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The Killer Mantis
The idea was simple, the execution of the idea is what stumped even epoxy master Bob Kenly.
The idea was simple, the execution of the idea is what stumped me. I had decided to enter the annual tying contest held by the Fly Tying Forum in the Most Creative category. For a subject I chose to make a Mantis Shrimp fly, realistic as possible, constructed with my favorite medium, epoxy. Since I couldn't find anyone who made such a fly I had to make up the construction process as I went along, mistakes were a big part of the process, each teaching me a new process dealing with epoxy.
After long thought
my thinking was the body would have to be made over some sort of form, rejecting most of my idiotic ideas I settled on a paper form covered with epoxy on both sides. I formed a cone with computer printing paper, taped it together and covered the entire outer surface with epoxy. After it dried I cut the tube longitudinally and formed the body with my fingers, a second coat of epoxy on the inside would finish the form.
The next task
would be the segmented shell and that's when all the trouble started, finding a suitable material. Paper was my first choice but painting on the paper produced bleeding of the colors into each other (acrylics are water based). My next not so smart idea was to treat the paper with something like head cement, results; even worse. After much of this useless thrashing about my thoughts turned to plastic of some sort. Here again, more wasted experiments, more swearing, more quitting and starting over. What I need was a flexible plastic material able to take paint, easily cut with scissors, that turned out to be overhead projector film. I could sand it, paint it and it would always remain flexible. Except for the head all of the shrimp was constructed from this material.
Whenever I show
Martin Joergensen my latest project he buries his face in his hands and mumbles "Du altforbarmende! Hvad er det nu den gale mand har gang i?" (Good grief what is that madman up to now). However this time he called the project charming (his word not mine) and asked me to show the finished item on the GFF this entry. The Mantis shrimp isn't really a shrimp but related to the lobster, its most notable feature being the two front legs, which he uses to blast open crustaceans with a 500 mile per hour blast with a hammer like motion. If he attacks a small fish he then uses the leg as a spear, both methods with deadly results. Unfortunately the Mantis has a bad reputation of severely lacerating unsuspecting fisherman's hands for not heeding the warnings about cutting your line and returning the beast to the ocean. Despite its shortcomings the Mantis is excellent eating, the meat being sweeter than lobster. It's very popular in Asia and finding a place in many places in the West under various names. Small Mantis are favorite food sources with many warm water fish thus several flies for Bonefish or Permit can be found in many salt water angler's arsenal.
The tying contest
cutoff date was December 31st and with all my experimenting and thinking I ran out of time so I packed it up and sent it off somewhat unfinished. The judging was done by all the members of the forum and after seeing the final results was pleasantly surprised to find out I was bested by some of most amazing tyings I have ever seen. The one that caught my eye was a rendering of a Bald eagle with spread wings swooping down on a Jack rabbit, both being tied on hooks. How the tier (who goes by the handle of rockworm) ever came up with the concept or execution totally escapes me. Here is a link to a picture of that amazing entry.
The whole affair
just reinforced my belief that no matter how arrogantly I consider myself an expert tier, someplace hiding out in the world there are people who will put me in my place, something to be thankful for. What a dull place this would be without such people.
Sources for mantis shrimp article
Mantis Shrimp, About.com
The Lurker's Guide to Stomatopods
Shrimp spring into shattering action, USA Today
Bob Veverka's Mantis Shrimp, Salwaterflies.com
Enrico Puglisi Mantis Shrimp Fly, Uptown Angler
Smithsonian magazine, December 2010