Published Jan 4. 2012 - 12 years ago
Updated or edited Oct 28. 2021

The Killer Mantis

Who else than epoxy wizard (and madman) Bob Kenly would take on tying... eh, building... eh, constructing a Mantis Shrimp as a fly? Follow the project this article where you can read Bob's story about the fly and see pictures of the process and the finished fly.

The finished product. - In all its splendor. The fly is 7 inches long<br />
(minus antenna)
Some fly!
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.

Mantis Shrimp - Odontodactylus Scyllarus<br />
Front - A mantis shrimp from the front. Impressing and colorful
The real deal
Jenny - Silke Baron

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.

Paper form

Shell segments

Head and hook

Head paint

Tail uropods

Front uropods

Close-up - The head before eyes and antenna are attached.
Bob Kenly
The Mantis - A drawing from the late 1800th
R. A. Lydekker

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,
The Lurker's Guide to Stomatopods
Shrimp spring into shattering action, USA Today
Bob Veverka's Mantis Shrimp,
Enrico Puglisi Mantis Shrimp Fly, Uptown Angler
Smithsonian magazine, December 2010

Final stage - THis image gives you and impression of the size and complexity of the fly.
Fishing stage
Bob Kenly


Hi Bob, Another grea...

Hi Bob, Another great job, loved the write up to.
I have had my gray matter, jumped in to gear again.


Dai Jones

Tom Biesot's picture

Great article , fun ...

Great article , fun to read, I liked it a lot.
Great tying skills also. (And the eagle and the rabbit are fun too).

Best regards ,


Tom Biesot

Just when I thought ...

Just when I thought Bob was done with epoxy, he takes it even further. Loved the article, a crazy fly from a mad tyer. I can only imagine how many times the prototypes were literally tossed out the window in frustration!

Thanks for sharing :-)


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