Montana Riverboats -- Drift Boat Building -- Drift Boat Blueprints Plans
Fly Tyer Magazine (1987)
Bank Robber
Bent-shank stonefly nymphs (that are attached to the leader with a clinch knot around the body of the fly, right at the bend in the shank) are more "weedless" than unbent, straight-shank nymphs because the bent-shank nymphs ride upside down with their hooks up, while the straight-shank nymphs ride right side up, with their hooks down. old bankrobber.jpg bankrobber.jpg Note: this article was was originally written with the idea of a stonefly nymph as a bankrobber. Since then the Bankrobber has evolved into a streamer. The dressing changes, but the overall fly geometry remains much the same

Trout don't seem to care if stoneflies are right side up or not, but I do. When I go to the trouble of tying an orange belly on a stonefly nymph, I don't like to see it drifting by with the orange side up.

I wanted to design a bent-shank stonefly nymph that would ride with the hook up to reduce snags, but I wanted the nymph itself to drift in the upright position.

I started by typing a nymph upside down in the vise, with the hook pointing up, and then bent the thorax down, away from the upturned hook. After I had finished the fly, I could see that the best place to attach the leader was not at the eye of the hook, but around the body of the fly, right at the bend in the shank.

I call these flies Bank Robbers because they are much less likely to snag rocks or branches than traditional flies. You can cast them right into bushes, logjams, and undercut banks, and usually get them back again. When you cast them over a branch, the front of the fly catches the branch and tips the hook up when you pull back on the line, allowing the fly to jump over the branch without snagging the hook. When heavily weighted you can drag Bank Robbers along the bottom almost indefinitely without snagging the upturned hook.

Conventional stonefly nymphs, crawdads, leeches, and Wooly Buggers can all be converted quickly and easily to Bank Robbers. To make a Bank Robber from a stonefly nymph, grip the thorax section of the nymph between your thumb and index finger, and twist the thorax clockwise around the shank of hook until the thorax is upside down, with the wing cases on the same side of the shank as the point of the hook.

Hold the fly so the hook points up, and bend the front third of the fly downwards forty degrees, away from the upturned hook. Attach the leader with an improved clinch knot around the body of the fly, tied on right at the bend in the shank. Make a clinch knot with a loop big enough to slip over the front end of the fly. Tighten the knot by pulling up on the leader while pushing down on the knot with your thumbnail.

One of the first questions people ask when they see a Bank Robber is if it hooks a fish as well as a normal fly. The answer is yes, they do hook well, perhaps even better. Most fish that are caught with Bank Robbers will be hooked in the upper jaw. With a little twisting and bending, nearly every long-shanked wet fly in your box can be made into a Bank Robber.

Bank Robbers are not invincible; they will eventually get pinched between two boulders, or wrapped hopelessly around a branch, but they will stay on your line a great deal longer than a conventional fly.

I'm a drift boat builder, and I spend a lot of my free time drifting the rivers here in Montana, splashing big wet flies into the eddies behind the overhanging cottonwood roots, dead-falls, and willow branches that line the lower reaches of our bigger rivers. The further into these pockets you get, the more flies you lose, and the more fish you catch.

Before I learned to make Bank Robbers, I lost a large number of flies. Sometimes, when I got hot streak going I could splash big Wooly Buggers within a half inch of the branches every time, often fishing for hours without losing a fly. When I was really hot, I'd get brave and start throwing loops and squiggles into my line, snaking the fly over and through the branches, right back into Mr. Brown Trout's living room. Just as quickly, I'd lose it, and snag a dozen flies in less than an hour. Many is the time I've drifted the last few hours of a long float without any flies to cast to fish.

Friends and relatives have been a problem for me too, because I'm always giving my flies away. "Here, try this one," I'd say, but when it was my time to fish and all of the best flies were gone, I could get pretty crabby.

The Bank Robber has been a lifesaver because you can cast it into the bushes all day long and it keeps coming back at you. You can even afford to get a little careless with your casting. If you combine a Bank Robber with a monofilament-loop weedguard, you can really stir up a lot of trouble.

On a trip down the Upper Jefferson last spring, my friend Mark, who is a commercial tyer, said "those flies had better not catch on around here because they'll put me out of business". This irked me a little at first, until I realized that Mark, who was overly more conservative with his casting, wasn't getting as many strikes as I was.