My father was a working class man. He owned his own business and he worked as a foreman from 5pm to 2am in our local steel mill. He was working all the time and he only made time to go fishing for a week or two during the summer. He would take my brother and me to Canada once or twice every summer.
These fishing trips would remind him of his care-free childhood where he would fish in the brook in front of his house. One bait he remembered using as a child was hellgrammites. Hellgrammites are the larval stage of the Dobsonflies.
One year he packed two four-foot two by fours that had three feet of metal window screens between them. We stopped at a river and put on our waders where I stood down stream with the screen and he went upstream and kicked up some of the stones in the river. The current swept crayfish and hellgrammites down into my screen where I collected them and put them into a bait bucket.
I didn’t have a real good look at the hellgrammites until we were fishing later in the boat. My father reached in the bucket and grabbed one and assured me that the fish would be driven crazy by this bait. I reached in the bucket as well and my hellgrammite got me. These larva have nasty mandibles that will clamp on you like a lobster. When science fiction films want to create a really scary space monster I’m sure they use hellgrammites as their inspiration.
One can place a hellgrammite on their hook and it will still be living three days later, which denotes the problem, they didn’t attract any fish in the lake. Maybe only river fish knew about them, but I believe that fish feared them. It was totally unattractive, like that aunt with the hairy mole that insists on a kiss every time you see her.
My father kept the faith and fished with hellgrammites that entire week and caught nothing. I, with a short attention span switched to another bait after an hour and I caught a lot of fish during the rest of the week.
I last saw the hellgrammite screen in the basement of my parent’s home, twenty plus years ago. It was never used again. Anyone cleaning out their basement will have no idea what the device was, or what it was used for, or why it will never be used again.