An Interview with the Klinkhamer Himself by VERN-O

Articles, People — By on June 5, 2009 11:22 am

scan987-copyHans van Klinken lives in Harskamp, a little village in the center of Holland with his wonderful wife of almost 25 years Ina.  Who has gained her own fame in Canada for spectacular catches of Inconnu (See: She started fly fishing in 1991.

Hans is 53 years old and has worked for 27 years as an instructor for the Dutch army.  He is currently commander of the Royal Dutch Army Gunner School where he and his instructors are preparing soldiers for deployment to Afghanistan.

Hans began bait fishing at the age of six in a nearby lowland brook called Dommel, located in southern Holland.  Seven years later, while on holiday in Norway using a spoon he caught his first salmon, a monster of nearly 20 pounds. In 1971 he began fly-fishing for Arctic char and Atlantic salmon using his father’s cane rod. By age sixteen when his friends stayed behind to impress the girls with their motorbikes, Hans decided to travel alone to fish the beautiful rivers of Norway. While camping on the banks of the River Lagen, he met two pretty young ladies who taught him some tricks about fly fishing.  He fished the area for eight days, and when it was time to leave, the older of the two girls gave Hans a fly rod and reel, and the other one gave him a big box of flies. It was their present for the enchanting time they spent together. Hans was so excited with his new gifts that he left his father’s old cane rod behind.  “The girls had taught me that if you have a good fly rod, you really don’t need a motorbike.” What sixteen-year-old young man wouldn’t be hooked after an experience like that? As a schoolboy with plenty of spare time, Hans spent most of it in the northern part of Norway, Sweden and Finland where he developed an addiction for the outdoor life. His greatest outdoor experience was during 1975 when he stayed for almost four months in the wilderness of Northern Lapland. Here he learned how to survive in the forest and on the tundra. His teacher was an old Lap and the only way to communicate was to use their hands and feet.  (Author’s note: I asked Hans for a little more detail on this since I wasn’t familiar with this.) Here is his response: Do you know anybody who speaks the Saman Language??? I don’t so we had to talk by showing with hands and feet what we actually meant. It’s always hard to translate a Dutch expression. For us it sounds impossible when it rains cats and dogs but you never would understand when we are talking about its raining pipe-sticks.

1976 was when Hans began to dabble in fly tying. By the early eighties he was creating his own designs, many were parachute style.  This fondness for parachutes eventually led to some unusual patterns and tying techniques for the time.  It would be another four years before he fully recognized the value of other flies, like nymphs, streamers and emergers. Unlike most European fly-fishers and others around the world, Hans’ first salmon and sea trout were caught using dry flies. Thus, he was traveling down a path that most fly tiers and fishers don’t normally take. Hans credits his thirty years of Scandinavian experience for much of his fly-fishing and fly-tying skills.

After nearly ten years of fishing in Scandinavia, Hans began traveling to other European countries such as Ireland, the UK, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Switzerland. The success of the large patterns developed for Scandinavian fishing was immediate. In 1981 he moved for his work to the north of Germany. Now even closer to Scandinavia more time on the water was possible and fly-fishing became an obsession. Hans began to put his tying and traveling experiences on paper. Soon after, Hans became a member of the editorial staff of the Dutch Fly fishing magazine and Dutch-area secretary of the Grayling Society and started giving lectures, tying demonstrations and workshops. After 15 years working in the editorial staff he decided to stop so he could spend more time at his websites and improving his workshops.  Hans is also well known for his excellent guiding experience, which he mainly does in Scandinavia. From 1995 until 2006 he has traveled to Canada where he test his patterns on Canadian Atlantic salmon, Pacific salmon, steelhead, lake trout, shad, inconnu, whitefish, pike, grayling and smallmouth bass. After 9-11 Hans did a lot of free workshops in the Yukon Territory to try to fill up some lodges again with people and the idea worked very well.

Hans’ favorite patterns are parachutes, emergers and realistic nymphs. He enjoys sharing his knowledge about fly-fishing and fly-tying and is particularly skilled in the taking of Atlantic salmon and grayling on dry flies. Although having dabbled in the classic salmon fly world, by 1990 he was concentrating on workshops for river fishing and tying classes for realistic and effective fishing patterns. Since 1986, Hans has participated at many fly tying shows and has given several lectures, classes and workshops in the U.K., Holland, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Italy, Russia, Canada, Asia and U.S.A.  Hans has taught more than 500 people all over the world how to fish flies in fast and slow moving currents.  The number of people he has taught to tie feathers and furs to hook is easily over 1,000 by now, and he proudly states that many of them are children.  On the downside for his native Holland, is that most of those people he has taught have been during holidays spent abroad.


He has written for many international and club magazines as well as contributing to books by his friends, such as The World’s Best Trout Flies by John Roberts, Fly Tyers Masterclass by Oliver Edwards, The Complete Book of the Grayling by Ron Broughton, The Complete Book Of Fly Fishing by Malcolm Greenhalgh, Modern Atlantic Salmon Flies by Paul Marriner, the books of Mogens Espersen, Tying flies with CDC The Fisherman’s Miracle Feather by Leon Links, Steve Thornton’s Fly Tiers of the World, and several more. Today Hans writes his own columns in magazines in Europe and Canada and is producing wonderful non-commercial photo cds that are just inspirational to see. He is also working on several new projects, like producing multimedia cds and supporting wildlife and environmental projects that are close to his heart.


