The aim of this blog is to connect fly-tyers all over the world, to share, techniques, patterns, information and knowledge.

The Virtual Minnow: A zonker with a twist…

This is a great method of making perfect strong minnow bodies, that make a good baitfish attractor in both reflected and back light situations.

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

Thread: Dyneema

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.

Plug inn your melt glue gun as it takes a few minutes to reach temperature.
Meanwhile secure your hook in the vice, making sure that the hook shaft is in a relatively horizontal position.
When your melt glue gun is warm, run a small amount of clear melt glue along the top of the hook shank as shown. You may find that when you try to remove the melt glue gun you get a long strand of glue that stretches from the hook to the gun. This can be avioded or resolved by wrapping the strand quickly around the hook shank behind the eye of the hook. This pattern as described sinks slowly but well when fished, but if you would require a faster sinking pattern you can attach one or two lead strips along the hook shank before you apply the melt glue body.

When the glue is dry ( use 10 second melt glue) carefully apply a little more to form the under body and belly of the minnow. If your glue is too runny you can shape the body with a wet finger and thumb. This also quickens the drying process.

Continue forming your body to the required shape and size.

If you are not satisfied with your minnow body shape, warm up the glue with a lighter (taking care not too burn it) and re model again with wet finger and thumb. When the glue has dried you can even shape it first with by trimming the glue body with scissors and then take off the sharp cut edges by warming it again with the lighter.

Attach your tying thread right behind the melt glue body at the base of the tail.

Cut a 5-6 cm length of the Mylar tubing and remove the string core. Mylar tubing comes in a variety of materials, sizes, diameters, weaves and colours. Not all Mylar tubing works for this particular pattern, so its advisable to experiment a little before hand. The originator Dennis Jensen used a clear mother of pearl Mylar wich gives a wonderful transparent effect to the body. This can also be achieved to a degree by eliminating the Mylar tube all together and just using the raw melt glue as the finished body (see illustration 17). Now thread the sleeve over the melt glue minnow body.

Tie this in, fraying 1cm if wished, to give a little more flash at the tail base.

Select a strip of zonker fur (I have used red fox for this pattern) and prepare the tail end by cutting it to a even point. Taking care not to cut or damage the fur.

Part the fur with the help of a dubbing needle and moist fingers at the desired position and then tie it in over the foundation wrappings used to secure the Mylar sleeve as shown. I use a simple materials clip to hold the fur strip in place. Finish off with 2 or 3 half hitches and remove the tying thread. Apply a drop of cement to the tail whippings, taking care not to get any on the fur strip.

Place the zonker strip back over the tail of the fly, and secure in a material clip if needed, this will keep the fibres out of your way and make the next step easier. To attach your tying thread, make a couple of loose turns around the maylar sleeve so as to catch it just in the right position for the head. Now before you tighten these pull the access maylar through the tying thread so as to tighten the sleeve around the body, and then pull up on your bobbin holder so as to tighten the tying thread and secure the Mylar tube in place.

Once you have trimmed off the access maylar use your lighter again to burn off the rest. This is the advantage of using Nylon tying thread, it has a much higher burning point than plastic, so this should remain intact.
Pull the zonker strip over the body and while holding it tight separate the fur at the required position and tie in, but only with a couple of tight turns, tight in too the melt glue body.

Carefully trim off the zonker strip and burn the head once again with the lighter. If done correctly you will see the remaining head of tanned hide, shrink and disappear under the tying thread,( giving a small neat finished head) whip finish.

If you have used Dyneema thread you can now colour the head red with a waterproof flet pen.

Glue on your chosen colour and size of Prisma tape eye and then varnish both tail and head whippings.

The colour combinations for this pattern are endless…

4 responses

  1. Anonymous

    Just a SUPER Fly !! I tie one simular to this for Largemouth Bass as I don’t get to the Coast for Salt Fishing anymore , I use a Large Gape Bass Stinger type hook and add a Glass Rattle in the belly which works pretty good on our North Alabama Waters.. KEEP up the GREAT work , I am really enjoying this site !! THX’S Bunches

    February 28, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    • Thanks, I am pleased you are enjoying it! Its a pattern that has worked for me for many years, and I do it also with a rattle but inside a E-Z body tube body.

      February 28, 2013 at 8:03 pm

  2. The rattle is a great idea! I will tie some for striped bass fishing next summer. Probably use dumbbell eyes or a FishSkull to counteract the rattle’s slight buoyancy. Thanks!

    February 28, 2013 at 10:27 pm

  3. Pingback: Essential sea trout patterns for the autumn | thefeatherbender

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