The original zonker pattern was tied by the American fly tyer Dan Byford in the 1970s and was quickly recognised the world over, as a big fish fly and extremely easy to tie, yet realistic imitation for most smaller bait fish. The original pattern used a lead or tin sheet that was folded and glued over the hook shank and then cut to shape to make the underbody. This melt glue body technique gives the zonker a new life. If viewed by a fish in reflected light the shine and flashing of the maylar mixed with the animation of the pulsating fur strip, makes it a first class bait fish attractor pattern. But when viewed by a fish in a back-lit situation ( in silhouette ) this pattern really comes to life, with the light penetrating through the transparent melt glue / maylar body and fur guard hairs.
Hook: Mustad S74S SS Salt water R74 freshwater # 6
Under body: Melt glue
Over Body: Mylar tubeing
Wing/tail: Fur zonker strip
Eyes: Prizma tape eyes.
The flexibility of the Zonker as a bait fish imitation pattern is only limited to your own imagination. There are a huge amount of rabbit fur strip materials on the market in just about every colour imaginable, not to mention fox, squirrel, mink etc. Along with the vast array of tubing materials available the combination possibilities are endless.
I was first shown this melt glue body technique in 1993 by the innovative Danish fly tyer Dennis Jensen who developed it for salt water sea trout fishing in Denmark. He used a home made mould constructed from plastic padding. He would insert the hook in the mould and then inject melt glue into it and wait a few seconds for it to dry before removing it. The result was a perfect and identical minnow body every time. Dennis also made very clever subtle body colour changes to his flies by wrapping the hook shank first with tying thread in fluorescent orange, green or blue. Orange when he was imitating sticklebacks, green for other small fish and eels and blue when fishing in deep water.
This technique shown here requires no mould. It does take a little practice to master and a few minutes longer, but still produces the same effect.
Another advantage with the zonker, unlike bucktail and feather wing streamers, is that it is an extremely robust pattern. If tied correctly the fly will normally outlive the hook, although the eyes and Mylar tubing are somewhat vulnerable to the small sharp teeth of trout. This can be improved by coating the eyes and Mylar body with varnish or head cement.
When fishing this pattern or any long tailed streamers in general for that matter. Many fly fishermen are of the thought, that when fishing a long tailed streamer the fish tend to “Nap” at the tail and won´t take the fly properly! This can be the case for smaller trout but generally speaking a large trout will take this pattern hard and fast. If you do experience napping at the tail when fishing, stop the retrieve dead and let the fly sink a little for two or three seconds, nine times out of ten the attacking fish will pick it up on the drop.
Unquestionably the most famous of all streamers, and the model for many others.
Hook: Mustad R73NP-BR # 10-4
Thread: Dyneema (waxed)
Tail: Mottled turkey
Body: Flat gold tinsel
Rib: Copper wire
Underwing: Grey squirrel tail
Wing: Mottled turkey
Collar/Head: Spun and clipped natural deer hair
A few notes regarding the original Muddler pattern:
The hook used by its originator Don Gapen was a Mustad 38941 3X Long streamer, this was one of the long flies. When tying slip wings its important to use waxed thread. The Dyneema I use in most my patterns is too smooth for for wet fly style wings and has to be waxed in order not to slip.
The original recipe is as above but excluding the copper wire rib. The rib is a later addition. The original was tied with metal tinsel that required no protection from the small sharp teeth of trout but later as plastic tinsel became the norm the wire rib was added to protect the tinsel and add additional strength. When spinning large bunches of deer hair I recommend, if you are using regular tying thread a minimum denier of 3/0 waxed is necessary to have sufficient strength to apply enough tension to achieve optimal flare in the deer hair. When tying spun and clipped deer hair patterns your choice of hair is paramount. See my earlier posts regarding tying with deer hair and spinning deer hair.
If I was unfortunate enough to be be given the choice of having only one fly to fish for all species both in fresh and salt water, I would have no problem! The Muddler minnow would without doubt be my number one choice. The pattern I tie here is as close to the original as I can get.