Well, this past weekend I finally got out on the Smallmouth river after 3 straight weeks of storms, blown out rivers, or just plain poor timing. I had a great day on Sunday spending over eight hours on two of my favorite, local Smallmouth rivers. I had some good luck with the pattern I am going to share with you today. I also shot some great GoPro video which I will edit and post shortly. I love fishing Hellgrammite patterns for Smalljaws. Even on rivers that don't boast a good amount of these prehistoric looking bugs, they always seem to produce! I don't know if it is the profile and shape of the pattern, the dark color or the action (probably a combination of the three) the Smallies can't seem to resist them. My guess is it is in their DNA. Much the same way Trout eat eggs, or I eat Bacon, I believe a Smallmouth's brain is programmed to eat Hellgrammites so, they eat em. I have used the Clouser Hellgrammite for years with good success, and believe it to be an exceptional pattern. Lately I have been using some products from Eastern Trophies Fly Fishing and let me tell you William's products are awesome! Before we get too far into the fly lets take a look at the Natural.
Hellgrammites are the larval stage of the Dobson Fly. Hatching from an egg sac deposited on a rock ledge or a low hanging branch, the young larva fall into the water where they will spend the first 1 to three years of their aquatic life living among the stream bed. Growing to a length of about three inches, the adult Hellgrammite is an ugly dude with powerful pinchers on his head, a hard shell and spines running down the sides of its body. (the spines are actually gills for breathing underwater)
Hellgrammites live under rocks, logs, river debris in swift river currents hunting and feeding on other micro-invertebrates and small forage fish.
As mentioned I believe Smallmouth are just hard wired to eat these things. The pattern I am going to share with you was modeled after the original Crittrmite pattern tied by Chuck Craft and also drawing inspiration from Jake Villwock's Taramite 2.0 fly This fly is simple to tie, effective, and just plain looks bad ass! BTW, if you think the larva looks crazy do a search for the Eastern Dobson fly...yeah, that is real!
Here you go...
Thread ; Black flat waxed 6/0
Hook ; TMC 5263 size 4
Under body ; 20 wraps of .020 lead wire
Eyes ; Lead dumbbell size medium
Tail ; Eastern Trophy Fly Fishing Crittermite Tail #2 to order click here
Body ; Black Estaz
Legs ; Black Life Flex
Head ; Eastern Trophy Fly Fishing Game Changer Tail to order click here
Put the Crittermite tail on the hook and place the hook in the vise. There is a hole pre punched in the tail. You can use that one or use the hook to punch another one to get the desired length.
Tie the Game Changer tail on the UNDERSIDE of the hook. This pattern will ride hook point up and this will eventually be the top of the fly.
Tie a medium lead dumbbell eye on the top of the hook shank (this will eventually be the bottom) For a cool way to tie in dumbbell eyes that won't move check out this link. Dumbbell eyes
Put 20 wraps of .020 lead wire on the hook. Build a thread dam at the back of the wire and force the wraps up against the back of the dumbbell eyes. Tightly spiral wrap your thread over the lead to bind it to the hook shank. Don't be afraid to use a little Zap-A-gap here.
Tie on a strand of Life Flex in front of the dumbbell eyes for the pinchers.
Tie on a piece of Life Flex on both sides of the body at about the mid point of the hook shank. A real Hellgrammite has 3 legs coming out if each side...I don't think the fish will count them.
Move your thread to the rear of the fly and tie in a piece of black Estaz.
Palmer the Estaz up the hook shank in tight, successive wraps. Cover up all of the under body being careful not to catch the legs underneath. Wrap all the way to the eye of the hook. Tie off and clip the Estaz, position the tail so you can tie it off just behind the hook eye.
After tying off the tail whip finish and clip your thread. Coat the top of the tail section with Zap-A-Gap, fold the "head" section over and glue it into place on the top of the tail section.
Here is the side view of the finished fly. This is a very durable pattern that will withstand many angry Bronze Backs. The fact that it rides hook point up allows you to crawl it along the bottom of the river just like the natural.