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Tying the Halo Hackle Klinkhamer Emerger

Sunday, 05 September 2010 15:13


This elegant mayfly emerger pattern has become one of Europe’s hottest dry flies. What’s a little ironic is that Hans van Klinken designed it initially as a large caddis imitation, but it imitates the emerging mayfly, even the crippled mayfly, to perfection. The version I demonstrate here happens to be my own, but there are certainly hundreds of others out there just as good. The point of the exercise really is to get across to you the concept of tying emergers, the idea of ‘cripples’, what the triggers are and how best to exploit them. Then finally, I want to introduce you to the concept of tying a parachute hackle as well as the so called ‘halo hackle’. I’ll end with a few ideas on how to fish the pattern.

What you will need to tie this fly

A size 12, 14 or 16 sedge hook (preferably barbless), black, dun or tan 8/0 tying thread, three peacock herls, black dubbing (preferably a fur and Antron mix), a dun, ginger or black cock hackle (to match the hook size), a large dun or Coq de Leon saddle hackle, a piece of thin polystyrene foam (the kind they pack soft fruit or electronic or photographic gear in) and ordinary household Glad Wrap or Cling Wrap.

Tying instructions

Begin by dressing the hook shank to within a few millimeters of the end of the bend.  In other words, you are pretty close to the barb, say 3 mm away. This is important because we want to make use of every opportunity the curved sedge hook affords us to imitate a natural hatching mayfly in the curved, ‘foetal’ position. They often drift as they struggle to hatch with their bodies slightly bent and suspended below the surface, the more so if the hatching process is flawed in some way, as it often is. This is where reference to ‘cripples’ comes in. So here shape is a definite trigger, but so is the half-submerged body and the trailing shuck, all suggesting failed emergence and vulnerability.


The hook is dressed well down the curved shank


At the bend, tie in a tiny section of Glad Wrap (or equivalent). You prepare this by cutting a thin strip about 2 to 3 cms long and about 2 mm wide. Hold both ends and gently stretch it until it snaps. Doing this leaves a very natural, thinly pointed, naturally curled end that will imitate the hatching insect’s shuck.




Bring your tying thread to a point about 3 mm back from the eye of the hook. We are now going to put in what we call a post for the parachute hackle, a ‘post’ meaning no more or less than something you can tie the hackle around, but that conveniently floats and will also serve nicely as a spotter to follow the fly as it drifts on the water. You can tie in the body material and wrap the body first and then tie in the post. It matters little.




Take a section of polystyrene foam and cut a strip about 2-3 mm wide and 5 cms long. Tie the midpoint of the foam in at the thorax by first passing the strip under the hook shank, then lift up both ends with your left hand. Hold them under tension and trap them above the shank by adding a few turns of silk wound horizontally around the two arms of the post. We will trim the post later. For the moment leave the two ends long.


Now strip the flue off two peacock herls, just as you did for the Zak nymph. Tie these in together, mid way along their stems, but unlike the Zak, tie them in by their thin ends about half way along the stem where the two-toned colour of the peacock herl (pearl and black) has better definition. Then tie in one natural peacock herl, also by the thin end. Now take the tying thread back to the thorax area.



Back to the peacock herls. Don’t twist the herls together. Just pick up all three pieces and wrap them as one all the way to the thorax. You will find they perfectly imitate a segmented body. The un-stripped peacock herl adds a little luster and imitates the breathing gills of the hatching mayfly nymph located between the abdominal segments. Tie the fibres off at the thorax and trim away the excess.



Now prepare the hackles by removing their base flue and any heavily webbed areas. Tie in the hackles (together if you can) onto the hook shank right up against the base of the post and trim off the excess stalks. I usually tie the wider halo hackle in under the smaller hackle and wind it last.


Below, adding the dubbing, in this case black seal's fur



Wax 2 cms of tying thread and cover it with a small amount of the black Antron fur mix or synthetic dubbing. Wrap the thorax area both behind and in front of the hackle post with a few figure of 8 turns of dubbing until you have built a dark thorax. Take the dubbing nearly, but not quite, to the eye of the hook.



Notice the first hackle hanging off the hook shank on the weight of the hackle pliers



Now take hold of the tip of your smaller hackle with a pair of hackle pliers and lifting and holding the foam strips under tension with your left hand, begin to wind the hackle around the stalk. You will find you have to change hands from time to time getting the hackle around the post. A tip here is to try to wind each successive turn of hackle under the previous one. Once you have wound three full turns of hackle around the post, drop the hackle pliers and let them hang there. This frees both your hands as the hackle is temporarily secured to the hook shank by the weight of the pliers. Now tie the first hackle off. Take the bobbin and thread the tying silk carefully over the top of the trapped hackle stalk, but under the parachute fibres, then right around the shank and repeat this step a couple of times. It helps to use the fingers on your left hand to gather up the parachute hackle and move its fibres out of the way while you tie the knot. Once you have secured the hackle, trim off the excess.


First hackle wound on and trimmed, halo hackle waiting to be tied off hanging by the weight of the hackle pliers


Now take only one full turn of the wide ginger or Coq de Leon hackle around the post. This is a larger hackle and its barbs will obviously be longer and will protrude well beyond those of the smaller hackle, giving what we call a halo effect. Tie off this hackle in exactly the same way as you did the first hackle. Finish off with a few half-hitch knots.

Now lift the two foam strips of the post and under tension, snip them off at around 2 mms long. This becomes your ‘spotter’ and it’s amazing just how well it will show up on the stream. Spotters are pretty essential on patterns that sit flat in the water and as I said, an added bonus is that the foam helps float the fly and lends bulk to the thorax area. It’s one of the reasons I prefer foam to conventional poly yarn or chenille spotters.



The completed Hal0-hackle Klinkhamer Emerger.

There is a variation of the Klinkhamer using a dun hackle and a French partridge feather as the halo. The pattern looks buggy and works well.


The effect of the halo hackle seen from above

How to fish this fly

I avoid dressing Klinkhamer patterns with silicone floatant and rely on the foam and hackle to float them. I do this for two reasons: I don’t want the silicone to clump the halo hackle and I actually don’t want the fly to float too high. The abdomen must sink and, like the suspender midge, must hang suspended just under the water rather than on it.


Halo-hackle Klinkhamers are wonderful patterns to throw to rising trout and yellowfish in clear water because they are imitative, buggy, present well and bristle with triggers. Fishing them dead drift goes without saying, but keep your eye on the spotter. Fish are confident enough around Klinkhamer patterns to sip them rather than slash at them, so it’s not a great art to miss the take altogether. The reason for the sip rather than the slash is that they take this pattern for a crippled emerger and crippled emergers are extremely vulnerable and helpless. They can’t escape, the fish know it and consequently don’t have a rush on their hands to catch them going by. With adult caddis flies, even hatched mayfly duns, it’s different. Fish have less time because they know newly hatched caddis are nervous, highly mobile and fidgety on the water and mayfly duns don’t drift that far before they fly off.


Murray Pedder, a great fly tyer and proprietor of a two fly stores, tells me he’s having a lot of joy chasing yellowfish on the Vaal with a Klinkhamer pattern tied with a yellow body, a brown thorax and a grizzly hackle.



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