Remembering the Hendrickson Hatch

Dark Skies and Rising Water Have Been The Mark of Spring 2020

It has been a few years since I last witnessed one of the epic Catskill Hendrickson hatches. Every spring I look forward to the possibility. Considering that it is the first major hatch of the season, there is no doubt that the dry fly man’s anticipation is at its annual peak as the second week of April approaches.

Yes I have seen it that early, though I have endured the long wait on the brink of too many seasons when the flies did not come forth until May. This year had all the appearances of an early spring, one in which the hatch would appear during the third week of April, but a push of persistent colder air after a warm weekend to begin the month seemed to stall things; or did it?

The water temperatures rose to the magic 50 degree mark that first warm weekend, then plummeted back to the thirties as we were battered with snow squalls and frigid nights thereafter. The last blast brought us a 2 1/2 inch snowfall on April 18th. Though river temperatures were in the wrong half of the forties, I saw the big duns on the water the following day, April 19th. The flies have been here for nearly two weeks, but there hasn’t been a big showing of rising trout to greet them.

As I watched a handful of those beautiful ruddy duns blown with the gale two days ago, I feared that might be the last I will see of them for the season. The rain clouds have had their way and the rivers are all blown out once again; and more rain is coming. Anticipation unfulfilled and hopes dashed once again!

Memory assures that I have had great days fishing the Hendrickson hatch, though upon reflection there have been more that have been frustrating. Wind and high water have most often been the culprits to take the blame. I see visions of dark, cloudy days, the surface filled with flies as far as I could see, and pods of trout feeding furiously on them. Wading deeper than reason I still needed a long cast to reach those pods and the winds defied a presentation. Such is fishing, lest we forget.

I have grown as an angler passing those years that flood my memory, something we all do if we are dedicated to the sport and strive to improve. I can fish effectively under conditions I once considered hopeless, yet Nature is still the great equalizer. She reminded me, standing in the river just the other day, watching big trout pound those last few Hendricksons while I laughed out loud amid the rush of 35 mph winds that defied my casts.

So, another season begins, and though conditions do not suit the dreams that guided me through the winter I am thankful. I am here, alive and breathing despite my own health issues and the devastation of a global pandemic. There is still a tomorrow.

I had a reminder of that too, as I drifted through the tail of a pool early this week. Suddenly I saw a splashy rise and let the anchor as quickly and quietly as possible. Rises erupted toward midstream and below my position. The display seemed to coincide with the appearance of a few larger duns on the surface. I had just tied on a Hendrickson and thought myself ready for Nature’s little gift, but the fish were moving with each rise. I cast to each target immediately, only to drift my dry over vacant water. It lasted all of five minutes, and then the surface was still.

Teased, I sat down and let my heart rate slow a bit. That little flurry of fruitless activity brought a smile and a chuckle too. It was fun without feeling a tug.

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