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Hendricksons, George Cooper and the Dettes

Judy Van Put - Columnist
Posted 5/3/21

The first weekend in May was what we were all hoping for after the rain, sleet and snow of the past week. Breezy, bright sunny skies and warm temperatures beckoned many to come outdoors to work in …

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Hendricksons, George Cooper and the Dettes

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The first weekend in May was what we were all hoping for after the rain, sleet and snow of the past week. Breezy, bright sunny skies and warm temperatures beckoned many to come outdoors to work in the garden, mow the grass, or go fishing.

A check with the USGS website showed that despite occasional downpours and rain showers, water levels raised just above average on Friday morning but have dropped back down to below the average flow. On Monday morning, the Beaverkill at Cooks Falls was flowing at 434 cubic feet per second, which is below the average flow of 742 cfs on this date over 106 years of record-keeping. Water temperatures fluctuated from a low of 45 degrees last Tuesday morning to a high of 57 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday afternoon.

The warm weather has brought out the first blooms of the wild violets, emerging ramps and blossoms on the pear and apple trees. Fly hatches that coincide with these early spring blooms include the Hendrickson and Red Quill.

Hendricksons are much beloved by Beaverkill anglers, and are known for their hatches that can be so prolific that it's almost like fishing in a snowstorm - in fact, some years there have been heavy Hendrickson hatches during April snowstorms. Interestingly, Hendricksons and Red Quills are both members of the same species of mayfly (Ephemerella) - the female, with its noticeable yellow egg sac, is the Hendrickson; its male counterpart is called the Red Quill. They generally hatch from about April 19 to as late as May 20 in our area.

A popular imitation of the Hendrickson spinner is the Female Beaverkill. It was created around the turn of the century by George Cooper, (1859 - 1932) a blacksmith who lived in DeBruce, who was also the earliest known professional fly-tier in the Beaverkill watershed. By the 1880s, Cooper expanded his blacksmith shop with a post office and general store in which he sold flies, fishing boots and other supplies to cater to fishing and summer tourists who began to frequent the area.

The Female Beaverkill was being used from as early as 1913, and is still popular today, tied as both wet and dry. Walt and Winnie Dette, famous flytiers from Roscoe, tied the Female Beaverkill, which they called Lady Beaverkill, as a dry fly in both Spent and Fan Wing.

The pattern for these flies appeared in their first catalog (brochure) “Dry Flies, W.C. Dette, Roscoe, N.Y.” as reprinted in Eric Leiser's book, The Dettes A Catskill Legend, published in 1992. The catalog featured one hundred flies, not in alphabetical order, and the Lady Beaverkill, Spent pattern was listed as #95: Grey Body; Brown Tail; Brown Hackle; Blue grey Spent Wings; Yellow Egg Sac. The Lady Beaverkill, Fan Wing was #97: Grey Body; Tan Speckled Tail; Brown Hackle; Pale Blue Fan Wings. Yellow Egg Sac.

On Sunday along the Willowemoc we saw a number of dark caddis flies in the air. Along the stream you'll also see Blue-Winged Olives and Caddis flies in various sizes and colors.

For this week, if you see trout rising, try a dry fly that matches the general size, shape and color of the flies you see. The three major types of aquatic insects flyfishers watch for hatching on our local trout streams are Mayflies, Caddisflies and Stoneflies.

Mayflies have the beautiful upright sail-type of wing (these are not the same as the tiny Black Flies that some people refer to as Mayflies because they hatch in wet weather during the month of May and are so bothersome.)

Caddis flies have pup tent-like wings folded over their backs, and Stoneflies, the largest of the three, have two pair of wings folded like a fan, flat over their backs when not in use. If no flies are apparent, and no trout are seen rising, try your luck fishing below the surface with a wet fly or nymph.

Judy Van Put is a long-time member of the NYS Outdoor Writers Association, and is the recipient of the New York State Council of Trout Unlimited's Professional Communications Award.

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