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Fly Tying Terms

Virtual Minnow
Text and photos by Barry Ord Clarke

The original Zonker pattern was tied by the American Dan Byford and was quickly recognised the world over as a big fish fly and extremely realistic bait fish imitation. This original pattern used a lead or tin sheet that was folded over the hook shank and then cut to shape to make the underbody.

The melt glue body 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 rabbit, makes a first class bait fish attractor. 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 rabbit fur guard hairs.

I was first shown this melt glue body technique in 1993 by the innovative Danish fly tier Dennis Jensen who developed it for saltwater sea trout. He used a home-made mold constructed from plastic padding. He would insert the hook and then inject melt glue into the mold. The result was a perfect and identical minnow body every time.

Dennis also made very subtle body colour changes 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 takes a few seconds longer but still produces the same effect.

Materials List:

    Hook:   Partridge Bucktail streamer # 6.

    Thread:   Red/Orange Nylon 8/0.

    Under body:   Hot Melt glue.

    Over body:   Clear pearlescent Mylar tubing.

    Wing/tail:   Rabbit fur zonker strip.

    Head:   A small metallic golden ball.

    Eyes:   Prisma tape eyes.

Tying Instructions:

1. After securing the streamer hook in the vice run a small amount of clear melt glue along the top of the hook shank as shown.

2. When the glue is dry (use 10 second melt glue) turn the hook over in the vice and carefully form the under-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.

3. Place the hook the correct way in the vice and then 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. You can even shape it first with scissors and then take off the sharp edges with the lighter.

4. Tie in your tying thread right behind the melt glue body. Cut a 5-6 cm length of the mylar tubing and remove the string core. Now place the sleeve over the minnow body, tie this in, fraying strands to form the tail.

5. Select a strip of rabbit zonker fur and prepare the tail end by cutting it to a point. Taking care not to damage the fur.

6. Part the fur with the help of a dubbing needle and moist fingers at the desired position, and then tie it in over the same wrappings used to secure the maylar as shown. Finish with 2 or 3 half hitches. Apply a drop of cement to the tail whippings

7. Place the zonker strip back over the tail of the fly, and secure in a material clip, this will keep the fibres out of your way and make the next step easier. 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 down on your bobbin holder so as to tighten the tying thread and secure it in place.

8. Once you have trimmed off the excess 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.

9. 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 into the melt glue body.

10. 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 rabbit hide, shrink and disappear under the tying thread,(giving a small neat finished head) whip finish.

11. Stick on your chosen colour and size of Prisma tape eye and then cement both tail and head whippings.


Solid maylars can also be used to great effect with the melt glue body for making traditional zonker patterns. ~ Barry Ord Clarke

Credits: This fly is from a collection of flies produced for the Partridge of Redditch Limited website. We thank them for use permission.

For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.

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