Interview with a fisherman

Hans van Klinken 
The Netherlands   
Interview:  summer 2008    

Can you tell something about yourself ?

“ I was born in 1956. I started fly fishing at the age of 15 in Norway and fell in love with the beauty of the Northern Regions almost immediately. I frequently travelled to Scandinavia to spend there most of my holidays until the late nineties. It was in the large variety of the river systems and lakes of Scandinavia that I honed my fly fishing skills. I began fly-tying in 1976. By the early eighties, I was creating my own designs, mostly parachutes. This preference eventually led to several unusual patterns and tying techniques over the years. Unlike most European fly-fishers, my first salmon, arctic char and sea trout were caught on dry flies but because not many people believed the stories about catching salmon and sea trout with a dry fly, I was forced to go my own particular way."

" In 1981, I married Ina Stevens and my army job took me to the north of Germany where I stayed for several years. Now even closer to Scandinavia and with a partner who loves the outdoors, more time on the water was possible, and fly-fishing became an obsession. After nearly ten years of intensive fly fishing in Scandinavia and with more money in my pocket available we also began travelling to other European countries such as Ireland, the UK, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Austria and Switzerland. The success of the large patterns that I had developed for my Scandinavian fishing was immediate. Around the mid eighties, after I had started my first fly-tying classes in Hamburg and Bremen I also became involved in writing about flies, tying techniques and my travels."


Hans van Klinken  

" After hosting and guiding so many people in Scandinavia for so many years, and listen to their comments well, I think that I have build up a nice reputation as a fly fisher and that finally let me decide to start none-commercial workshops about river fly fishing and fly tying. Thanks to my sponsors I was able to do all these workshops for free and I still do today, at least when my work allows me! Since then and even with my extremely busy army job nowadays I taught more then 500 people all over the world how to wet and handle their flies in slow and fast running water. The number of people that I helped to use thread and feather must be far over a 1000 by now, and I proudly can say that many of them were children! A little sad for the Dutch people is that most of my workshop I do in my holidays and that means they are abroad! Since 1986, I have participated at many fly tying shows, and have presented several lectures, classes and workshops in the U. K., Holland, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Italy, Russia, Canada, Asia and the U.S.A."

" In 1996 after I just did one of my lectures about fly fishing in Scandinavia at a very large holiday fair, I got the unique opportunity to travel to Canada to try and test several of my patterns in Canadian waters and on North American species. It was in Canada where I finally started with several larger fly fishing projects, great promotion activities and helping lodges with marketing and management problems. Thanks to my army background and education some of these projects turned out extremely successfully, which of course opened many doors for me and my wife to get involved with many other fly fishing projects worldwide."

Hans van Klinken canoeing during a summer time fly fishing trip in the North

Hans during one of his summer fly fishing trips 

" My most favorite patterns are parachutes, emergers and realistic nymphs. I enjoy sharing my knowledge about fly-fishing and fly-tying, and especially my skills and experiences in the taking of Atlantic salmon and grayling on dry flies. Although I have dabbled in the classic salmon fly world quite seriously for almost 10 years, (thanks to the Kelson Collection and my old friend Hans de Groot who sadly died much too young), by 1990 I started concentrating more and more on my workshops for river fishing, my tying classes for realistic and effective fishing patterns."

" I have written articles for 18 international magazines, but also gave many of my photographs and fly tying articles to use freely to club journals and none commercial fly fishing magazines. I also contributes to books written by my 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, Flytyers of the World by Steve Thornthon, and several more."

Large grayling in spawning colors from the Hodalen Lakes in Norway

A large Hodalen Lakes grayling   

" I had too many activities involved with fly fishing and fly tying and so I quit several over the last few years. One of them was my work in the editorial staff of “the Nederlandse Vliegvisser” (Dutch fly fishing Magazine), which I did for 15 years. The only one left is the Dutch Area Secretary for the Grayling Society, which I do since the eighties! Nowadays I only write columns and stories in magazines in Europe and Canada when time let me."

