Grannoms kick off major fly hatches

If I’ve learned anything during a lifetime in the outdoors, it’s that nature has its own calendar, and that calendar is often radically out of sync with the one we humans use.

This spring, or mostly the lack of it, has been a prime example of that premise. I saw some skunk cabbage last week that was barely peeking out of some swampy ground. This unique native wildflower sometimes sprouts as early as late February. And I’ve yet to see the yellow blooms of coltsfoot, another early wildflower that often appears by the third week of March.

Like almost everything else this spring, some of the early fly hatches will undoubtedly be arriving somewhat behind schedule. One of the best of those is a species of caddisfly called the grannom, which usually offers some exciting and productive fly-fishing opportunities.

In a normal year, the grannoms typically begin emerging in this area about now, often right in sync with the opening of the regular trout season. Grannoms emerge on many streams throughout this area, but two of the best-known waters for heavy hatches of these insects are the Little Juniata River and Penns Creek. Yellow Creek and the lower stretches of Spring Creek also have good grannom hatches. Once they start emerging, the peak of the grannom activity generally lasts a week or less.

There are several strategies for fishing the grannom hatch. The first is in the morning when the bugs are actually hatching. The peak of the hatching activity usually lasts about an hour or less and occurs from 7 to 9 in the morning, depending somewhat on the prevailing weather conditions. Like most species of caddis, the grannom pupae leave their homes on the stream bottom and rapidly ascend to the water’s surface where they transform into the winged, adult caddisfly. Often, individual insects will flutter about on the surface before finally becoming airborne. All this activity can stir lots of trout to the surface take advantage of all the food being served up to them. An elk-hair caddis with a brownish-gray wing and black body is a good dry-fly imitation for the grannom hatch.

Once they escape the water, the adult grannoms will retreat to streamside bushes and other vegetation to rest and hide. Wind gusts frequently dislodge some of these insects from their perches and onto the water again. Occasionally, a handful of stragglers whose biological clocks are off a few ticks will also hatch here and there throughout the day. These circumstances can sometimes be enough to keep the trout looking up well into the afternoon some days, so prospecting likely trout lies with a grannom dry fly can often be productive during midday when the flies are in abundance.

In late afternoon or early evening, the grannoms leave the bushes for their mating flight, which completes their life cycle. Generally, this activity will occur earlier on overcast days and later on bright days. Swarms of the male and female caddis converge over the stream where they will mate, followed by the females dipping to the water’s surface to lay their eggs. Once their egg-laying is completed, the females die and fall onto the water in great numbers.

Rises during the morning hatch can be splashy or exuberant, because the fish are often forced to dash after the escaping insects. In the evening, the feeding rhythms are much more relaxed with the trout positioning themselves in the various current tongues to leisurely pluck the spent caddis as they drift by. For that reason, it is wise to mark the feeding lie of an individual fish or two and make accurate casts to those locations rather than a shotgun delivery all about the pool.

While most anglers target the early-season dry-fly action that the grannoms can offer, it pays to be aware of other tactics for those times when the trout aren’t readily coming to the surface to feed. Wet flies such as the classic Leadwing Coachman or Gray Hackle Peacock patterns can be deadly during grannom time by letting the fly swing downstream in the current to imitate a caddis pupa swimming to the surface to hatch.

­Fly Tiers Reunion

The eighth annual Fly Tiers Reunion will be hosted by Seven Springs Mountain Resort at the resort’s Sporting Clays Lodge located at 777 Waterwheel Drive, Champion, on Friday, April 27 beginning at 6 p.m. The event will showcase some of the country’s finest and internationally known fly tiers who will be demonstrating their fly-tying skills and showcasing their most effective fly patterns.

Headlining the event this year will be Joe Humphreys, Bob and Bobby Clouser, Tom Baltz, Greg Hoover, Ted and Bob Patlin, Scott Loughner, Joe and Jody Messinger, Tim Camissa, Bob Mead, Josh Miller, Randy Buchanan, Greg Heffner, Gordon Chesney, Jack Fields, Chuck Furimsky and Andy, Jocelyn and Stone Fresch.

Len Lichvar, co-author of the book “Keystone Fly Fishing,” and Jay Nichols, author and publisher of Headwater Books, will also be on hand to discuss angling destinations locally and around the state.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information contact Sporting Clays / Fishing Manager Justin Sparklin at 800-452-2223 Ext. 7899 or email