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.
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.
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Born in England, Barry Ord Clarke is an internationally acclaimed and much published photographer, author and fly tyer. His own flies can be seen in the legendary ‘Fly Fishers Club’ collection, in London and the ‘Catskill master fly tyer collection’ in the United States.
For the past 28 years he has lived in Norway where he works as a professional photographer and a fly tying consultant for the Mustad Hook Company and Veniard Ltd. His successful YouTube channel ‘The Feather Bender’ has 43,000 subscribers.
Barry Ord Clarke voted US Fly Tyer Magazine’s Fly Tyer of the Year 2021.
The prestigious award honours the exceptional international contribution Barry has made to the world of fly tying with his innovative approach of linking his clear step-by-step tying instructions in book-form to his popular YouTube channel ‘The Feather Bender’ videos which then show him tying EXACTLY the same fly online. This ground-breaking ‘pairing’ is a first in the world of fly tying instruction.
A renowned photographer in his own right, his tying images are crystal clear, minimalist and stylish. His approachable attitude and innovative tying techniques have encouraged thousands of beginners to take up the hobby in the first place or more experienced tyers to up their game.
His most recent two books, The Feather Benders Fly Tying Techniques and Flytying for Beginners, pub. Merlin Unwin Books, are out now and already gaining plaudits from around the world. Fly Tying for Beginners, will also be published in the USA by Skyhorse Publishing in Autumn 2022.
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