" My best-known patterns are the large L.T series (stands for the Light Tan color of Fly Rite dubbing no 19) developed in Norway at Kvennan Camping in the early eighties. Of course the Klinkhåmer Special among them, further my Leadheaded grayling bugs, also developed at Kvennan Camping, the Caseless Caddis series, the Remerger series, my Flymph series, the Para-poly sedges (also designed at KVENNAN) , the Baetis nymph and dun, the Once and Away series, the Ugly Bugs, the Bonal series and the Culard series. Sadly less well known are my very productive streamers for Lake Trout and Inconnu and of course my large series of salmon patterns, of which many are dries. ”

Hans van Klinken shows his large grayling in spawning colors from the Hodalen Lakes in Norway

Hans shows his large grayling at the Hodalen Lakes  - Photo HVA  

How long and where have you been fly fishing ?

“ Well, inspired by inquisitiveness I began bait angling at the age of six in a lowland brook called “Dommel” located in the south of Holland. In those early days this river was abundant by fish and even had a little population of brown trout as well. My father took me with him to the river but I quickly discovered that I had more patience than him. He also is a very competitive man and it didn’t take long before I beat him in numbers. My dad really didn’t like it but I was hooked and started to spend most of my free time while fishing this wonderful little river as a kid and teen."

" When I was eight years old, I discovered the power of more realistic bait instead of using bread, maggots or worms as anybody else. It was shown to me by an angler who always fished much different then most bait anglers did in those days. I knew him well and saw him often when he worked his way downstream and just following his float that he had thrown out in front of the wild moving weed beds. Sometimes he walked for hours and I easily could follow him for days. I liked it very much to peek at his secrets because he was catching a lot of fish. In a way he seemed to accept my sneaking after him because at a certain day he called me and started to explain everything about his secret baits. His favorite by far was the sedge larva and he showed me how they live and how to take them out their cases and put them on the hook. He also told me to search for them under the bridges because it was one of those places where they were abundant and easy to pick from the stones in the shallow water. When he had to say goodbye he gave me his little tin can full with cases and told me that it was not really hard to keep them alive for several days, as long there was a little water inside. That was my first experience with the cased caddis larva as a float angler. A little later that summer he explained me how to fish with living flies, beetles, ants, bees and even mosquito larva’s too. I mainly fished for roach, rudd, ide, dace, perch and pike but I was very lucky and was able to catch a few trout before the entire river system got polluted by some factories from Belgium in 1966. I was even a witness when it happened. Sadly the river never recovered since then as it occurs to so many rivers worldwide after a huge chemical pollution."

Fly fishing in black and white - the early years  

" In 1971 at age 15 I tried my first fly-fishing experiments for Arctic char and Atlantic salmon, using my father's cane rod, but due to my lack of experience, and the fact that his equipment was very old and of poor quality, I wasn't really successful, and only caught a handful of fish."

" By age sixteen, while my friends stayed behind to impress the girls with their striking motorbikes, I decided to travel alone to fish the beautiful rivers of Norway again. While camping out on the banks of the River Lagen, I met two pretty young ladies who taught me some tricks about fly fishing. I fished the area for eight full days, and when I finally had to leave that wonderful place, the oldest left me a fly rod and reel, while the other one gave me a big box of flies. It was their present for the nice time we spent together. I was so happy that I forgot my father’s old cane rod, which is perhaps still standing against that tree today. “The girls also taught me that if you have a good fly rod, you really don't need a motorbike."

Hans van Klinken and his really large Glomma grayling

A really large Glomma grayling  

" As a student with plenty of spare time and with my father’s rewards for my help in his company, I spent most of my summer holidays in the northern part of Norway, Sweden and Finland where I also started to develop a strong addiction for the outdoor life. My greatest outdoor experience was in 1975 when I stayed for almost four months in the wilderness of Northern Lapland to enjoy my longest holiday ever. It was my last holiday as student also. Here I learned how to survive in the forest and on the tundra. My teacher was an old Lap and we mainly communicated with our hands and feet but for me it really was a once of a lifetime experience. How good schools might be I can’t deny that I learned more in these few months then any school was able to teach me so far and I realized quickly how much we estrange ourselves from wilderness regions during the last few ages."

