How to Tie a Sulphur Klinkhamer

Producer: Tim Flagler

During a sulphur hatch, if the conditions are right, it’s simply amazing how quickly an adult sulphur can emerge from its nymphal shuck on the water’s surface and fly away. But that’s not always the case. You may notice individuals with fully upright wings struggling on the water’s surface, trying to free the last little bit of their abdomen from the shuck. It’s like they’re attached to an anchor that’s holding them back. In this state, they’re extremely vulnerable, and easy targets for hungry trout. Having a fly that imitates a sulphur partially stuck in its shuck can mean the difference between success and failure, when trout are taking sulphurs from at, or near, the water’s surface. A Sulphur Klinkhamer is just such a fly. The entire rear part of the fly is meant to represent the shuck while the front portion, wing and hackle resemble the emerging adult.

For a hook, a partridge Klinkhamer X-treme in size 14 is an excellent choice. Begin by getting the hook firmly secured in the jaws of your tying vise.

For thread, I’ve loaded a bobbin with a spool of pale yellow Veevus 10/0. Get your thread started on the hook shank, just forward of the Klinkhamer kink, and take a few wraps rearward before snipping the excess tag off close.

Golden brown Antron yarn is used to form the rear-most portion of the trailing shuck. Snip a 2” length free from the spool. Pull just a dozen or so fibers from the strand and save the rest for another fly. Find the midpoint of the strands and place it on top of the hook shank at the location of your tying thread. Take a few wraps to anchor the Antron to the hook, then pull the forward-pointing fibers rearward to secure them and effectively double the number of fibers. Keep taking thread wraps well down into the hook bend, then a few more back up the shank, so your thread hangs at about the hook barb.

Chocolate-colored Antron dubbing is used to create the remainder of the trailing shuck. Pull several good-sized clumps free from the packet and use them to build a rather substantial 3” long dubbing noodle on your tying thread. When the noodle’s complete, start taking wraps with it. For this step, you want to get one full turn of dubbing around the hook shank, right at the base of the tail. Pull down on your bobbin and place a finger from your left hand on the thread then bring your bobbin up and anchor the thread to the hook shank right at the kink. After taking a few wraps rearward, snip the dubbing noodle end of the thread off close. Reach for a pair of hackle pliers, here plunger-style, and use them to get a hold of the dubbing and the thread, not just thread at the lower end of the noodle. Taking a wrap so nothing will slip under tension is highly recommended. You can then snip the excess thread off close.

Pick up a dubbing whirl and attach it to your hackle pliers then give it a healthy clockwise spin. This will cord up and decrease the diameter of the dubbing noodle until it resembles a fuzzy little rope. Start taking touching wraps with the noodle up the hook shank. You should notice that the noodle wraps look like the natural segmentation on a mayfly shuck. When you reach your tying thread, use it to secure the noodle and snip the excess off close.

Although many materials can be used for the wing post, I really like grey McFlylon. Snip an inch and a half-long segment free from the hank. Leaving a short overhang in front of the hook eye, place the material on top of the shank and take thread wraps to firmly anchor it. Lift the front little bit up and snip it off at a shallow angle. Take wraps of tying thread to cover up the angled butt ends then position your thread back at what will become the base of the wing post. At this point, I like to grab my super glue, here Fly Tyer’s Z-Ment, and apply a small amount to the base of the post, allowing it to penetrate through the fibers. I’ll then give the entire post a clockwise twist, which sets the adhesive and produces an instantaneous wing post.

Hackle color and type is up to you but I really like the look of this light ginger cape. It just seems right for sulphurs. Measuring a hackle feather, here, a size 14, before pulling it free from the skin is always a good idea. With the shiny side of the feather facing you, pull down and strip off all the lower webby and fuzzy fibers. Trim the stem down to about 3/8”. Place the stem against the near side of the hook so its very end is in line with the back edge of the hook eye. Take nice firm thread wraps to secure it, first forward then back to the base of the wing. Pull the hackle feather to vertical, in line with the post, and start taking thread wraps up the post to secure the stem to it. When you’re about 1/4” up, start wrapping back down. At the base of the post, take a wrap or two around just the hook shank, behind the post, to save your work.

Ginger-colored rabbit fur is used to form the thorax of the fly, a medium-sized pinch is all you need. Use the dubbing to create a thin 2” long noodle on your tying thread. Start taking wraps with the noodle, first behind the post and a little ways over top of the brown Antron, then forward to the hook eye to cover up all the bare thread wraps. You may have to do a bit of finagling at the end to ensure the thread is completely covered with dubbing. Finish by taking a single wrap around the wing post and ending with your tying thread on the near side of the fly.

Get hold of the tip of the hackle feather with hackle pliers, it’s dull or back side should now be facing you. Start taking wraps with the feather around the post, ideally it’s dull side should now be facing down. Try your best to keep the wraps nice and close together, while at the same time not trapping too many hackle fibers. When you reach the base of the post, pull the hackle stem rearward and take thread wraps around the post to anchor it, 3 or 4 turns is usually plenty. Once again, end with your tying thread on the near side of the fly. At this point, you can reach in with the very tips of your tying scissors and snip the excess hackle off close.

If you notice any wonky fibers, now is a good time to get rid of them. Just be really careful not to snip your tying thread in the process. Trim the wing post off to about a hook shank in length. Reach for your whip finish tool and use it to do a 4 or 5 turn whip finish, seat the knot well and snip or cut your tying thread free. A drop of head cement, here, Sally Hansen Hard as Nails, applied to the thread wraps at the base of the post, and allowed to sink in, will greatly increase the fly’s durability.

And that’s the Sulphur Klinkhamer. I’ve found the pattern to be quite effective throughout all the phases of the hatch, including well after dark when it’s mostly spinners returning to the water’s surface. In other words, it’s a pretty versatile pattern.