The 2023 atmospheric river brought a landmark amount of rain and snow to Henderson Springs leaving a significant impact on the Ranch. The precipitation provided much-needed relief to the area, which had experienced severe drought in the past few years. I remember last year in April, Mark Henderson was stressed out about how low the reservoirs were and I had never seen them as low as they were last year. This years heavy snow and rainfall led to our group having to cancel our April week. Road closures and power outages pushed our opening week at Henderson Springs out to this last week . Mark Henderson and Wayne Holloway through their heroic efforts, got the lodge up and running just in time for last weeks annual gathering.
The lakes were all full to the brim and like San Luis, the fish found some habitat in the high water that didn’t exist in years past. I noticed that the fish this year seemed to hold in different places than they did last year. The lakes were all about 5 feet higher than last year and there were patches of snow around the shoreline. Over the 4 days we were there, the daily high temperatures actually climbed in to the mid 70s from the low 60s. With ice out only a couple weeks ago, the fish were healthy and still learning to eat chironomids. I pumped a few fish and they all had empty stomachs. I didn’t catch as many fish trolling a leech pattern, the fish were probably too cold to chase anything. I did well this year with a full sinking line and small black and brown nymphs in most of the lakes. The biggest surprise was the amount of topwater fish. The warm weather brought out an occasional Callibaetis and there were large midges hatching and even an ant fall one afternoon. The Callibaetis were size 18, black speckled, the Ants were size 16 and the diptera were also around size 18-20 and brown.
The Trout fishing overall for the three days was great as usual and its easy to catch over a hundred trout if you chase the fish and throw some good flies. This April fished more like March because of the long historic winter. The fish have just thawed out and are starting to see insects. Hatchery fish in the early season hit attractor patterns more often than naturals and fishing 4 inch leeches, big red squirmy wormies, San Juan Worms, and Mop Flies was pretty productive under indicators and slow trolled with sinking lines. But as in past years, after catching lots of fish this way, you feel empowered to try some different ways to catch fish. Mike Balog and I decided one afternoon that we were only going to fish small dry flies with a chironomid dropper or nothing. We finally figured it out despite not alot of insects on the water and caught plenty of fish. Fishing Dry Flies is harder and more physical. I was getting cramps kicking the float tube around chasing fish around the small pond – landing fish while my legs were seizing in agony was the best masochistic fly fishing I had in years – no pain , no gain, repeat. The best action is when you successfully anticipate where the roaming schools are headed. Sometimes Ill look for a bunch of bugs in that area and park casting distance from the bugs and wait. All week there were lots of bugs on the water that did not get eaten. We caught lots of fish on topwater small flies. Chironomid fishing was a bit slower than past April trips but about the same as most March trips. All the fish I pumped were empty of chironomids. They haven’t learned to eat them like a vacuum cleaner yet. I cant help but feel that in the next couple weeks as it warms up, the hatches are really going to bust wide open. as the vegetation starts to grow in the littoral zones that were frozen only weeks ago. Ive heard some rumors that San Luis is starting to cook and get hot as well.
The original group all made it this year except for Jim Cramer and Dirk Reed who were there in Spirit and watching. Wayne Holloway, Norm Sauer, Bob Shoberg, John Bjorkholm, Mike Balog, Trent Pridemore, Jerry Devlin and Peter Caswell returned to the lakes. Some like Mike Balog has fished Henderson Springs for over 25 years. I really had fun at our nightly campfire after dinner. Congratulations to Norm on his upcoming marriage. Back again from last years amazing meals was Melissa Herbert. This year Melissa really hit it out of the park with our meals. Thanks to Peter for bringing a marinated Elk Backstrap and Jerry for making great breakfasts every morning.
I use to look forward to fishing the Springs because it marked the beginning of trout fishing for me and it was all about the fishing variety and opportunities on the five lakes on this property. there are many places to be alone if you want to be even with the place packed with 16 anglers. Ive grown fond of this group which is aging fast. There is much to learn from this bunch who have been to many more exotic places than I have visited around the world. It has opened up new horizons for my bucket list. I’ve learned that its very beneficial to have many different circles of friends in fishing who share their knowledge and experiences in fishing and in life freely without ego or expectations. Some people are so busy working on there “street cred. ” that they cant see that they are only hurting themselves –not any of these old timers. I can’t wait for the Hex Hatch in May and plan to take Gina to Henderson Springs over Memorial Day Weekend for a wives trip.