" Being among others wasn’t so important for me in my early days as a fly fisherman. Of course I learned a lot from other people and really watched more experienced people very often from a distance and learned well from what they did, but I feel so ashamed for my poor casting quality that I preferred to avoid people instead to fish with them hihihihi! Most important for me was to catch fish and prove myself that I was able to get a certain fish as well. My casting was so bad and most fly fishers fished all these nice stretches sometimes in big groups as well and that became the main reason why I took the fast broken water where hardly people fishing and made it to my favorite! ”

Hans van Klinken playing an Arctic grayling in Yukon

Hans playing an Arctic grayling in Yukon  

What do you think about fly fishing in Norway in general ?
“ When I look back to my Norwegian fishing trips my heart directly starts to beat faster. As soon as I arrive in Scandinavia I always feel as if I come home again and it really hurts when I have to leave the countries again. I think those feelings gives you the best impression how much I like the wonderful fishing paradises in the north. During all the years I visit Scandinavia, Norway became a second home for me. When I think about Norway I see the fjords, mountains and mighty rivers as clear as if I am really standing there. The midsummer night has always fascinates me and is a welcome bonus for many extra fishing hours. ”

Can you tell something about the old days, actually before you got addicted to the river Glomma ?

“ That’s a very good question Hein and it will explain the people much better how I finally got involved with Glomma and how I was able to build up so much experience and skill over the years. Before I became fully addicted to my “Shinning River” as I renamed the Glomma in my stories and book contributions, you have to understand that I build up my first real fly fishing experiences when I followed the Klarälven (Sweden) upstream till the source while camped out beside the riverbank. I worked my way up north slowly, over a period of several years and explore the river and the tributaries and lakes with the little knowledge I had built up above the Arctic Circle. The trips beside the banks of the Klara River brought me to Femundsmarka and rivers like the Sölna, Sömåa, Hola, Röa, Mugga, Femunsdelva and Glöta. I fished them all and very often too. They were not only my school of fly fishing but also "The Garden of Eden" for every grayling angler who followed my footsteps later and I have sent many people to those places."

Hans van Klinken

  Hans at Hein's cabin during the Klinkhåmer Special - video shoot 

" Lakes like Femund, Sölensjöen, Aresjöen, Isteren, and Feragen were just a few of many new discovered paradises to me in my early days of fly fishing. I fished them rather frequently too and the more time I spend in these regions with my flies and fly rod, the more I learned and I am still learning today even when it is from the feedback from the people that I sent to my favorite hot spots and waters from my past or early days. Most of the waters I fished in those days were located between 600 and 1000 meters above sea level and the weather conditions were tough with an extremely high population of wild and hungry mosquitoes. I taught myself how to deal with them but I guess many people never will or can overcome what will restrict them to fish quite a lot of exclusive rivers and lakes. This kind of wilderness is what I really love and these are the areas what I believe the grayling like the most as well. It is a short fishing season but a very productive one too. After I had explored and fished the places mentioned above with considerable successes I had in mind to do the same trick for the Glomma and his tributaries started at Koppang and work my way upstream like I did beside the Klara River before! ”

And what about the old days at river Glomma ?

" For the Glomma my exploring was not much different but I followed my way upstream more quickly because of more fishing pressure and men made regulations to the Glomma’s waterway. I just past all the areas where embankment changed the natural watercourse and dept. In the early eighties the River Rena produced an excellent fishing but declined and got better again since the nineties. I don’t know the reason. It is one of the most favorite tributaries by the Danes today. I stayed quiet a long time in the Koppang area to explore and discover superb fishing in all the channels the river produced. Sometimes it was a real challenge to find or even reach the main river. I often hooked huge pike that took my playing fish."

