The Bloody Zonker

Published Jun 26th 2011

This fly is a bright and tasty looking bite of feathers and fur that can sometimes be the key to luring a big trout.


Bloody Zonker

We recently covered a sea trout version of the classical Bloody Butcher. Here's a variation of the variation: the Bloody Butcher wet fly converted to sea trout fly converted to a zonker.

This variation of the variation was originally tied for sea run brown trout - sea trout - but will work equally well as a big trout streamer in running water and I would be surprised if salmon wouldn't like it, and I wouldn't mind casting it to large saltwater predators such as tarpon, tuna or trevally... but then I wouldn't mind casting any fly pattern to these quarries, but that's a whole other matter.

Bloody Zonker
Ken Bonde Larsen
Year of origin
Target species
Sea trout (sea run)

Hooklong shank, down eye streamer hook like Kamasan B800, size 4 or 2
Weightheavy wire
ThreadBlack 8/0
Riboval silver tinsel
Tailred poly yarn
Bodyflat silver mylar tinsel
Wingblack rabbit zonker strip
Flashblack/red Angel hair
Wing frontblack rabbit
Front hacklesoft red hen

The flies you see have all been tied by our designated staff tyer Ken Bonde Larsen, and looking at the tying sequence you may want to take note of a few tying tips, which I will take this opportunity to point out.

Step 1 - weight - Add a few wraps of heavy wire on the front third of the hook shank
Step 1 - weight
Step 2 - thread - Start the thread in front of the weight, secure that and continue to the rear of the hook
Step 2 - thread
Step 3 - start tail - Tie in the tail material in the middle behind the weight and fold it back
Step 3 - start tail
Step 4 - double tail - The tail material gets doubled and forms an even foundation for the tinsel body from right behind the weight
Step 4 - double tail
Step 5 - pull - Pull the tail material to stretch it and cover it with tight, even turns of thread
Step 5 - pull
Step 6 - trim tail - Trim the tail slightly uneven
Step 6 - trim tail
Step 7 - thread forward - Take the thread forward to right behind the weight. Make sure the rear body is even and smooth
Step 7 - thread forward
Step 8 - ribbing - Tie in the ribbing material the full length of the body, again to keep the body smooth
Step 8 - ribbing

Durable tinsel body
Step 9 - tinsel - Take the tread to the front of the body again, and tie in the tinsel. Tie the silver side inwards for a sliver body
Step 9 - tinsel
Step 10 - nail polish - Give the underbody a thin coat of nail polish
Step 10 - nail polish
Step 11 - wind the tinsel - Wind the tinsel forwards in close and almost overlapping turns while the nail polish is still sticky
Step 11 - wind the tinsel
Step 12 - finish body - Wind the tinsel all the way over the weight and to the front of the hook
Step 12 - finish body
Step 13 - trim tinsel - Tie down the tinsel and trim off the surplus
Step 13 - trim tinsel
Step 14 - nail polish - Coat the tinsel body with a thin layer of nail polish and let dry
Step 14 - nail polish

The body on this fly is tinsel, and tinsel is notoriously fragile if it's just wound on a hook shank. A rib will help, but once the tinsel breaks (can you say fish teeth?) it will magically unravel no matter how secure it seemed when the fly was done.
The cure is glue... or rather nail polish that not only glues the tinsel, but also seals it when it's been wrapped and tied down.
Spread a thin layer of clear nail polish on the foundation for the body, and wind the tinsel while the polish is still sticky. If you use two layers of tinsel, add nail polish in between. And when the body is done, coat it with a thin layer of nail polish and let it dry before continuing. The advantage of nail polish over fly varnish is that is dries quickly and dries up "thick" with a bit of volume, smoothing out any bumps on what it covers.

Securing a zonker wing with the rib
Step 15 - preapre the strip - Cut a zonker strip, just a bit longer than the hook shank. Taper it in the front
Step 15 - preapre the strip
Step 16 . trianglular - The tip of the zonker strip should be triangular for a neat tie in
Step 16 . trianglular
Step 17 - fit wing - Position the wing over the hook shank
Step 17 - fit wing
Step 18 - tie in - Tie the zonker strip in behind the hook eye. Leave room for a small bunch of hair, a hackle and the head
Step 18 - tie in
Step 19 - wing in place - The wing has been secured in front
Step 19 - wing in place
Step 20 - wet the hair - Wet the hair with spit or water
Step 20 - wet the hair
Step 21 - split hair - Not literally... but pull the fur in each direction over the point where the first wrap of tinsel will be
Step 21 - split hair
Step 22 - pull strip - Pull the strip tight and close to the hook in preparation for the rib
Step 22 - pull strip
Step 23 - first wrap - Wrap the rib through the opening in the fur
Step 23 - first wrap
Step 25 - keep moving - Move forward separating the fur and ribbing. Hold the ribbing material tight all the way
Step 25 - keep moving
Step 25 - next split - Split the moist hair where the next turn of rib will be. Keep the rib tight while doing this
Step 25 - next split
Step 26 - last turn - Ideally the last turn of rib should be just shy of the front of the wing so that you can tie it off under the hook shank
Step 26 - last turn

On many zonker patterns you only tie in the zonker strip in the front and in the rear. This can lead to a loose and soggy wing because the skin base of the wing sucks up water and becomes slightly larger and much softer compared to the dry strip.
Avoid this by tying down the strip in its full length with a rib. Tie the wing down in front with the tying thread, moist the hairs of the wing to be able to separate them, and wind the rib in fairly close turns without squashing down any hairs. Start with a full turn of the ribbing material to secure the rear end, and then move forward in 5-7 turns depending on the length of the hook.

