Fishing the Hendricksons Battenkill Style (Part 1)

Updated: Apr 4

Doug Lyons 3/7/22


The Hendrickson hatch is famous (or perhaps infamous) for the legend that is attached to the signature fly that anglers have used to imitate the mayfly Ephemerella Subvaria for years. Back in the early 1900’s a flytyer by the name of Roy Steenrod created a dry fly to match the hatch. He named the fly after his good friend, A.E. Hendrickson and the famous pool on the Beaverkill where they fished this fly is named Hendrickson Pool.


Atherton #4 Fly - Photo by Doug Lyons

Enterprising tavern owner and fly tier, Art Flick, took the original pattern and tweaked it a bit to better match the pinkish tint of the female mayfly that we know today as the Hendrickson (The male is knows as Red Quill due to its ruddy abdomen). Flick drew a lot of attention to his pattern because he famously sought the urine-stained underbelly fur of a female fox. Odd though it may seem, Flick’s choice was not a bad one and his elegant pattern catches fish to this day.


With all that said, Battenkill area fly tiers have hatched a handful of patterns that are equally effective as the original Hendrickson pattern when fishing this emergence.


In this first installment let’s talk about angling artist John Atherton and his contribution to fly tying. We will focus on one specific pattern after reviewing Atherton’s unique approach to designing effective patterns that were tested on our very own Battenkill.


John Atherton was an acclaimed artist whose works have graced the walls of some of the finest museums in the world. He was also an illustrator for the Saturday Evening Post; creating numerous covers for that noted periodical. Atherton also happened to be an astute fly fisherman who was drawn to the Arlington area to be with other artists such as Norman Rockwell and fellow fly angler and artist Meade Schaeffer. The Battenkill was another reason for this move.


Atherton took his artistic background and applied it to fly tying by theorizing that a color of a fly (be it the body, tail or hackling) should be the sum of a number of colors blended together just as the Impressionistic artists created beautiful images on canvas by using multiple colors mixed together to give a life like impression. Atherton codified this theory in his book The Fly and the Fish, a work that still matters to this day. If you have not read this book it is worth acquiring a copy.


With regards to the Hendrickson hatch, Atherton created a fly that he named the Atherton # 4, a beautiful rendition that calls for a mixture of several dubbings that gives an overall impression of pink or coral and is perfect for matching the Hendrickson’s on the Battenkill. Some of his dubbings are generally unavailable today (seal specifically) but there are perfectly good substitutes. The fly also calls for a mixture of dun and Cree hackle. Cree is a bit hard to come by, but one can get around this by using dun as the primary color of the hackle collar mixed with a wrap or two each of grizzly and brown to get the variegated effect he emphasizes in many of his patterns.


The recipe for the pattern is as follows:

Hook: # 12 – 14 (Atherton sometimes tied with a # 13 hook as well)

Wing: Wood duck

Tail: Cree hackle fibers or a mix of ginger and grizzly

Thorax: Natural seals fur mixed with dyed red seals fur and a small amount each of hares ear and muskrat

Rib: narrow oval gold tinsel

Hackle: Medium dun and Cree mixed

Atherton does not specify a thread color, I generally use a tannish colored thread.

While the weather remains cold, take the time to create a few Atherton # 4’s of your own and bring them with you when you come to fish the Battenkill. You will have a fine pattern in your arsenal and you will be meeting the hatch Battenkill Style.


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