Hans van Klinken at river Glomma in Norway

Hans visiting Hein at the river keepers cabin  - Photo HVA 

" Further upstream I fished the River Atna quite a few times. It is a wonderful river but it has been always a great mystery to me. Some years I had unbelievable catches while at other years I hardly could find any fish at all. It was in this river where trout fishing became very popular to me! Between the Atna River and the place Alvdal I never saw many fishermen but I can assure you that there are a good number of hot spots. The river runs here a bit further from road no 3 maybe that’s the reason. Not many people seem to like to walk far distances anymore. In Alvdal I had a great time especially when I learned how the fish the awesome Folla River. If you ever fish the Glomma you surely should explore this river and follow it upstream as far as Sletten. My best fishing pall Peter Rosmalen had his best ever grayling fishing in this river. Unfortunately he died too soon and we never could fish his favorite place together."

" Between Alvdal and Tynset the fishing is less interesting for me personally because of the human impact to the natural water course of the river on this stretch. The best place is probably the lower part of the Tunna River especially close to the mouth of the river before it runs into the Glomma. Sometimes this flow out holds a nice population of big fish but sadly it is extremely vulnerable for fishing pressure. I mentioned it a few times and people destroyed the great fishing there by taking most of the fish they caught. I am not sure if it ever recovered either? About 10 kilometers upstream from Tynset you will hit the area of the shining river. This area all the way up to the outflow from Lake Rien the Glomma can be considered as the crème the la crème for the Grayling angler with Kvennan Camping as perfect base camp. It is not my own experience only because in many books you will read exactly the same and they all were right. The only way to be successful is to try to get one with the river. Look for the shining and twinkle produced by the sun in always broken surface water. The area is not only beautiful but also very quiet. There are just a few peaceful towns in which you can fall in love easily. The people are extremely nice and friendly and always willing to help you. It is in this area where I spend most of my time and I surely could live there forever."

Hans van Klinken fly fishing during midsummernight at the Hodalen Lakes in Norway

The Hodalen Lakes at sunset  

" I can’t tell you exactly where to go because there are too many places and hot spots. Some people say you only should fish and between Tolga and Os but I would suggest to stay at least 2 weeks between Tynset-Tolga-Os and Roros. Be wise and stay and visit Kvennan for a few days and explore it yourself. Concentrate at the Glomma first and when it seems difficult just travel to one of the many tributaries or Lakes like Hodalen. "

Why do you like river Glomma and the Kvennan Fly Fishing zone ?

“ Kvennan is the place where I spend most time and fished most frequently from all the stretches of the Glomma River. Why???, simply because the quietness and peace and of course the fly fishing was not only superb and famous for the big fish but very challenging at times as well. It let you realize very well that you had to work hard for the real big fish. Here we built up a very large circle of friends that we saw returning year after year.
One of the real big benefits of Kvennan’s early days was the fact that the tents were hiding behind a thick layer of trees and it was impossible to spot them from the road. This gave Kvennan its own particular privacy and very special atmosphere. It still makes me feel a bit sad that one of the later owners took these trees away and opened up the place more while this action let lose Kvennan’s special old days atmosphere too! Once a week we even had a big party with an excellent barbeque directly on the bank of the river and my gosh… we had so much fun. Friends even came over from Femundmarka and Trondheim to join our barbeque and party. In my early days Kvennan was more like the center for all our fly fishing in a radius of 80km where friends just love to meet. Kvennan was our base camp from which we often fished and organized our trips too. In those days some of us were fishing 18 hours a day and I am NOT kidding because I was one of them hihihi! While staying at Kvennan I really knew every bigger rock in the river and we even had marked the water levels on them, so we knew exactly when to go and where to fish and at what water level the graying or trout would take the best. We camped out at Kvennan for many years until the camping closed down and we found a very nice cabin directly at the bank of the Glomma on the other side of the river a little closer to Tolga. We still fished the same stretch for many more years. The last long trip was in 1995 and since then I only fished it for a couple of days. ”

Hans van Klinken and the huge grayling he landed just downstream of Kvennan Camping

Hans shows the huge grayling he landed just downstream of Kvennan Camping  

Did you catch any really big fish in Glomma ?

