Although Matt Grobert is well known for his unique and innovative fly patterns, he's also no stranger to the classics. Here he's going to show us how he ties a Catskill style Hendrickson that's both historically significant and remarkably effective.
For a hook, Matt likes a TMC 100 dry fly hook in a size 12 or 14. After mashing the barb, he secures the hook in his vise.
For thread, Matt's going to use, you guessed it, olive 6/0 Danville. Start your thread on the hook shank leaving an eye length space behind the eye. Take wraps rearward and then break or snip off the tag.
Leave your thread at the 1/3 point on the hook shank. This is where the base of the wing will be located.
Strip the shorter, fuzzier fibers from a single wood duck flank feather. The tips should be just about even. With fine point scissors, snip the tip of the feather off to leave a "V" shaped notch. Now stroke the fibers up the stem and kind of fold the two sides together. This really helps to even the tips. Measure the fibers against the hook. You want the wings to be one full hook length tall. Transfer that measurement to the tie-in point. With your tying thread, make one full loose pinch wrap and then pull straight up. Use a few more wraps to secure the bundle to the top of the hook shank.
Continue wrapping rearward before snipping the butts off at a shallow angle. Then wind over these butts with nice tight wraps of tying thread.
You can use your scissors like calipers to double check the length of the wing. WInd your thread forward, and while pulling back on the wood duck, build a small thread dam in front to hold the fibers up.
Pull the wood duck fibers back and use a dubbing needle to split the bundle in half. Use cross wraps to initially separate the two wings followed by figure eight wraps to further separate and define them.
Once you have the wings upright and divided, you can snip out any errant fibers and then take wraps rearward to the hook point.
For the tail, strip some nice stiff fibers from a dark dun hackle feather. Once you have them in a clump, you can even the tips by gingerly tapping the butt ends. Starting at those ends, secure the hackle fibers to the top of the hook shank to form a tail about a hook shank in length. Wind your tying thread forward to completely cover the butts.
Select a small clump of Hendrickson colored Australian Possum dubbing and begin forming a tapered dubbing noodle on your tying thread. With the noodle complete, wrap rearwards so the it starts right at the base of the tail. Take adjacent wraps up the hook shank to form a slim tapered abdomen. Make sure to leave a little bit of space behind the wing.
For the hackle, Matt has selected two matching dark dun hackles. He arranges them so the dull backsides of the feathers are facing each other. He then snips off the butt ends of both feathers at the point where they start to get webby. Strip about an 1/8th inch of fibers from the feather butts to completely expose their stems.
Lay the stems diagonally on the near side of the hook and take a few wraps to secure them behind the wing. Follow these with a few wraps in front of the wing to further pin them to the hook shank. With hackle pliers, grab the feather that has its dull side facing forward. Make a couple of wraps with the hackle behind the wing, and then pull the wing back and take a few more wraps in front. You can then reach in with fine pointed scissors and snip the hackle tip off close.
Matt probably doesn't need a second hackle here, but included one for demonstration purposes. With it secured in your hackle pliers, start wrapping forward. Use a zig zag motion to avoid trapping hackles. Continue wrapping until you reach the thread and then tie the tip off, being careful to not trap fibers in the process.
These cuts here are why you might want to consider spending a little extra on high quality fine point scissors.
To complete the fly, use a 4 or 5 turn whip finish and snip your tying thread free. Notice how, in classic Catskill style, Matt has left some space behind the hook eye so a turle knot can rest directly on the hook shank, a great nod to history and tradition. The Hendrickson is one of a few quintessential dry flies.