My Top 5 Bonefish Flies: #1 Bob Veverka's Mantis Shrimp

The real critter that inspired the fly... a Mantis Shrimp
Drum roll please... !!

After much consideration, my top choice... my go-to bonefish fly is Bob Veverka’s Mantis Shrimp (available commercially from Umpqua Flies).

I've known Bob for many years having been asked by him to write a chapter on bonefish flies for his great book Innovative Saltwater Flies published in 1999 by Stackpole Press. I was honored to be included alongside such excellent fly tiers as Tim Borski, Dick Brown, Jack Gartside and Trey Combs. Knowing the company he kept, I knew Bob understood fly design and what it takes to make a fly work well, so I confidently tried his mantis shrimp pattern in a number of different bonefish destinations. It worked like a charm and it's been one of my default options ever since!

This fly is great on most terrain, but especially mixed bottoms such as turtle grass and white sand, dark or light or deep runnels running thru shallow undulating mounds. The mantis shrimp covers all my prerequisites: it is tan (as they say in the Bahamas, "Any color will work, as long as it is tan!") and it blends in like the real critter (see photo above), yet can be seen. In addition, the fly has rubber legs, big eyes and spikey dubbing. Bob's fly has all the qualities I like in a bonefish fly. It is also easily modifiable via different color/diameter rubber legs, dubbings (try coyote or fox) and weight or color of the eyes. I fish mostly #4′s, but do use size #2 and #6 at times.

Veverka's Mantis Shrimp

Here is the creation of the mantis shrimp in Bob Veverka's own words:

Bob Veverka

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

Bob also has some new variations on his classic mantis shrimp pattern that will soon be available from Umpqua Flies. They are:

Veverka's Spawning Mantis Shrimp

Veverka's Ghost Mantis Shrimp

Veverka's Ghost Mantis Shrimp
S.S. Flies also has a version that works great too.
If you are interested in buying this fly, give me a call (800-211-8530) or e-mail me at 
I'll give you a code for a discount and make appropriate color and size suggestions depending on the island you are fishing. 

S. S. Flies Mantis Shrimp