Alright, that’s bad…..I’ll admit. The truth is, I am a big fan of this fly. Like many fly fishers, i’ve found this fly to be very productive in a wide range of fishing situations. While the Zonker i’ve tied below is pretty true to the original, I consider it a "style" more than I do a specific streamer. The color of the mylar piping can be substituted for silver or gold (even shaded using permanent markers) the color of the rabbit strip can be changed, hackle etc. Today, there are more color options available in Zonker Strips than ever before. There are barred Zonker strips, those made from strips of squirrel hide, dyed bright colors like chartreuse, hot pink, blue and many others.
Many tiers omit the hackle, or use red to suggest the swollen gills of an injured bait fish. Some use marabou as a beard, instead of a hackle. A strip leech is a Zonker tied with a marabou tail (like a wooly bugger), gold or silver sparkle chenille wound as a body, and copper or brass wire to bind down a zonker strip on top. As you can see, there are many flies that owe their fundamental design to the Zonker…and for good reason. The rabbit strip pulses, breathes as it is stripped. It undulates, and seems to never stop moving. Once you see rabbit fur under water, any doubt you may have in it quickly disappears.
In the original pattern, adhesive lead tape is used over the top of the hook shank and taped to itself on the underside. It is then trimmed to the body shape of a minnow before the mylar piping. I tie some this way, but have found that once a good-sized fish (trout or bass) gets a grip on that tape underbody, it deforms it. The problem is that the mylar piping fibers often get pulled apart to some degree. In the pattern below, lead wire is used (strong, tight) with a smooth, dubbed body over it. This "holds" the shape of the mylar and gives a bit when the fish takes. I believe that the fish holds on just a bit longer when it bites a soft body.
Tying The Zonker Minnow Fly Pattern
Hook:Tiemco #300 size 4 (any long shank streamer hook, sizes #2-#8)
Weight:Large lead wire
Underbody:White antron dubbing
Body:Pearl mylar piping
Wing/back:Olive Zonker strip
Hackle:Dyed olive grizzly marabou
Wrap lead wire as shown, build a thread "stop" on both ends
Begin dubbing underdody, smooth and slightly tapered at both ends. Wind thread back to the bend.
Cut an oversized length of mylar piping and remove string core
Slip the piping over the dubbed body until it hits the thread from your bobbin. Some of the loose fibers will extend beyond, thats fine. Tie of as shown, approx. 5 wraps of thread.
Hold your pc. of Zonker strip in position on top of the mylar piping, making sure some of it extends beyond the eye. Separate the fur over the rear tie-in point and make 4-5 wraps over the bare hide you’ve exposed.
Tie off the thread with 3 half-hitches made large, and looped over the front end of the fly as shown. NOTE:Steps 5&6 may require that you switch hands.
With the olive thread, tie in over the piping, just behind the eye of the hook. When it is secure, trim off the excess mylar, being careful not to cut the thread.
Pull the zonker strip forward, and cut it to length just behind the eye of the hook. Strip a small tuft of fur from the end, and trim to a taper as shown. The fur is removed to give the thread direct contact with the rabbit skin. Gently pull the rabbit strip forward with your right hand, and loop the thread over the top of the fly with your left hand. (Right-handed directions) Make several tight wraps. It is critical that the strip be under some tension when you tie it in.
Select an olive grizzly marabou feather and tie it in by the tip.
Make 3-4 wraps of hackle and tie-off.
Stroke the fibers back, and make several wraps of thread over them. This makes a "bullet-proof" tie-in for the hackle, and helps to accentuate the shape of the minnow. (bigger at the head)
When tying Zonkers, I mix some epoxy and use it to coat the head, rear tie-in point of the Zonker strip and the area betweem the strip and back. Since it is 5 minute epoxy, this means 2, maybe 3 flies at a time before the epoxy is impossible to work with.
This color scheme, and silver/white are my personal favorites. Feel free to experiment! Cheers, Rob O’Reilly