The Beaverkill in Vermont has the famed Hendricks on hatch each year, and fly fishermen from up and down the East Coast flock to fish it.

The green drake hatch on Penns Creek draws the finest anglers from the mid-Atlantic states. Out West, flyrodders eagerly await the annual eruption of salmon flies on the Henry Fork of the Snake River.

And Washington has the mulberry hatch.

You don't need to a master's degree in entomology to pinpoint the capital city's spring fishing bonanza. Just look for the spotches of white and purple goo on the sidewalk under the big weed-like shade trees.

I popped a couple of sweet, ripe mulberries in my mouth last week and wondered why Barry Serviente hadn't called yet.

The message was on my desk the next morning. "Call Barry," it said. "Hot fishing tip."

Serviente, who runs Angler's Art flyfishing store in Georgetown, chuckled at the other end of the line. "Oh yeah," he said. "We were out on Rock Creek this morning. I raised a few but I couldn't get any of them to take the fly.

"Then this old guy came down and pulled a lawn chair from out of the bushes. He must go there every day. He put a live mulberry on his hook, threw it in and a big one grabbed it."

"The fish ran him all over the bank. My friend Joe Kowlski, was with me and he helped him land it.The fish kept running behind some pilings. It was hilarious, watching these guys handing the rod back and forth around the pilings."

Giant trout in Rock Creek?

Not quite.

The mulberry hatch provides Washingtonians their once-annual chance for high-sport angling for one of the least glamorous breeds of aquatic life.

Great big ugly carp.

Serviente was in the shop the next morning at 7:30, sorting through his assortment of mulberry flies. He had white ones, black ones, and bicolor ones to imitate crossbreeds.

He had little ones and big ones, and off to a side was a handful of live berries he used for models.

He pulled a couple of brand new saltwater fly rods from the rack, handing me a $225 graphite 9 1/2-foot Scientific Angler model.

The creek was high and muddy, so we set off up the C&O Canal, looking for a new spot.

It's a mile up from Georgetown before you reach water. The canal was drained for a two-year repair project on the lower end, but a temporary dam was installed above Key Bridge a few weeks ago and the canal is full from there upstream.

The mulberry crop isn't so good. We walked and walked, moving the tip of our expensive rods to let the joggers sweep past.

The mulberry trees are distinctive, dropping far out over the water. But each inspection showed barren branches or only a few semiripe berries.

We were about to give up.

"Let's look over that next one," Serviente said. "If it's no god we'll head back."

Fifty yards away we began noticing fish swirls under the tree, and a few yards closer we could make out dark clusters of ripening berries on the branches.

"That's them," Serviente said.

I uncorked my fly and made a long cast. We worked closer until we could see the big fish rising to the surface, opening their pink mouths and slurping up the fallen berries.

I set the mulberry fly into the middle of the frenzy and watched it plop down. A grey form emerged under it, then a puckered mouth. The carp hung there for a momentand plunged in, sucking up the phony berry.

The battle was on. The carp ran upstream and down, across the canal, deep, up to the surface, bending the rod with its bulk and power. Finally it came to the shore, exhausted. we hoisted it up, admired it, removed the hook and set it free.

Then we caught another, while the piles of morning traffic sputtered and balked on Canal Road and the befuddled commuters scratched their heads.

Serviente, who watches the mulberry hatch like a hawk, figures there will be at least two more weeks of good fishing on the canal and near the mouth of Rock Creek.

He is busy tying up mulberry flies in his shop, which he admits reluctantly he will sell, if pressed.

"But it's going to cost them. I'll probably charge $2 apiece. It's ridiculous for people to buy them. They're the easiest flies I know to tie. All you need is a spool of thread, some dyed deer hair for the fake mulberry and a No. 6 or 8 stout and wide-gap hook. It might cost $5 to tie 100 of them."

Serviente figures people ought to tie their own mulberry flies, it's part of the sport.

He's looking at the season scientifically, too.

"Good storm comes along and it could blow all the berries down. Then it's all over.

"We want the serious anglers down here, anyway. None of this dallying around."

He already has Kowalski, an engineer, working on theories of mass and density because he doesn't like the way his fake berries present themselves. They don't have quite the substance of the real thing.

And of course the fly anglers will gather daily to excoriate the bait guys.

There's nothing worse, in their book, than an angler who stoops to live mulberries. CAPTION: Picture, Barry Serviente hauls in a four-pound carp from the C&O Canal. The fish can't resist mulberries, real or fake. By Angus Phillips - The Washington Post