Killer fly – Hakan's Half-Incher
Don't titter – Hakan's Half-Incher is irresistible, says Matt Harris.
I've met a lot of anglers on my travels over the years, and most, I'm happy to say, have been excellent company. Fisherfolk just seem to be – on the whole – a really good bunch.
One angler whose company I have always especially enjoyed is Scandinavian fly-tying and salmon fishing genius Hakan Norling. His laconic and ultra-dry wit is always razor-sharp: I remember watching England play Hakan's native Sweden at football in a crucial World Cup game, while we sat in a lovely lodge on the banks of Norway's beautiful Orkla River. England – red-hot favourites – were two up inside 15 minutes and, along with my good friends, Mark Tellwright, Jeremy Herrmann and Lawrie Hickman, I foresaw a massacre and gave Hakan a very hard time.
Hakan waved away our abuse with a smile, and very soon Sweden were level and pressing for a winner – hitting the woodwork on two occasions and going narrowly wide on countless others. As the final whistle blew, the English contingent blew a huge sigh of relief as we realised that we had been very fortunate to escape with a draw. Hakan turned to us and said, in his perfect English: “I suspect you English guys play football like you make love – you huff and puff for the first few minutes and then you are finished.”
I still smile when I think of that poker-straight face, the gales of irrepressible laughter and the irresistible, mischievous humour of this wonderful fly fisher.
Hakan has always been especially generous to me – when I was lucky enough to be invited to fish the hallowed waters of the Alta for the first time, I contacted him to ask advice on flies.
A few days later, a precious bundle of exquisitely tied flies, each carefully labelled with advice on exactly how and when to use each one, landed on my doormat.
Each of those flies was a variation on Hakan's brilliant invention, the Templedog. This iconic pattern took the salmon world by storm, and it is rare to find a Scandinavian salmon angler using anything else. The template can be employed to make flies in almost any colour or size, with or without bling, in colour schemes that vary from drab to flamboyant, and on anything from tiny doubles to 3" tubes. But the basic design, featuring a long, flowing wing tied from soft hair (originally Tibetan dog hair – don't ask! – but now typically Arctic Fox or similar) and a full front hackle remains the recipe, and the fly has caught me and countless others lots and lots of salmon, both in Norway and further afield.
Hakan evolved the pattern to feature a simple half-inch body – often without any dressing whatsoever and concentrating all the weight – if any – in the front of the fly. This pattern – Hakan's Half-Incher – has been the inspiration for my own patterns, and I can tell you it is utterly lethal.
I'd love to show you the patterns Hakan sent me, but they are all now hopelessly chewed up by the big fish that seem to take such a shine to them. What I can show are images of my own ham-fisted versions that are also absolute killers, despite the relatively humble craftsmanship.
I use Morten Buundgard's brilliant Pro-Tube system or the excellent Eumer tube system to create weighted and unweighted bodies very quickly. While some will say that Half-Inchers are not true Templedogs, I say who cares? I can tell you that they work, and they work because they follow Hakan's brilliant design principles.
You don't need much to tie effective Half-Inchers. I use Veniards beautiful 3X Arctic Fox and their vast range of Schlappen and large cock hackles and flash materials – particularly their vivid Mirror Boosted Krinkle Flash – to create flies that come alive in the water. Add in a couple of jungle cock eyes, push a conehead or funky new ‘drainer disc' on the front if you like, pop a bulletproof Osprey Salmon Tube double in the back – or let it free-swing like Hakan does – and you are ready to wreak havoc on salmon rivers almost anywhere on the Atlantic seaboard. What are you waiting for?