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Vintage Tackle Contest: Shrimp Fly? Hellgrammite? We're Not Sure

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February 21, 2013

Vintage Tackle Contest: Shrimp Fly? Hellgrammite? We're Not Sure

By Joe Cermele

This weathered old fly was entered into the vintage tackle contest by Billy Webb, who wrote that he found it buried in one of his dad's old tackle boxes. At first glance, I thought it looked like a shrimp imitation. Dr. Todd Larson of The Whitefish Press and "Fishing For History" blog had another idea about what this wacky bug was supposed match, and considering that Billy lives in prime Pennsylvania smallmouth country, I'm guessing the Doc got it right.

Dr. Todd says:

"There are no more inventive people on earth than fly tiers, and tying dates back nearly 500 years. It seems that if it crawls, flies, leaps, or swims, fishermen have tried to emulate it, and have come up with some amazing attempts at recreating nature. Your particular fly seems to be trying to emulate a hellgrammite, and although I've seen a million flies in my day, I don't recall seeing this style before. It's very clever, and your father (or a friend of his) must have been an ingenious tier to make it. I have little doubt it would have caught fish. I'm guessing it was made in the 1960s, and I believe, because of its unique nature, should be valued at $10-$20. Now break out your vice and go tie one yourself!"

Excellent find, Billy. I'm not sure if you tie flies, but if you recreate this with modern materials, who knows...you may have stumbled onto something bass haven't seen in decades, and thus find irresistable. Thanks for sending, and keep an eye on your mailbox, because there's a set of Berkley Aluminum Pliers headed your way. 

If you've already sent me photos of your vintage tackle, keep checking every Thursday to see if I chose it for an appraisal by Dr. Todd. If you haven't and want to enter the contest, email photos of your old tackle to fstackle@gmail.com, along with your name, mailing address, and story of how you acquired the gear. If I use it in a Thursday post, you get a pair of Berkley Aluminum Pliers (above) worth $50.

Comments (3)

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from buckhunter wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Back in the day, when I had time to kill, I caught a handful of hellgrammites and worked feverishly at the tying desk developing a pattern from the original. I can imagine the guy who tied this fly did the same. You can tell from the lack of synthetic material that it is old.

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from clinchknot wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Not necessarily can you tell if it is old. Some tiers don't use synthetics, only fur and feathers. Who knows what it reprented in the mind of the tier? For one thing, the hellgrammite is much misunderstood. Many anglers identify the big, dark stoneflies that inhabit the faster run rivers hellgrammites when they are not, they are stoneflies. I tried to see from the photo if the eye was made from gut material, and I can not see it well enough. But the key ingredient is size, and motion, motion being a key. If a bass saw the tail moving, and saw it as a lot of calories justifying going after it the fly can be productive.

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from CL3 wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

The best smallmouth bait in the world, particularly for the Susquehanna River? Helgrammites aka clippers aka dobsonfly larve.

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from CL3 wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

The best smallmouth bait in the world, particularly for the Susquehanna River? Helgrammites aka clippers aka dobsonfly larve.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Not necessarily can you tell if it is old. Some tiers don't use synthetics, only fur and feathers. Who knows what it reprented in the mind of the tier? For one thing, the hellgrammite is much misunderstood. Many anglers identify the big, dark stoneflies that inhabit the faster run rivers hellgrammites when they are not, they are stoneflies. I tried to see from the photo if the eye was made from gut material, and I can not see it well enough. But the key ingredient is size, and motion, motion being a key. If a bass saw the tail moving, and saw it as a lot of calories justifying going after it the fly can be productive.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Back in the day, when I had time to kill, I caught a handful of hellgrammites and worked feverishly at the tying desk developing a pattern from the original. I can imagine the guy who tied this fly did the same. You can tell from the lack of synthetic material that it is old.

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