One of our go-to flies on South Andros Island has always been Bob Veverka’s Mantis Shrimp. We were pretty excited a couple of weeks ago when we got a response to one of our email newsletters from…Bob Veverka.
We immediately began twisting Bob’s arm for some information about the design and construction of his fly, and here’s the result. Thanks Bob!
Several years ago while sitting at my tying desk contemplating an upcoming trip to the Bahamas, I looked over my fly box filled with all the standard Bonefish patterns. I felt something was missing, something different, a fly of my own design. I thought about all the stories I heard about these elusive, fly-pattern-wary bonefish. They eat shrimp so my idea was to tie a shrimp pattern that would entice the smartest ghost on the flat.
While tying the first Mantis Shrimp I thought back to a TV program I saw that included a clip on the behavior of Mantis shrimp. Most noticeable to me was the movement of their many appendages and their eyes. I feel that movement incorporated in your flies displays life, and to a hungry bonefish, dinner.
When designing flies for predator fish I feel it’s best to match the prey they are feeding on. Most important are the size, shape and color. Size can easily be changed or matched by the size of the hook you tie on. Shape or silhouette must be built into a pattern so it resembles the prey you wish to represent. It should be a fly that’s easy to tie with basic materials, lands lightly, sinks fast and most important, catches fish. The bulky body on my Mantis pattern makes it land softly, and the bead chain eyes bring it to the critical zone.
To simulate a few key elements, small accents are added to our flies that make them look more realistic and lifelike. These features include translucent materials that reflect light, flash materials for attraction, legs that move and emulate life and the addition of eyes that are a predominant feature on all shrimp.
For the color of my mantis shrimp, I felt you can’t go wrong with a light tan or sandy color to match the environment. While tying up some false albacore flies with Craft-fur for the wings I noticed that the material contained shorter fibers that were pulled out and discarded. At the time I thought this would make a beautiful translucent dubbing material. With this thought it was only natural that I used tan Craft-fur for the tail and dubbed body on my Mantis shrimp pattern.
One notable feature on all shrimp are their eyes. Eyes on real shrimp move and make them look like a creature from another planet. I have not figured out how to incorporate this component into a fly pattern so I used the standard burnt mono eyes.
For the carapace I tied in a tuft of tan rabbit fur. This material looks bulky in the water and displays the most enticing movement. Even at rest this material quivers with life. A slight current or a strip on the line will make this material pulse like no other.
Perhaps the most important feature on my Mantis Shrimp pattern are the legs and the way they are tied on. Most bonefish flies that include legs have them tied in all together in one area on the fly. To me this looks like a clump of legs or a dead shrimp. I wanted my pattern to simulate life so each leg had to be separate and act like a natural shrimp with lots of movement. It takes a little extra time to tie a fly in this manner but I feel this is what makes this fly so distinctive and deadly on wary bonefish. Over the years it has become one of the go to patterns used in the Bahamas and a standard in every fly box that travels to this area.
Recipe for Bob Veverka’s Mantis Shrimp
- Hook – Size 2 -6
- Weight – Bead chain or small dumb-bell eyes
- Tail – Tan Craft-fur, same length as body. 2 strands of flash material can be added.
- One set of rubber legs are added at this point, burnt mono eyes and a tuff of tan rabbit fur
- Body – One turn of tan Craft-fur dubbing then another set of rubber legs, followed by another turn of tan dubbing and another set of rubber legs, 3 sets in all.
- Then dub the rest of the body and tie off. If you don’t have craft-fur for the body material there are many new dubbing materials that can be substituted.