Hans van Klinken’s best-known known patterns are the Light Tan series, the Klinkhamer Special, Leadheaded grayling bugs, the Caseless Caddis, the Remerger, the Para-poly sedge, the Baetis nymph, the Once and Away, and the Culard series. Less well known are his productive series of salmon patterns, many of which are dries.

Author’s Note:  I contacted Hans via email and asked him if it would be possible to answer a few basic questions, here is what transcribed:

Favorite place to fish in the USA?

I actually only fished in New York State and Pennsylvania because I always hit the wrong time when I did my workshops over there. I never have been in the wonderful opportunity to fish the spring creeks and famous rivers of the USA. I would like to experiment one trip on my new generation of terrestrials but I guess that will happen in LESS then 4 years when I retire from the army.

Any particular fly that you recommend for trout fishing in the USA that you tie?

The caseless caddis, leadhead, culard, once and away, para ants, para sedge and Klinkhamer fit all my personally and my fiends wishes. The Klink as many US people call them these days seems to do extremely well in many waters.

Any new ventures in fly designs that you would like to share?

I have some new patterns but keep them hidden until my book finished (I am sorry) I accidentally discovered last year when I was preparing a lecture about parachute flies that the Water wisp looks very similar then Roy Christy’s reversed parachute flies. Roy is from Northern Ireland and designed his first one around 1982.  My Twiny is a good example in relation with the Water Walker from Frank Johnson. The Klinkhamer with the Paratilt things like this will happen more in future. Many flies already have been designed or redesigned in the past before and often without knowing it from each other.

Secret flies for a book!!!!!!!!!!!!

WOW….any idea when it will be published?  Do you have a title for the book yet???

The book went slow because my army works and all our UN, VN and NATO missions but somewhere at the end of last year I join my writing forces with those from Leon Links (author of Tying flies with CDC The Fisherman’s Miracle Feather) and we decided to put all our effort and work together. Leon was working on his second book. When we made a complete new structure for OUR book we quickly discovered that we had too much for just one book so that opens quite new possibilities for the future as well!

Anyway, the first book will be about dry flies or surface flies!

Where do you see fly tying in the next 10 years?…..will more realistic patterns dominate…or returning to the roots of fly fishing and using natural materials?

About the future I see it more and more with synthetics. The reason is simple for me because we hardly can take our feathers and fur with plane traveling anymore. Exports and imports get harder too. The other reason will be because people can make more money with it because most synthetics are waste from factories anyway. Things like bird flue also make it harder to tie natural materials in future. I don’t think the realistic fly will dominate in future but it will slowly increasing because fly tying will gets more popular. See my Caseless Caddis… designed in the early eighties and still works superb and is hardly to beat. Even the Czechs and people from Poland copied or redesigned it by only making my simple techniques more complicated without a clear prove on better catches.

I see a lot of new ideas in tying tricks and materials in future and a few quite interesting designs as well but the basic flies will be the same. More curved or slightly curved hooks for dry flies, wets and nymphs surely will be used because it’s 10 times more effective in my noble opinion. Nymphing for salmon will surely get more popular too if the salmon will survive.

I see some increasing of fly tying in a more way of art too but I see a poor future for the fly fishermen. Global warming will be an extremely underestimated problem worldwide. I fish some of the most remote and wildest places on earth and I really mean very wild. Wild places in Yukon, Scandinavia and North West Territory and the more you think to be in

Wilderness the harder the effects of Global warming are clearly visible. What the experts will say will happen in 50 years just will need 10 or even less but that’s how I see it in the wild and how I noticed it in the degreasing of wildlife and wildlife behavior. I saw how the fly tying world changing in Europe the last 10-15 years. The new generation fly tiers are very good but mainly specialized in a few patterns while the old guys still can tie any pattern.

Authors note:

It has been a true honor to be able to look inside the world of one of the most innovative fly tiers I’ve ever seen.  Hans truly is a gentleman and an advocate for the environment.  Thanks for taking the time and patience to answer all my questions and being candid with me. We all stand to learn a lot from the Klinkhamer himself!


Paul Marriner

Visit Hans van Klinken’s work:


Photography: (New English updating )

Fly Fishing: (main site in English) (Dutch) (Dutch) (patterns)

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  1. Damond A. Blankenship says:

    Your joy for fly fishing shows in what you write. I am looking forward to getting one of your books. Keep at it.

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  2. stephn says:

    You do not need to meet Hans in person to inspire you.I have been drinking from Hans cup of wisdom for the last 4 years or so now, and I can tell anybody that Hans is good hearted and very patient.He always beliefs in going for that provabial extra mile to assit anyone.Is it due to his military background? I do not think so.This guy is naturally gifted and cheerful.Meeting one of the best fly designer in the world I must admit, is no mean fit.It would raise a few goose pimples.
    I wish Hans every success.

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  3. TomGibbons says:

    Yes,Hans CAN see the forest for the trees,thank God.

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  4. Megan Klinkhammer says:

    Does this site still get responses?

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  5. VERN-O says:

    Megan…yes, sorry for the delay

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  6. RayC says:

    Those girls were wrong! you can have a good fly rod but you must have a motorbike as well

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