In Wisconsin, although sometimes it feels more like winter, the Trout Opener in early March is the unofficial beginning of Spring. In Michigan, with so much water now open year round, their season opener doesn’t hold the same significance it once did. Over there, it seems like Spring has finally arrived once the Hendricksons start popping on the Au Sable. And if nothing else, they at least kick off the dry fly fishing season with a flourish.
Hendricksons are mayflies, generally 14′s to 16′s, that start showing up once the water temps get into the 50 degree range. They hatch consistently in the early to mid afternoon, and will bring big fish to feed on the surface during the day. But at dusk, if you are very fortunate, or very persistent, you may catch a spinnerfall. A Hendrickson spinnerfall is a mythical, mystical experience. I have spent countless evenings sitting, waiting for the thousands of mayflies to culminate their tantalizing mating dance over the water, drop their tennis ball colored egg sacs in the river, and fall. When, if, they fall, the surface of the water erupts with riseforms, and in the fading light echos of gulps and glomps in the dark corners of the river alert us that the big fish have left the safety of their log jams to feed on the carpet of bugs covering the water. I have experienced this, so I know that it does happen. But most of the time the bugs appear in the gloaming, suddenly it seems, a swarm of them dancing, bouncing, rising, dropping in the air over the riffles. Everything feels right, tonight it is going to happen. They get closer to the water, their dance dangerously close to the flowing current and you listen for the sound of a rise. But they are gone as suddenly as they appear, back to the trees and bushes, the air and water silent, and they will fall some other time, maybe never.
Waiting for the spinnerfall, at least for me, is one of the rites of Spring. If you catch it right, the experience is worth the dozen times you sit there and the bugs disappear. But (usually) I am content just to be out there. Winter is over, and the critters are active again. Spring is in full swing; the Wisconsin opener has come and gone, and I am throwing dries to rising trout on the Au Sable.
Some photos from last weekend in Michigan: