called a paramerger!