The Hendrickson Hatch - A Happy Time for a Fly Fisherman

The Hendrickson Hatch – A Happy Time for a Fly Fisherman

Since we do not see much fly activity before May when the Hendrickson fly appears, this is a happy time for a fly fisherman. Before I go into further detail describing this fly, as well as how we approach fishing the Hendrickson hatch, the name of this fly had always puzzled me. Who was the person who named this fly? Is the name Hendrickson the last name of a person who first imitated this fly? 

Ephemerella Subvaria - Hendrickson Mayfly
Ephemerella Subvaria – Hendrickson Mayfly
Photo: flickr photo shared by Jerry Schoen under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

After reading a bit of the history of the dry fly, I came to the answer. Theodore Gordon was the first American who created dry flies in US to imitate a hatch matching a dry fly from a wet fly. Roy Steenrod was the only person who learned how to tie flies directly from Gordon. When Gordon was unable to tie flies anymore, he suggested that Albert Hendrickson, his best customer should contact Steenrod in the future to fill his fly orders. Steenrod and Hendrickson became friends, and later, when Hendrickson contacted Steenrod for the creation of a new pattern to imitate one of the early mayflies in 1916, it was the mayfly which Steenrod named Hendrickson in 1918. So, the Ephemerella Subvaria group of mayflies become known as Hendrickson flies among fly fishermen. Interesting to mention is that the name Hendrickson celebrated its 100-year anniversary last year.

The Hendrickson hatch is the most exciting hatch in the early season. 

I won’t describe the nymph and spinner now for the reason that 80% of the time I fish dun (dry fly). Hendrickson emerges mostly in riffles, or the faster sections of the stream, and duns float for quite some time on the surface as most of the bigger trout are feeding on dry flies.

I fish dry fly and I use two patterns – traditional and realistic, depending on the type of the water which I am fishing in.

The Hendrickson Hatch - Traditional and Realistic Hendrickson Mayflies
Traditional and Realistic Hendrickson Mayflies – Male and Female Patterns – Tied by Dimitri Ristic

This hatch must be treated as two fly hatches. The reason is that the male dun and the female dun are different in color and sometime in size. Also, they don’t hatch in the same pool or fast water, but males hatch in one section of the river and females in the other. Usually, females hatch in a section next to the males. 

Duns of this fly are 8-12 mm in size. Lots of artificial flies are tied on a size 12-14 hook, but I prefer size 14-16.

As I mentioned earlier, I fish this hatch as a two-fly hatch, male and female, and also use two different fly patterns, traditional and realistic, depending on where I fish. To be more specific: on the faster water I use traditional classic patterns (Art Flick), as well as modified patterns of traditional flies (Wally wings used instead traditional) and on slow moving water (pools), I use realistic dry fly patterns. Traditional patterns are perfect for fast waters. They look alive, moving and trying to take off into the air, so fish go for them. Another interesting observation I have made is that on a faster water, traditional patterns with wood duck wings are more effective than realistic gray/blue dun color wings. My explanation for this is that wood duck feathers with all those dark markings we use for wings gives the impressions of whole fly action like the fly is moving and trying to take off into the air.  On slower moving water, realistic dry fly patterns are more effective than traditional classic patterns mainly due to the fact that fish has more time to examine the fly.

This hatch is challenging and not always easy to follow and the main reason for this is weather conditions. Since the hatch is early in the season, and lasts about 3 weeks, the weather at this time of the year (late April and beginning of May) can change drastically from day to day and even hour to hour; therefore, this hatch can be very unpredictable. The hatch will not begin if the water temperature is bellow 50-55 F (10-13°C). Peak activity is usually between 2:00 – 4:00 pm. If you notice that a trout rises several times in the same spot, you can assume that fish is holding his feeding station. Now you can concentrate on selecting the proper imitation, for the fast water a traditional pattern and for the slow moving and flat stretch – a realistic pattern. This works very well for me. Also, choosing the male or female pattern is crucial after careful observation of the dun fly. This proper imitation of the fly pattern is very critical for success.

Finally, the Hendrickson hatch will always be the best dry fly fishing of the season to me.

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