Remember Jim and Dirk at Henderson Springs 2024

Nearly a decade ago, the late Jim Cramer introduced me to the wonders of Henderson Springs, and since then, it’s become an integral part of my annual trout fishing tradition. Thanks to Jim, I was welcomed into a circle of fly fishermen who quickly became some of my closest companions on the water. In the tight-knit community of Northern California anglers, especially among those of us over 65, the connections run deep, often weaving through shared experiences and mutual friends. It was only at Henderson Springs that I crossed paths with Dirk, discovering his longstanding ties to some of my oldest fishing buddies. As the years pass, I’ve come to cherish the social aspect of fly fishing as much as the thrill of landing a catch. In the company of seasoned anglers, I’ve gleaned wisdom about both fishing and life, realizing that their influence transcends the mere tally of fish caught on any given weekend.

Lately, I’ve been acutely aware of the passing years and the inevitable changes they bring. Many of my fishing companions, once stalwart fixtures on the water, won’t be around in another decade. It’s a reminder to seize the moment, to reach out and forge new memories while there’s still time, especially with those who imparted so much wisdom and camaraderie in my youth. I’ve often told my children, “Tell Me Who You Hang Around With, and I Will Tell You Who You Will Become.” This adage resonates deeply, particularly within the community of anglers at Henderson Springs.

Expectations ran high as we arrived, greeted by impeccable weather. Armed with boxes of meticulously tied Calibaetis and Ants, I anticipated a spectacular display of dry fly action that, alas, failed to materialize. Henderson Springs has a way of humbling even the most seasoned angler, defying expectations with its ever-changing rhythms. Unlike previous years, the fish showed little interest in trolled or stripped leeches, nor did they readily take the size 12 brown chironomids or olive balanced leeches under indicators. Yet, each lake revealed its own secrets upon closer inspection. Long Lake proved sluggish, its denizens elusive until twilight, when they ventured close to shore in pursuit of evening bugs. With luck, the upcoming Hex hatch promises better fortunes upon my return in May.

Of all the lakes, Clear Lake emerged as the clear favorite of our expedition. Nestled in a protected valley with cooler water temperatures, this spring-fed oasis boasts the sole population of native brook trout on the ranch. Its inhabitants eagerly rise to dry flies and are abundant with chironomids, finding sanctuary amidst the labyrinthine depths of its cylindrical basin. Despite the pressure of previous days, fishing remained fruitful, a testament to the lake’s enduring allure.

Yet, it was Frog Lake that yielded my most memorable catches of the trip. Amidst the verdant weed beds, Bob and I unlocked the secret to success: a pink worm suspended beneath an indicator. While the worm had always been effective, its performance surpassed all expectations, eliciting strikes from even the most discerning trout. Guided by drone reconnaissance, Peter and I navigated the channels with precision, reaping bountiful rewards along the way. Norm’s Callibaets Slam provided an additional challenge, showcasing the lake’s abundance as we reveled in our “obscene” catch rates.

Surprisingly, Big Lake offered its own surprises, its ever-shifting dynamics posing a challenge to even the most experienced anglers. Despite the change in water level and temperature, we adapted our tactics, ultimately finding success with jigged pink worms in the cooler depths. The highlight, however, came in the form of the Lost Lagoon, a hidden gem accessible only through a narrow causeway. Amidst the cluttered water column, a solitary fish defied expectations, a testament to the unexpected joys of exploration.

Evenings at Henderson were spent in convivial camaraderie, gathered around the Pavillion fire pit under the watchful gaze of “Pyro Pete’s” blazing inferno. With great wine and Norm’s comedic antics to sustain us, the nights were as memorable as the days spent on the water. In the flickering glow of the fire, we found solace in memories shared and absent friends remembered, lingering beneath the starlit sky long after others had retired.

And then there was Melissa, our culinary maestro, whose artistry transformed each meal into a gastronomic delight. Anticipation for her creations often outweighed the allure of rising fish, a testament to her culinary prowess amidst the discerning palates of our group. In the company of such epicurean delights, Henderson Springs became not just a fishing destination, but a culinary oasis, where indulgence knows no bounds.

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