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Bob Banfelder

Bob is an award-winning crime-thriller novelist and outdoors writer. "The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook for Salt Water & Fresh Water" is endorsed by Lefty Kreh and Angelo Peluso~online at Amazon.

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May 15, 2012

Mantis Mania

by Bob Banfelder

It wasn't long after I entered the realm of saltwater fly-fishing that I upgraded from an 8-weight fly rod so as to tackle sizable striped bass and big blues. It didn't take me long to discover 32- to 42-inch prowlers, on average, patrolling our North Fork area bays. I'm talking 18- to 30-plus pound beauties that had me run out to my tackle shop and upgrade from an 8-weight to a 10-weight rod. Not that a #8 or #9-weight couldn't handle the job. I simply wanted a saltwater fly rod with a bit more backbone. I find a #10-weight to be the perfect rod for big bruisers in our area bays.

I penned an article for Nor'east Saltwater in 2005, titled Striper Secrets on a Fly Rod. The secret is out; Mantis Shrimp are certainly in. Schoolies on a fly rod are positively fun. Twenty-pound and up linesiders are absolutely awesome on the long rod. Make no doubt about it.

One of the many so-called secrets to successful striped bass fishing lies within the stomach of that fish, or any fish for that matter. As with freshwater angling, match the hatch and you'll hook up. Use the fly that you had success with last season or even last month and you may return home swearing that the bite was off—or just plain swearing. Those fish were probably there all the while. Your imitation bunker, sand eel or Deceiver merely let you down . . . not down to the depths where the fish were, but to what Morone saxatilis's (Mr. Striper's) meal preference was that day. Case in point:

On November 7th, 2004, I left the dock in a small inflatable with a net longer than the tender. I landed a nice 35-inch, 17½-pound striper on a live eel. That linesider was for the dinner table I had decided. It would nicely feed a number of guests. After filleting the fish, I made it a point, a sharp one in fact, to perform the necessary 'autopsy' in order to ascertain what was really on the menu that morning; in other words, the Special of the Day down in a 5-foot column. Was I ever in for a surprise! Twenty-two undigested mantis shrimp filled the linesider's stomach. The crustaceans had segmented bodies, were 3- to 4-inches long, ¾- to 1-inch wide, and ½-inch thick. They can actually reach a foot in length. I photographed the dark gray-brown creatures and was subsequently surprised to learn that our bays are full of them and have been for years. Mantis shrimp are not a true shrimp, and I'm told you wouldn't want to eat them. However, stripers love them. These stomatopods receive their name from a set of forelimbs fashioned after the praying mantis. Interestingly, they are referred to as the Karate Kid of the marine world, for with a single strike they can crack the thick glass of an aquarium tank. There are two basic types of mantis shrimp: smashers and slashers. Inexperienced divers learn this lesson the hard way when handling these strange creatures. They are commonly referred to as knuckle busters and finger slashers, respectively.

During a fine spring evening, I experimented with both a bait casting rod drifting a small eel, and my #10-weight fly rod, shooting a mantis imitation toward the shoreline. I was somewhat surprised at the results. No fish took the live eel; yet, I hooked up, landed and released four more striped bass in the 19 to 40-inch category within a 2½- hour period on an outgoing tide, all on the same mantis fly imitation, sharpening the hook between fish for insurance.

Lefty Kreh has more than eighty shrimp patterns in his book titled Salt Water Fly Patterns. That ought to keep an enthusiast busy. Tie and try one on for size, approximately four inches, and you may be in for a surprise.


Artificial flies and lures often amaze some folks that Donna and I take fishing—folks that swear by live bait, solely. Yesterday morning, May 14th, after removing a couple of eels from our trap then snagging a few bunker in both Reeves Bay and Flanders Bay, Donna and I headed east toward Great Peconic Bay. We spied terns working in the distance. Moments later, we were upon a school of good size blues cruising along the surface. They wouldn't take eel that morning. They wouldn't take our fresh, lively menhaden, straight from the livewell. Go figure. Our go-to lure for bass and blues in such a situation is a Kastmaster with eyes that I epoxy to the tin. Donna and I took a good number of five to six-pound battling blues that Monday morning, releasing all but two for the table.