“ Yes I did, my biggest graying ever (61cm) I caught at south side of Otter Island in the Fly Fishing zone only 15 minutes walk from Kvennan. My largest trout was caught at the west side of Otter Island in the main current at nighttime. Both I caught at high water level and in drizzle rain! People don’t realize it very often but every graying above 40cm I consider as a big graying. I caught many 50+, the blackies as I call them. Nineteen 50+ graying I was able to land safely and release again in 1988, one of my best fishing years in Norway ever! Amazing to mention is that all large graying I caught between 11am and 2pm in the middle of the day while all large trout I only caught at night. ”

What is your favorite dry fly? 

“ Of course the absolute number 1 is my Klinkhåmer Special designed on the banks at Kvennan.. The supper puppa and parachute ant finish my free choice of flies! Concerning realistic flies I always liked to use the BWO and the Aurivillii. Leon Links Crazy sedge works very well at sunny weather with lots of wind so you can really let the fly dance at the surface! In quiet or very slow running water the Once and Away always was successful too for me. ” 

Hans van Klinken and his most famous fly pattern the Klinkhåmer Special, designed at Kvennan Camping

Hans van Klinken's most famous pattern: the Klinkhåmer Special , designed at Kvennan Camping  

What is your favourite nymph?
“ The leadhead and Caseless Caddis I like very much for times I need to present my flies deep. The Bwo nymph I used often to match the hatch! For the large trout I mainly used the Norwegian Power which is a larger streamer I mostly used on sinktip lines! ”

How long leader do you use, and how thick is your tippet ?
“ Let’s answer here a little about equipment too. My favorite rod for the Glomma is a # 4-5 up to 9 ft. For the smaller tributaries I use 8.5 ft 4 piece travel rod weight 4 or 5. It is handy when you have to walk and can leave it in your backpack until your reach the place you want to fish. The reel doesn’t matter that much but I like the new Partridge reels. I fill up all my reels with quite some greenspot backing and use the olive colored Cortland Clear Creek floating line. It’s one of the best floating lines available on the market today! This line is my favorite by far anywhere I go. It has a nice fine taper and is excellent for windy conditions. Because of my preferences for huge parachute flies I use a tapered braided leader from about 9ft-12ft connected with tying thread and waterproof super glue directly on the fly line. (no knots at all) This prevents wind knots during the casting very well. For the tippet I mostly use 0,12mm or 0,14mm monofilament with lengths up to 2 meters.”
Hans van Klinken

a Danish little beauty   

Do you loose a lot of fish when fishing without a barb on your hook ?
“ Well I think every fly fisherman loose fish now an then. I don’t see any disadvantages using barbless hooks, except loosing them from my fly path. For me it simply is not a point of discussion at all. If you fish catch and release use barbless hooks. Use curved hooks too and you will not loose many fish either! ”

What do you think about the new rules & regulations ?

“ It’s a very good improvement and some people did an excellent job on it. I know how hard it is to make water to catch and release only in Scandinavia. I have seen more then 2000 fish in freezers beside the Glomma in the past and I hope those times never will return! I am not a catch and release purist either because what is nicer then be able to eat the fish you catch as well when you camp out beside the riverbank. Depending on the river and the abundance of fish (at certain sizes) I personally prefer a bag limit from 1 up to maximal 3 fish a day in the size of abundance of fish of course and set to a minimal size. Grayling around 35cm taste very well so that in my humble opinion should be the minimal size! If the abundance get less then catch and release automatically should be set by overtaking rules again."

