I have been tying this simple variation on the Zonker and MSP theme for a few seasons now. It has taken its share of largemouth and smallmouth yellowfish on the Orange River, and Tudor Caradoc-Davies used them to great effect at Jurassic Lake. Prior to that, I used it to catch some of my best smallmouth bass ever. Stripped or swung, jigged or crawled on the bottom, it’s a versatile pattern that catches fish all year long in both rivers and stillwaters.
It makes use of a combination of colours that I use over many different patterns, inspired years ago by the deadly use of peacock herl combined with blue flash in Tom Sutcliffe’s Zak nymph.
I fish this pattern on a 6wt, employing all manner of line and leader configurations for trout and bass, but almost always with a 3X or 2X tippet. With its inverted hook and weed guard, I haven’t lost many to snags.
Gamakatsu B10S hook, size 6
Danville 6/0 Black thread
Black 4mm Tungsten Insta-Jig bead
Standard Black Zonker strips, cut so the hide bit is 4cm long
Dave Whitlock SLF dubbing, Dragonfly Nymph Dark (closely resembles the colour of aged peacock herl)
Blue UV Crystal Flash
Superglue and Pattex 100 or Marine Silicone
Attach thread at the eye of the hook. Untwist the thread by hanging the bobbin off the hook and spinning it anti-clockwise. This ensures a flat threadbase – lay a single layer in touching turns to well past the hook bend. Then, in open turns, wrap back to the hook eye. This creates a thread “screw” that will help hold the zonker strip later. At the hook-eye, create a thread head to support the bead. Coat this with a thin layer of superglue before proceeding. This seals the hook shank and helps prevent rust forming where you can’t see it. I use a needle to apply the glue in tiny drops.
When the superglue is dry, slip on the bead. Ensure it sits snugly on the thread head, then secure it in place with a few x-wraps as shown. The heavy part of the bead should be on top of the hook shank and centred properly to ensure the fly inverts and keels well. When everything’s in place add another drop of superglue.
Take three strands of Blue UV Crystal Flash, and fold it in half twice before folding it around the tying thread, and trapping it behind the bead.
Wrap the flash down the shank to the hook bend and trim it so the protruding flash undertail is roughly 15mm long.
Grab a few generous pinches of dubbing. Flatten them together a bit as shown, at which point we hope the friction between the fibres is enough to hold it all together in the next steps.
Again, make sure your thread is properly untwisted, then split it with a needle and hold it open with your fingers.
Carefully pick up the dubbing and place it in the thread. Allow it to close and hang the bobbin over your left-hand index finger.
Spin the bobbin clockwise while holding the thread between your thumb and index finger. Once it stops, grab the bobbin with your right hand. Slowly release tension on the thread, so the twist spills over your fingers and allows the dubbing “rope” to twist up. Repeat once or twice, until the dubbing rope is twisted together as far as it will go. Take care not to go so far that the bare thread twists up on itself.
Wrap the dubbing back to the hook eye in touching turns, working the fibres backwards and down with your left hand as you go. Fill the shank up tightly against the hook eye. Use a needle to pick out trapped fibres, then tease the fibres back and down again. You want to tease most of the fibres out of the way of where the zonker strip will go.
Zonker strip should be cut so the hide section is 4cm long.
Use a needle to poke a whole in the middle of the hide of the zonker strip.
Poke the zonker onto the hook – you’ll have to briefly remove the hook from the vice to get the zonker in position for the next step. Only properly seat the zonker over the “thread screw” and snugly against the underbody once the hook is back in the vice.
Position your thread just ahead of the bead. Having seated the zonker, apply a small amount of pattex 100 or silicone to the underside of the zonker. Apply the minimum amount required to glue the zonker to the dubbing, but not the bead. You’ll be swapping hands a few times making sure you don’t get that glue everywhere. It’s an important step to reinforce the zonker and dubbing, though.
Pull the zonker down tightly over the dubbing and tie it down just ahead of the bead. You only get one go at this or it’s goo everywhere, so be careful yet decisive when you execute the manoeuvre. Don’t faff or second-guess. Done well, all the glue will now be trapped between the zonker and dubbing and shouldn’t present any further hassles.
Trim the excess zonker. I use a Minora Blade very carefully. You don’t want to cut the thread at this point. Form a thread head over what’s left of the zonker tag.
I use 30lb Maxima Ultragreen to make a small weed guard. Flatten the end that will be tied in, and trim it to fit the thread head.
Tie in the weed guard, form a neat thread head and tie off. I prefer to use superglue as a head cement as well. It will soak into the thread and glue in the weed guard. Using a needle, add tiny droplets of glue at a time to create a neat, shiny thread head. I allow at least one day of drying time for the hidden glue before fishing the fly.
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