Our North Fork area bays are loaded with some very big porgies this year, too. Reports from friends fishing from Gardiner's Bay to points west are scoring with keeper bass and fluke. May is the month when the fishing scene explodes. Find or make the time to get out there and enjoy the good life.

May 01, 2012

Gimp Fly Gone Green: Transition from Freshwater to Saltwater Fly Recipe

by Bob Banfelder

The Green Grabber

My first fly-tying kit came with a sixty-four page booklet titled Practical Flies and Their Construction, written by Lacey E. Gee and Erwin D. Sias, illustrated by John Goettsch (Revised Edition), copyright 1966. I mention in my fly-tying articles to shy away from purchasing bargain-priced fly-tying kits. The vise that generally comes with such a kit is usually no bargain; this was true of my original purchase made nearly fifty years ago. In retrospect, however, that little booklet alone was worth the price of the kit. One particular fly recipe instructed readers on how to tie The Gimp, a deadly freshwater fly for trout. I had used that fly successfully for many years on Long Island, fishing the Nissequogue River, Connetquot River and Carman's River, nailing brook, rainbow and brown trout. I played around with the Gimp in ponds and lakes for bluegills and perch. Later in life, I plied the waters of upstate New York and Canada. The Gimp is one of my freshwater favorites. It is my go-to fly, rarely having failed me. The fly was Sias' creation. The pattern was initially published in an Outdoor Life magazine article titled They Go for the Gimp. Interestingly, a good many fly-fishing folks never heard of the fly, while others remember it vaguely. The Gimp is a lethal freshwater fly—a fly that comes along once in a great while. I had often wondered how it would fare in the suds.

Years later, I altered the pattern for saltwater applications, which proved pure dynamite on several species; namely, bass, blues, weakfish and even fluke. In lieu of employing the tiny dun-colored gimp feathers for wings, taken from the Lady Amherst pheasant, I selected a pair of metallic green, black-rimmed plumage from below the neck of the bird. Those lustrous feathers lend an iridescent color ranging from insect-like to killifish-like hues representative of anything from hoppers to mummichogs, respectively. Bass and blues especially love the Green Grabber.

Recipe for the Green Grabber


Hook: Owner hook #2/0 (turned-up eye)
Thread: Danville's Flat-Waxed Nylon – black
Body: single two-ply strand of blue-gray or brown-gray (dun-colored) yarn
Tail: several dun-colored hen hackle fibers (matchstick thin)
Wings: two (2) metallic green, black-rimmed plumage from the Lady Amherst pheasant
Collar: one (1) dun-colored hen hackle
Epoxy: two-part 5-minute Z-Poxy
Sally Hanson Hard As Nails-With Nylon (clear nail polish)


1. Atop the bend of the hook, tie in several hen hackle fibers to form the tail.
2. Tie in the strands of yarn and form a cigar-shaped body, leaving one-eighth inch behind the eye of the hook.
3. For the wings, place and tie in the two metallic green feathers, one atop the other, at the head of the tapered body.
4. Tie in a dun-colored hen hackle, winding it thrice around the shank, directly behind the eye of the hook.
5. Trim and whip-finish.
6. Brushing back the collar with the tips of your fingers to hold the fibers out of harm's way, apply pinpoints of epoxy to the thread wraps (a little goes a long way). Allow the thread to absorb the chemical.
7. For a glossy head finish after the epoxy has thoroughly dried (wait until the next day), carefully coat the head with clear nail polish.

If your budget allows, I suggest purchasing a full skin of the Lady Amherst pheasant so that you will have on hand a versatile assortment of feathers to cover both freshwater and saltwater applications. Also, you will have a wide range of sizes from which to choose in order to properly accommodate hook/hackle proportion. You will save money in the long run. In a dusty corner of an upstate tackle shop, I found a Rumpf & Son, Lady Amherst pheasant skin (no tail), #1 quality, for $10. I usually pay $9 for just a neck. Seek and you shall find bargains.

Presently, Flanders Bay, Reeves Bay and Great Peconic Bay are producing schoolie bass along with an occasional keeper. Tie my version of the saltwater Gimp fly and have some fun. Those around you will be green with envy. I've been most productive in the early morning and late evening hours. Stripped through the suds, the Green Grabber will become toothpick thin. Allow the fly to relax and open, strip it a foot, let it settle, strip it, relax it—and stand by.

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