Hellgramites

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Entomology' started by Salmon Candy, Apr 7, 2007.

  1. Salmon Candy Member

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    Been trying to determine the natural range of hellgramites, as in where in the US does the big nasties live. Any bug experts out there with a quick answer?
  2. Pete Davis New Member

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    Cordalis cornuta.

    We have helgrammites in most of the major drainages of Virginia. They are relatively averse to siltation. In the larger rivers they are quite common, hatching and flying loudly and clumsily through June-July-August. They undergo a molt wherein they crawl out of water and make a cavity under a rock and develop into the adult form there. Quite arresting in all their incarnations.
    They are not a stonefly. Hence, as the aquatic phase they are a larva, NOT a nymph.
    Also, they seem to have an affinity for calcareous waters. My tiny creek up here at 1650 feet above sea level, is a little limestoner. Last year after the floods I found the first helgrammite I'd ever seen up here. So I conclude that they will colonize relatively small waters.
    All Virginia references FWIW.
    PD
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  3. Taxon Moderator

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    Salmon Candy-

    Hellgrammite is the common name for the larva of a Dobsonfly. They are mostly found on the North and South American continents, where they are quite widely distributed. In western North America, they are distributed from Canada to California along the Pacific Coast, and not uncommon in the Rocky Mountains or the Great Basin area.

    For further information, see Dobsonfly Life Stage Characteristics on my website.
  4. FT Active Member

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    I don't know about the Rockies outside of Montana and northern Wyoming; but I never saw a hellgramite in either Montana or northern Wyoming during the 12 years I lived in Montana. This is very different from Pennsylvania where I grew up and lived until leaving at age 25 back in 1979. Pennsylvania has huge hellgramite populations in most of its rivers and larger streams (some smaller ones too). The adults are big, ugly brown critters that somewhat reminded me of small hummingbirds (they are about 3" long) when they were egg-laying.

    My father, friends, and I had many great days fishing for smallmouth and trout using hellgramite imitations in Pennsylvania and in the rivers of New York's Catskills. By-the-way, the best hellgramite imitation we used was Harry Murray's Hellgramite, which is also one of the easier ones to tie.
  5. Tony Mull Member

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    definitely got them in north georgia, tennessee, and north carolina mountain regions. they were a prized bait amoung us kids. never had more than one at a time. wish i'd know what a fly was back then. they last longer.
  6. Mike Etgen Not Quite A Luddite, But Can See One From Here

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    I'm a former Virginian, and they were common on the New River in the western part of the state and in some of the smaller tributaries, and renowned as smallmouth bait. The rock bass (known regionally as redeye bass or just redeye) also ate 'em up.

    Back when I fished that way, I'd work with a partner in a shallow, swift area in almost any of our local rivers, with one of us walking downstream towards the other, kicking up rocks while the other seined up whatever came loose. It was not unheard of to seine up three dozen or more hellgrammites in a matter of minutes. They were great bait - not only did the smallies love 'em, but they were tough as leather and lasted through several fish. Some were two inches or longer, and they had a nasty pair of pincers.

    Occasionally I'd see one of the adults (the dobson fly), typically at night, usually on an outside wall near an outside light such as a porch light.

    If I'd started flyfishing while I was still there, I'd have definitely sought out any fly that would have imitated a hellgrammite. I've never seen one or heard of any here in Washington, but I'm guessing that they'd work here, too - smallmouth have been around for several hundred thousand years and I'd bet they're hard-wired for hellgrammites even if they've never seen one.
  7. Tim Lockhart Working late at The Office

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    I make a habit of throwing things that may be on the unusual side. Hellgramites became one of my early favorites in WA as the fish don't seem to care as mush as we do whether these are native or not. Curiosity and the prospect of food seem to compliment each other quite well. Hellgramites have worked for me at Lenore, RF, high lakes and in rivers around the state. I've also found any species of trout will hit them. If nothing else, they seem similar in appearance to a lot of other nymphs that work. Hardest part is finding them...I tend to get these online.