Hendrickson Hatch – Ontario’s Grand River


Back in the early 1990’s I met Rick Whorwood from Stoney Creek, Ontario. He introduced me to the Grand River, a tail-water brown trout fishery that begins at Shand Dam near the town of Fergus. It flows quite a distance into Lake Erie. I wrote the article titled, Ontario’s Grand River, that was published in Fly Fisherman Magazine (my very first published piece). This piece introduced the Grand to the world in 1995. It was a relatively new fishery because Shand Dam, originally built in the 1940’s, was retrofitted for hydro power conversion in 1989. That is when it all started. Cold water releases from the dam created sustainable conditions for trout in a river that formerly held only bass, carp, and a few pike. Trout Unlimited and Izaak Walton Club members starting a program of stocking fingerlings of a Ganaraska River brown trout strain. It is an understatement to say these fish did very well. The combination of the cold and extremely fertile water conditions has created a wonderful brown trout fishery.

I remember meeting Ian Martin, a biologist, around the time of my article. Ian co-authored Fly Fishing the Grand River, a pocket guide (and very expensive, as I just discovered through an Amazon.com search). Some of the data from his stream biota samples were incredible. His team used a method of sampling a square meter of the stream bed, where they were able to contain and document nearly 100% of the invertebrate life. I remember reading that he recorded Hendrickson mayfly Ephemerella subvaria population densities of almost 1000 individual specimens per square meter. Sounds pretty incredible. It is, eh!? As my Canadian friends are so fond of saying…

Well, a friend, blog follower, and occasional commenter here, John Hoffman, of Fergus, sent these photos to me this evening. I had to post them. With his permission, they are his photos. See why?

Opening Day in Ontario – April 28th, 2012. The Grand River, near Fergus. John views a massive flotilla of Hendrickson duns drifting on the surface. He’s wondering why the trout aren’t rising.

A solid mat of Hendrickson duns on the Grand River – unfortunately dead and dying. These are not cripples or stillborn duns. Mother Nature can be quite cruel, so She was this day. The cold air temperatures prevented many of the duns from leaving the water. John said this was one of the smaller masses of flies he saw that day.

I need to get back to the Grand. I have not fished it for nine or ten years. I’d have to convert my old slides to digital images, but I can tell you, if I look I might be able to find photographic evidence of the most incredible and amazing 45 minutes of trout fishing I ever had in my life! It was here on the Grand River. I’ll expand the tale when / if I find the pictures. Suffice it to say the short version is I caught two sets of twins, in this order, 19″, 23″, 23″ and 19″, four brown trout. Even more amazing is that the first two were caught on a LaFontaine Sparkle Caddis Dry (it was actually one of his underwater pupa patterns dressed to float), on back-to-back casts, and after a half hour period of nothing, the second set of twins, was again taken on two back-to-back casts, on a Caddis Bead Head Larva nymph. I was with Dave Whalley, it was a Sunday morning before I was presenting a program at the Grand River Conservation Authority Annual Event that afternoon, and we had less than a couple hours to fish. And oh, I caught these four trout above the upper bridge, in the unregulated section of the river where it is not Catch-and-Release. What a day that was! Er, I mean an hour. I gotta find those photos.