Tying Harry’s Fly

Reading through Harry Darbee’s “Catskill Flytier” I came upon his pattern for the Dark Hendrickson; and so…

One of the classic Catskill dry flies that I have rarely tied or fished is the Dark Hendrickson. Perhaps the name affected my viewpoint: all of the hundreds of Hendrickson mayflies I have plucked from the surface of Catskill rivers have been tan or reddish in their bodies. The general recipes for the Dark Hendrickson have called for muskrat fur, and I never had that much confidence in a plain gray fly. My thinking has changed today, during another trip through the past.

The late Harry Darbee published his book Catskill Flytier in 1977, forty-five years ago. In it he recounts his story growing up in this region and, with his wife Elsie, becoming one of the most lauded pairs of Catskill fly tyers in our region’s history. The Darbees formed an intrinsic part of the Golden Age of Catskill fly fishing. I have owned the book for many years, though I still recognized a bit of information that had escaped my earlier readings.

The last fly listed under “Darbees’ Deadly Dozen” is their version of the Dark Hendrickson, tied with dark rusty dun hackles and “Brownish gray dubbing from red fox fur”, something very different from the gray over gray patterns others tied with muskrat and dark dun hackle. I liked the idea of old Harry’s version immediately.

As it turns out, I was ordering some Coq-De-Leon tailing hackle last week when I noticed a page on the dealer’s website offering Darbee Duns hackle credited to a single hackle breeder that has maintained a small flock of Darbee strain birds. I took a chance and added a half cape in rusty dun to my order. I was pleased with the feathers when they arrived, and when I saw Harry’s Dark Hendrickson recipe, well, what could have been more natural?

I took down a red fox skin this morning and cut some of the short brown fur from the outer leg and some longer pinches from the back of the hide, tossing it in my blender until I had a nice “brownish gray”. Then I set out to tie half a dozen of Harry’s classic dry flies.

Harry Darbee’s Dark Hendrickson: I like the guard hairs in the red fox fur, as they encourage air bubbles that help a dry fly look alive. You can trim the long ones if you wish, but don’t remove them all from the fur!

In Catskill Flytier, Harry recommends the pattern in sizes 10 through 14. I decided to tie mine in 10’s and 12’s with any eye toward fishing them when I find the big reddish Hendricksons hatching on the Beaverkill next spring. I could find myself tying one on when the isonychia are hatching too. I think Harry’s Dark Hendrickson will be a good searching pattern when fish have been tuned into isos during the summer.

Of course, I would love to be able to get out there right now and give the fly a try. I’m quite sure that no trout is going to rise through the ice along the river today, no matter what the fly’s pedigree.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s