The Allure of Hendrickson Season

Updated: Feb 8

Doug Lyons 1/21/22

So, what is it about the Hendrickson’s that is so near and dear us? Certainly, as the first major hatch of the spring there is the excitement of getting out on the water. The chance to catch a large trout on a dry fly most certainly brings many of us to the river. The mere act of casting the long rod on a bright and bountiful stream is attraction enough to get us outdoors. Hopefully we find that the weather is delightful, but often the conditions that might be considered frightful.

Photo by Doug Lyons

There is more too it, though, than the act of fishing and meeting the first big hatches of the year that draws anglers out. There is no time during the course of any fishing season when an angler engages so many of his or her senses than during the Hendricskon hatch. How so you ask? Let’s consider how engaging Hendrickson season is to our senses and how that makes the Hendrickson hatch so fulfilling in so many ways.

First and foremost is the visual aspect that comes with meeting the hatch. Rather than tugging a streamer or bouncing a nymph along the bottom of the stream we look intently at the surface waiting first for bugs and then for rises. Finally, we follow the track of the well-placed fly in anticipation of a rise. But there is much more than the fish and the flies that engage this visual sensation. Who among us does not glance along the streamside meadows or look up towards the hillsides and not notice the brilliant colors of spring that rival even the peak colors of a fall day? Colors that change day by day as spring creeps up the mountains, just the opposite of falls creep downhill.

Our auditory spirits are also engaged while we are along the river waiting for the hatch. Certainly, the flow of the river can be heard, and what a delightful sound it is. But it is not just the river that is alive with spring sounds that catch our attention. The symphony of the spring peeper finds its way to a dramatic and almost deafening climax in the many wetlands along the river. These are not the furtive sounds one hears on those gentle March and April evenings. The peepers are in full voice all day and well into the evening. Offering a bass drumbeat are the grouse that will be sounding for mates on a distant hillside. In the fields we hear, as well as see, flocks of robins hunting for worms. In amongst the cattails along the river one will hear the beautiful voice of the red-winged blackbird. And as evening descends upon the valley the baritone call of an owl will be heard on many a night. And just to keep us on our toes and make the hair stand up on the back of our neck, every now and then a pack of coyotes will begin their eerie calling to one another. Yes, Hendrickson season is full of sounds.

Our tactile sensations are also involved at this time of year. Whether it is the feel of the sun on a mild spring day or the chill of a last gasp wind of a winter not quite ready to let go, our skin can feel the tug of war between a season going and a season not yet arrived. And then there is the first dipping of a hand in the water and the icy chill that reminds us, even on a warm day, that warmth is a relative term. And then there is the push of the river against our waders. Despite its reputation as a gentle old river, the Battenkill reminds us to be respectful of its flows, which seem to be in a real rush to get to the Hudson at this time of year.

Photo by Doug Lyons

Our sense of smell is also switched-on during Hendrickson time. It could be the smoke coming from a distant leaf pile being burned. This is a pleasant enough sensation. Then too, there is the bracing odor of a field just fertilized with manure. If nothing else, this is a reminder that while we seek recreation, there are still many folks that rely on the bounty of the land to provide a living. Of course, with spring comes the blossoming of flowers and the pleasant aromas that waft up and down the river basin with the shifting spring zephyrs. And finally, there is that indescribable smell in the air that comes after a gentle shower passes on an otherwise fine May morning. Yes, Hendrickson time has its distinct fragrances.

Finally, an angler’s sense of taste will be in high gear as well. Who among us does not enjoy a fine country breakfast prior to heading off for a day on the river? Or perhaps a local fundraiser featuring a pancake feast is how some of us like to start the day. For many just a simple cup off coffee sipped slowly along the river while going through the various rituals of gearing up is enough. And then, when the day is over, there will be beer consumed along the river while stories are told, fish grow and memories are seared into our consciousness. Back at camp a steak may find its way onto the grill and a stiffer elixir will be enjoyed around a campfire.

And so we look forward to that unique season that is Hendrickson time on the Battenkill.

Photo by Doug Lyons


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