Zonker Streamer Flies for Salmon and Searun Brown Trout

Zonker trout fly.
Zonker trout fly.
A Zonker Lure tied with white rabbit pelt. White thread used at the tail makes it almost invisible. Painted eyes would add even more realism.
A Zonker Lure tied with white rabbit pelt. White thread used at the tail makes it almost invisible. Painted eyes would add even more realism.

Zonker Fly or Rabbit Zonker

By Allan Burgess

Zonker flies are one of my favourites. It is a pattern that originally came from America. Zonkers, like most flies, come in many variations. But the basic Zonker design includes a body made from Mylar tube. This stuff creates a fish scale appearance that is almost impossible to make any other way.

Regular readers will be aware that I mostly fish a sunken line for sea-run brown trout in the lower reaches of our big east coast rivers. The Zonker is an ideal pattern for this, as the finished lure makes an excellent silvery imitation; silveries being the main food for sea-run brown trout in these waters over summer.

1. Begin by under-binding along hook and finishing near bend. I have used yellow thread so you can see it.
1. Begin by under-binding hook and finishing near at start of the bend. I have used yellow thread so you can see it.

The Zonker has many variations but the one I like is tied with pearl mylar and a strip of rabbit skin. I also like to add a little peacock sword as a topping for that little extra dash!

The Zonker is a somewhat fiddly pattern to tie. Don’t let this put you off. The results are very worthwhile.

Start with a size 2 lure hook. I use Mustad 3666 and Black Magic Lure Hooks. Bind the hook with a few strands of Flashabou and coat with cement.

2. Bend and cut the aluminum foil after folding it over half a dozen times to make it strong enough. Trim to shape. Be sure to leave the hook barb well clear of the foil.
2. Bend and cut the aluminium foil after folding it over half a dozen times to make it strong enough. Trim to shape. Be sure to leave the hook barb well clear of the foil.

Next comes the tricky part. You have to form a body shape as a former for the Mylar tube to go over. For this, I use aluminium foil folded over half a dozen times to make it strong enough. Trim to shape with scissors as shown. Instead of foil, you can use Trimbrite metal strip, only the sports stores don’t stock it! You can also make a former from the plastic bottoms of margarine containers and Super Glue the two sides in place (according to Mike at The Complete Angler).

3. Slide the Mylar tube over the foil and secure at both ends. Using a lighter colour at the tail gives a better end result. Trim off excess Mylar at the head.
3. Slide the Mylar tube over the foil and secure at both ends. Using a lighter colour at the tail gives a better end result. Trim off excess Mylar at the head.

Bind the foil on at the back to hold it in place. Cut a length of the tube at least 10mm longer than you think you’ll need and carefully pull the sting out of the inside with the tips of your scissors.

Slip the now hollow tube over the former and tie-off at the back. Leave about 200mm of thread and cut off. Tie-off the Mylar at the head. This is easier if you push the Mylar forward to take up any slack. Trim off the waste material.

Lastly, tie on the strip of rabbit skin front and back and trim

Zonker
4. Secure a strip of rabbit pelt (skin side down) to the top of the hook with thread at each end. A better result is achieved if you cut the pelt with a taper at the ends. Liberally apply head cement over the Mylar tube to make it stronger and more resilient. Cement the head and the thread holding on the pelt at the tail.

thread. If you use white thread at the rear it looks even better. Some tyers add a matching hackle collar at this stage but I have never bothered with this.

The Zonker fly really comes to life if you paint on black and white eyes.

I was fishing this pattern once at the mouth of the Rakaia River when the bloke fishing next to me commented that I had foul hooked a silvery. “No,” I said, “that is my lure.” I have also caught many sea-run brown trout on Zonkers in the Waimakariri River.

The Olive and Gold Zonker is an ideal lure for fishing a South Island West Coast lake or river. Here the lure is tied on a size 6 hook. Note that if the lure is to be used for fly casting a slightly shorter tail will prevent it from wrapping around the hook shank when casting.
The Olive and Gold Zonker is an ideal lure for fishing a South Island West Coast lake or river. Here the lure is tied on a size 6 hook. Note that if the lure is to be used for fly casting a slightly shorter tail will prevent it from wrapping around the hook shank when casting.