Catching smallmouth bass and goggle eye (rock bass) on an Ozarks stream or any stream where helgramites can be found is almost a sure thing when helgramites are used for bait. My grandfather showed me a sure fire way to catch this hard to find and reclusive bait, and how to use it when I did.
Helgramites are the larvae of the Dobson Fly and most commonly can be found in flowing streams under flat rocks…..but how do you catch them?
- Take a 36 “ x 36” piece of regular window screen wire
- Cut two 2 x 2 by 4 ft or use two 1 ½ “ dowel rod 4 ft long
- Staple or firmly tack each end of the screen wire to the 2×2’s or dowels (my favorite)
- Roll the dowels inward one turn and staple or tack again for firmness
- Head to the stream with a friend or partner
- Take a coffee can or zip lock bag with you
- Find a spot in the stream where the water is shallow and flowing rapidly.
- Helgramites stay in swifter water under flat rocks, usually ones with moss on the top and sides
- Have your partner stand just below the flat rocks, spreading the screen wire open in front of their legs and holding the bottom edge against the bottom of the stream.
- The current will be pushing against the screen.
- Reach down in the water (not more than two feet deep in the current and gently lift the flat rock up and sweep the bottom side of the rock with your hand. This will knock the helgramites loose
- The current will sweep them against the screen wire and you simply pick them off, being careful not to get pinched by grabbing them behind the head as they have pinchers on both ends
- Put them in your can or zip lock
- Use a small size hook and hook the helgramite under the plate behind the head. They are leathery and stay on the hook very well.
- Use a small barrel sinker and a Carolina rig and drift the helgramite or cast it like you would any other lure, just retrieve very slowly and HANG ON!
- These larvae work great on a fly as they are tough enough to stay on your hook when fly casting!
Helgramites are like a delicacy to smallmouth bass and rock bass (goggle eye) and a fun and productive way to catch your query. Teach a young person this method and they will have a skill few others ever know about. Practice catch and release on smallmouth and always be aware of fish length limits on your next stream.