Welcome to Not Quite Entomology

Welcome to Not Quite Entomology! This is a different approach to matching the hatch, or learning which insect the fish are really eating. The flies and methods to make it all work will be here as well. We hope this series will inspire you to go out, look on top of and under rocks, check the stream-side vegetation, really investigate your favorite water and learn which are your local trout's favorite foods!


Old Rupe!
By Old Rupe
Photos by Jim Birkholm

The Hendrickson hatch (Ephemerella subvaria) is the most awaited of the early season hatches in the east. Those who don't have it should cry. It's the first big fly of any consequence on our rivers. Sure, others hatch earlier but not in the grand style of the Hendrickson. It's not an easy hatch as I commonly see Blue-Winged Olives and the Little Black Sedge come off at the same time. An individual trout can be on any one of the life stages of these three insects. It's a smart fisher who knows what his trout is really eating.

In order for this hatch to really cook, the water temperature must be from 50-55 degrees F., and here that means late April to early May. This year we have had a warm winter so I expect early April to cap the event. A few warm sunny days will cover the stream-side vegetation with them.

Female Dun This insect is found in gravel sections of relatively constant temperature rivers. The Au Sable River in Michigan has a hatch I routinely drive eight hours to fish. Catching trout feeding in the slow glides is my thing, the slow glides adjacent to a riffle on a nice cool day. The flat water runs runs where big trout and I await.

Male Dun
The male and female are so different that I have observed trout selectively feeding on one or the other. The male, called the red quill, looks as if he were made of shiny strips of reddish-brown plastic, where the female is in most places an Adams gray. They not only look different but some riffles and the adjacent glides seem to host the same sex year after year. I don't know why, but it's something I've noticed. Maybe the sexual selectivity is due to some areas of the stream holding predominately one sex of the species.

On cooler days the hatch peaks around 2 p.m. while warmer days will drive it into dusk and compress the hatch so all of the activity happens in an hour or so. These are the most intense Hendrickson hatches I've seen.

Earlier in the year I see the spinner fall at 3 p.m. or so but as the temperature increases it presses on into dusk. If it's an exceptionally cold evening I've seen it delayed until mid-morning of the next day. I suspect the spinner fall happens 48 hours after hatching but have never seen this in the literature. The mid-morning fall can be a real fooler. It's hard to spot unless you look up.

Hendrickson nymph About to Hatch The concentration of these nymphs approaches 1200 individuals per square foot. No wonder it's such a great hatch!

I fish the nymph generally in a size 12 with a pronounced reddish tinge to the dubbing, weighted about 20 inches under an indicator. I've tried a flash back but not often. If I can I will try it a lot this year.

The emerger I tie with a trailing shuck and fish it down and across with a twitch, mostly dragging on the surface.

I fish both flies in the slower glides just off the riffles.

The dun I tie in two patterns. The male with a reddish stripped quill body and the female with gray muskrat. In colder weather I prefer a comparadun, with an antron tail, as it sits lower in the water while the ambient fly is the parachute. When I see a rapid fly on warm days I use the traditional tie that is quite a bit off the water.

On some days I have noticed the female Adams with its bright yellow egg sac to be the dun imitation of choice. Where I fish the bottom of the body of the female dun is light yellow. I've tried imitations dubbed with a fur of that hue with lttle result. No better no worse.

Top to bottom, Dun, Shuck and Spinner all Hendrickson The spinner is generally tied rusty red with an antron wing. I usually tie it with a bright yellow egg sac and I like one wing spent and one upright. I've had some success fishing a yellow dubbed egg imitation on a wide gapped size 18 hook, dead drift under a small indicator.

What a great hatch. Big flies that even old men can see in the civilized time of the day. A prolific hatch that memories are made of. This hatch more than all others seems to have an affinity for the ceder dead falls that are locally called sweepers.

Big fish wallowing way back in a cedar tangle sipping mayflies. Impervious to anything but dynamite. A six-foot throw, way back into the tangle, through a three-foot window, what a game. Catching one of those fish on the resulting six-inch float makes winning the lottery seem to be an easy event. I always preferred fishing the dry during this hatch, definitely the low percentage act, but the most fun. Most fish are caught on the emerger. Never miss the opportunity to experience this hatch.

When magnolias bloom it's time.Old Rupe

Marinaro Thorax Tied Hendrickson

Click on photo for tying instruction of the Marinaro Thorax Tied Flies. For the tying method on the one wing up flies, click here.

Previous 'Not Quite Entomology' Articles

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ]

FlyAnglersOnline.com © Notice