The Dark Hendrickson Winged Wet

We had spent the morning nymphing, but as the hour hand worked its way toward eleven, the bite slowed. One o’clock would be the visible start of the Hendrickson hatch — you can set your watch by it on the Farmington — but I figured right now was about time for creatures to be stirring a foot below the surface.

I rigged up a team of three wets, with a Dark Hendrickson on point, and began walking down a long, three-foot deep run. When I got to the tailout, I encountered an angler reclining on rock, enjoying the warmth of the late April sun. I hailed him and asked how his fishing had been. He told me he hadn’t yet wet his line. “Waiting for the Hendrickson hatch to start,” he explained.

Oh, it’s already started, I told him. “I don’t see anything coming off,” he said. I shook my head. You can’t see it yet. It’s going on below, and it’s going to be a good one. See my friends up there? I’ve been catching them all the way down the run, just swinging wets. They’ve been keyed on this fly here.

The Dark Hendrickson Winged Wet is a legacy American pattern that has been fooling trout for over a century. I’ve been fishing it only a fraction of that time, yet I couldn’t possibly tell you how many trout I’ve taken on it. This fly would easily make my Top Ten Wets list. Match the size of the naturals (about a 12 on the Farmington), then drift, swing, or dangle it over rising fish, and hold on.

The Dark Hendrickson Winged Wet

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Hook: 2x strong wet fly
Thread: Grey
Tail: Dark blue dun hackle fibers
Body: Muskrat fur
Hackle: Dark blue dun hen
Wing: Lemon wood duck

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Tying notes: I like to use darker muskrat fur, particularly the soft grey underfur. Pick out and discard the black, stiffer guard hairs when you snip off a patch. A little fur goes a long way, and if you happen to have an entire skin, you’ve got enough fur to keep your great-great grandchildren in Hendricksons. Keep the body thin; the hero of this fly is wing. Be sure to leave plenty of room for the head and the wing; you can see on this fly that I just about made it. (Although the trout won’t care a lick.) To form the wing, I usually fold a small section of wood duck over itself with the dull side facing in, but I don’t get too crazy about trying to make every fly perfect. Make the wing about as long as the bend. If you don’t tie this fly, please start. You’re going to be happy you did.

Looks like the Hendrickson hatch has started.

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The Dark Hendrickson Rogues’ Gallery

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8 comments on “The Dark Hendrickson Winged Wet

  1. John Jascot says:

    Beautiful ties Steve. Have tied a bunch for the hatch already. Can’t wait to test them out. Itching to get out maybe this weekend and bottom dredge at the Farmington

  2. MattB says:

    Hi Steve – that is a great looking fly. I will add this pattern to my repertoire for sure. I’m not surprised that the fish like it and it drives them crazy.

    Hopefully not a dumb question, but could you talk a little please about the way you create and tie the wings from a lemon wood duck flank feather. I assume you cut a section from the top of the feather with the quill/stem in the center that you fold together and tie in? Does that mean that you can only make one fly from each feather or is it possible to get multiple sets of wings from each feather? I ask because the feathers are more expensive than most, and I want to make sure that I’m not wasting! Many thanks, I really enjoy the Blog.

    – Matt

    • Steve Culton says:

      No dumb questions at Currentseams.

      I can get three wings from a decent sized feather. Start by cutting a wedge out of the tip. That wedge can be folded (the stem is the folding line) in half to form one wing. You are now left with a V-shaped feather. Cut a small section of that –another V-shape — to form your next wing (once you do it a few times, you can eyeball how much you’ll need from each cut to form a wing). Again, fold it along the stem line. If you’re lucky, you can get a third wing out of the remaining material. Does that make sense?

      Of course, you line up the tips of the wing to extend to about the bend of the hook, tie it in with two or three taut wraps to position, then bind down hard to secure, trim, and finish.

      I hear you on the price. That’s why I go to the CFFA Show every spring and buy a bag of 50 lemon wood duck feathers for fifteen bucks.

      I love wood duck. 🙂

      • John Jascot says:

        Steve and Matt – What’s your take on maybe substituting a rusty turkey biot, Ptail, or rusty dubbing in place of the dark gray muscrat . I’ve often been overwhelmed by the different dubbing and or other body configurations that I’ve come across for the hendrickson. It may be that by mid april anything fuzzy and undulating will work as well. You can’t beat wood duck except for the price tag.

      • Steve Culton says:

        Hi John,

        To my eye, there’s not a lot of rusty going on with the naturals. Then again, I am red-green syndrome color blind.

        I’ve used soft-hackled pheasant tail with great success during the Hendrickson hatch.

        Fly fishing is one great big fun science experiment. So tie your Hendrickson flies the way you want, fish them, and get the opinion of the only creature who counts. 🙂

  3. MattB says:

    Hi Steve – if you are looking for “crowd sourced” audience input, could I please nominate this “Dark Hendrickson Winged Wet” patter for the Culton Productions tying video treatment? I think it would be a great video to share if you have the time to record it. Many thanks.

  4. Steve Culton says:

    Always willing to listen to suggestions, Matt. Funny you should mention this — it’s one of the next flies I’m considering for video. Busy week, so I’ll get to it as time allows.

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