" I also prefer working with a kind of bonus set to price. Most people are very vulnerable for prices anyway. I would love to see a license for Catch and Release as the cheapest license. It works well I have seen it in other countries with great success. I fished the Secret River (another river we renamed in Norway) and fished it catch and release only for nearly 15 years. We never discovered any disadvantage of catch and release fishing in this particular river anyway! ”

Hans van Klinken searching Yukon lakes for huge lake trout

Searching Yukon lakes for huge lake trout  

What should be your best advice for a fellow Glomma fly fisherman?
“ For newcomers to this Norwegian grayling (and trout) paradise the fishing will be extremely difficult but for those who found a way it seems very easy. Most rivers and lakes around Kvennan have grayling, trout, whitefish and even perch and pike. The distances will be the greatest problem and today most fishermen don’t like to walk with backpacks anymore. Most tributaries flow through large lakes or just have many little ponds or deep-holding pools in their watercourse but that can make the fishing much easier, at least if you are not afraid to walk. I usual start at an easy access point where I can park my car and prepare myself well. I never will travel without a backpack filled up with extra fishing equipment, clothing, food and even some emergency stuff."

" Also see this page on my website that will help you a lot too when you get in problems ! Drinks are not necessary because the crystal clear water will supply you well. I just start walking sometimes even 2 or 3 kilometers before I go fishing. I just look around and watch out mainly for human tracks. I know most people don’t walk very far anyway. As soon as there are no human tracks anymore I start fishing. Those are the areas where you have the best changes for the bigger fish. Often I passed a few fishermen and ask how they are doing. They usually are enthusiastic about their catches so I just leave them stocking in their pools. They don’t know what other pools can bring up anyway."

" I learned that when a river runs into a small pond or big pool you hit a hot spot. I also learned that you mostly have only one or two changes to get a real good size grayling. Never walk into the water before you explore it well and know what you are doing. Look at the feeding line first and if there are no rises don’t worry. Try to analyze the best place for your cast and where exactly you want to land your fly. Be sure the fly drift without any drag. Always start with a huge dry fly and let it float in the edge of the current into the pool. Make just a few casts and if there is big grayling in a feeding mood he or she surely will take it. If success stays out try to do the same with a weighted nymph. In this case cast upstream and use a bite indicator to present the nymph at the right dept and without drag. It has to drift with the bottom current into the pool and not with the surface current. Safe a cast with a smaller fly for the way back. Depending about the size of the pool I never made more then 10 unsuccessful casts. Then I walk further and try the tail of the pool or I just walk to the next pool. If I succeed I only take 2 or 3 fish out of the pool release them and try again on the way back or at one of the other days. This way of fishing leads me to some real nice fish and for years I still got several 50 plus grayling while fishing catch and release of course. This is the technique I use to catch the big ones and it works as I proved to many of my friends who joined me in Scandinavia. Most of them got there biggest ever grayling in this way too."

Hans van Klinken and his lake trout at 113cm, Yukon Canada, 2003

Hans and his largest salmonid caught so far. A lake trout at 113cm - Yukon - Canada - 2003  

" Sometimes when you walk from pool to pool the fish start to rise all over the place. You can start fishing or just try to recognize the feeding lies. I prefer to do both for those moments the weather changes and you have to grab back to nymph fishing only. Make notes and write down as much information as you can find. Times of feeding, weather conditions and insect life will be a good source for the next time.
Places where rivers run out of lakes are another hot spots. Sometimes the current is very smooth and even if you try hard it seems impossible to catch anything. At such a moment you surely should try small emergers or midge imitations. ”

What should be your best advice for river management ?

“ Leave it to people that know what they are doing but always work in slow steps! Try to invite people who have done similar projects in other rivers. Use their knowledge and experience. Organize and invite and listen to biologists as well. ”

Hans and Hein at the river keepers cabin, June 2013  

Is there something more you want to share ?
“ When an Asian friend visited me he was wondering all the time why there were so few kids playing on our streets and outside and that set me thinking. He is right! Since computers and games came in our life’s the interest in outdoor activities decreased so much by kids all over the world that it’s an enormous challenge for me as a teacher to use all my skills to motivate and stimulate kids for fly fishing again. I hope that more people will try to do the same."

" I also want to share with you a few of the special secrets behind the Klinkhåmer Special. These tricks you can find at: "

This video shows how Hans ties the Klinkhåmer Special - a video made by Hein in 2013

Get your fishing license here