Making a neat front on a zonker wing
Step 27 - tie off - Tie off the ribbing with a couple of thread wraps
Step 27 - tie off
Step 28 - trim rib - Cut off the remaining rib as close to the hook shank as you can
Step 28 - trim rib
Step 29 - flash - Prepare a few straws of fine flash
Step 29 - flash
Step 30 - tie in - Tie in the flash right in front of the wing
Step 30 - tie in
Step 31 - tighten - Take a couple of firm wraps right in front of the wing to tighten everything
Step 31 - tighten
Step 32 - hair - Prepare a small bunch of hair similar to the zonker strip
Step 32 - hair
Step 33 - tie in hair - The the hair in on top of and in front of the wing skin stub to cover the bump and form a smooth base for the hackle
Step 33 - tie in hair
Step 34 - trim butts - Any hair butts sticking out under the thread must be trimmed off
Step 34 - trim butts

When you tie down the zonker strip on the front of the fly, you often get a fairly large bump under the thread - and under the head or the front hackle. You can avoid this by leaving a little space in front of the wing, and finishing it with a small bunch of hair similar to that on the strip.
This will cover the ugly bump caused by the skin strip, and form a smooth foundation for a front hackle or make it much easier to form a small head.

Using a brush on a soft hackle
Step 35 - hackle - Select a soft hen hackle in a suitable size, barb length just shorter than the hair
Step 35 - hackle
Step 36 - prepare hackle - Fold back the barbs and trim to get a small triangle to anchor the feather
Step 36 - prepare hackle
Step 37 - tie in - Tie in the hackle, curved side out
Step 37 - tie in
Step 38 - wrap hackle - Wrap the hackle in close turns. Pull back the fibers to form a classical soft front hackle
Step 38 - wrap hackle
Step 39 - tie off - Tie off the hackle and trim the surplus
Step 39 - tie off
Step 40 - finish - Form a small head and whip finish
Step 40 - finish
Step 41 - grooming - Comb the hackle back using a cut down tooth brush
Step 41 - grooming
Step 42 - varnish - Finish the fly with a layer of varnish over the head
Step 42 - varnish

You know how some tyers are able to get the soft front hackles on their wet flies to sweep back over the body like they were glued in place? Well, there are techniques to make this happen by just tying the feather in in the right way. But not only can you do that, but when the hackle is done, and doesn't act exactly as you want, you can simply comb it in place!
Make yourself a hackle and fur comb by cutting down an old (or new) toothbrush, and stroke this firmly over the hackle from the flies' head and back, and you'll be surprised how even and nicely swept back it can become.

A meaty fly

User comments
GFF staff comment
From: Martin Joergensen · martin·at·  Link
Submitted August 4th 2011


The tier is Ken Bonde and not myself, but I think the scissors are from Dr. Slick and a model, which is curved and serrated. I always use straight scissors myself, but I'm sure the Dr. Slick will work fine for deer hair as it does for other types of tying.


From: Janw - Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted August 4th 2011

Hi Martin,

your are using a curved scissor. Would you tell what scissor it is and if you are using it also for deer-hair-flies. I am looking for a good curved scissor.


GFF staff comment
From: Martin Joergensen · martin·at·  Link
Submitted July 20th 2011

Dear anonymous,

Click on the image to get a larger and better version, where the details are more visible. We have heard your comment before, and while I certainly respect the view I don't think the problem is that severe, and I honestly don't think that uniform, colored backgrounds are good for anything else than analytical images, documenting flies.

I have changed the backgrounds on the latest tying series (this one was shot in 2009), but don't expect us to turn to absolutely uniform backgrounds anythime soon. These flies are usually tied at a tying desk, and shot over the shoulder of the tyer, and although we will make the table and background tidier, it will probably never be 100% uniform.


From: David - Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted July 20th 2011

It would be nicer to follow if some sort of light background was behind the fly tying rather than a clutter of gear, find it difficult to follow, sorrry.

Comment to an image
From: - Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted December 4th 2013

Wonderful article-I'm brand new to making a fly of any kind. I purchase commercial tied jigs primarily for fishing
Coho Salmon in the Northwest, Chehalis river system. The Bloody Zonker has the color & heavier body Coho like.
I will be casting 0ne quarter oz. round ball jigs. This pattern will be tied on 1/ 0 2/0 jig hooks, the water is typically stained and fast moving. I may improvise a little because of the hook size.

Anyway - thanks again for a great tutorial on the tying of this fly. Will let you know how it works. Al Bahr

Comment to an image
From: Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted February 23rd 2013

beautifull fly i will ty one right now to take with me to king salmon in june for rainbow trout fishing.

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