Why Atlantic Canada and why Newfoundland?
by Hans van Klinken
The answer is quite simple. I wanted to study and discover the crucial similarities of an Atlantic salmon taking (dry) flies in Norway as opposed to Atlantic Canada. My ultimate goal was to find out why a salmon takes a dry fly aggressively in certain rivers and yet refuses to come to the surface in other streams. In addition, I wanted to test twenty years of knowledge of water quality, water levels, water flows, bottom structures and weather conditions which I had gained in Norway. The only study material I had available was some very detailed information on what I had written in several of my fishing diaries over the years. Since the early seventies, I had caught several grilse and even a few real salmon on a dry fly. However, very few people believed me. This forced me to continue my exploration on my own. By the end of the eighties, I was successfully able to catch grilse in the northern part of Norway using dry flies quite easily. However, my success was limited to only seventeen river systems in central and southwest Norway.
Another important observation I made was my success in catching salmon with dry flies was limited to warm or even extremely warm weather conditions. A similar striking observation was that nine of the 17 rivers were either tidal, or still in estuary regions with nice tidal current. The salmon or sea trout I caught in these rivers were some of the largest I have ever landed.
In the late eighties my interest in dry fly fishing for salmon and sea trout had become so intense that I began to look for any article and story about Atlantic salmon caught by dry flies. My search quickly lead me to fly fishermen and fly tiers who were familiar with fly fishing in Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick, Quebec and even in parts of the State of Maine, USA.
My Klinkhåmer Special was garnering more international recognition and as a result, I was able to make many new contacts. With help from great friends like the late Alan Bramley from the Uk, and the late master fly tier Hans P.C de Groot from Holland, I was put in touch with other well known fly tiers and fly fishermen, such as Warren Duncan from New Brunswick and Al Worthington from New Hope Pa. Beginning in 1981, Alan Bramley was the owner of the famous hook company Partridge of Redditch and a big sponsor of my workshops and seminars. In 1989, he produced the special Klinkhåmer hook after my own design. It was Alan who put me in touch with his very good friend Warren Duncan. Hans de Groot introduced me to Al Worthington. Slowly, utilizing old fashion snail mail and handwritten letters, I started to build up an intense correspondence with Al and Warren. It didn’t take long before we were swapping flies, discussing our fishing techniques, and of course sharing our many experiences in catching Atlantic salmon by dry flies on both sides from the Atlantic. Al and I have developed a deep personal relationship although we never had the opportunity to meet one another in person.
He imported quality capes and saddles and was the owner of the Hackle Hut. I still have many letters from him, all written on his Hackle Hut note paper and some envelopes postmarked to me from his fishing residence in Nova Scotia. All are filled with his latest fly fishing information, catching reports and fishing techniques.
Sadly, I lost all the letters from Warren during a house renovation several years ago. But I consider myself very fortunate that I still have some of the flies that he specially tied for me to try on my trips to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland & Labrador. I confess I have never tried them; they simply were too beautiful to fish with, so I copied them and have used the copies instead. Warren was a great teacher and mentor to me, especially in perfecting my own hairwings. I still marvel at his ability to create these tiny little heads and have always been impressed at some bulky hairwing patterns as well. Unfortunately, I only able to meet Warren once and, for me, he died much too soon. Even today, it remains impossible for me to adequately express my thanks and deepest gratitude for what Warren and Al taught me and the information they shared freely with me. It is also with regret that after several years of communication and friendship we slowly lost touch with each other. I allowed my free time to become more limited due to more conscientious and time-consuming job responsibilities.
In my eagerness to learn as much as possible about dry fly fishing for salmon, I am most pleased with the personal correspondence I shared with Lee Wulff. We began with very technical correspondence in which we mostly discussed his dry fly experiences and successes in Newfoundland and mine in Norway. Later, Lee was touched by my story and the fact that few people in Europe believed me about my catches of sea trout and salmon by dry flies. I think this alone, must have motivated Lee to help me. He sent me a few of his books and video tapes in return for some of my Klinkhåmer flies. I had included a handful of them in my first letter to him. I, for some reason, doubted that he would reply to me. But he did, and he even was willing to share with me some of his fly fishing secrets which only widened my respect for him. I had the pleasure of meeting him once and the last time we corresponded by letter was in early 1990. Thanks to reading his books and watching several of his videos, my excitement to visit Atlantic Canada had grown to a fever pitch! A few years after Lee’s tragic death I was able to make one of the most exciting fly fishing journey imaginable.
A fly fishing trip in which I actively fished in the footsteps of Lee and visited several of his favourite fly fishing spots in Newfoundland. I needed four trips and much support from friends to realize what I call ” the great fly fisherman’s dream”.