Words & images by Emil Westrin, Guideline Power Team Sweden
I got questions and Step-By-Step requests on social media when I posted pictures of a Muddle Zonker that I tie. Here I explain how I tie them and which setup I’m using for this type of fishing. This is a fly that I use for the sea run brown trouts who enters our northern rivers around midsummer and the migration trouts that we fish for late in the season, end of July and to our rivers closing in the middle of September.
These trouts are easy to spook, so this type of fishing often requires patients and skills to sneak around in the bushes like a ninja. Due to this spookiness you need to be very careful how you enter the river, avoid splashing with the line in the water, your movement etc. This is a 95% late evening/night fishing, so I would recommend you check out the stretches you planning to fish on the day. Maybe ”test fish” them when you still have sunlight, and make sure you knowing your gears. There are many schools about the setup for this type of fishing, and I don’t say what you should use. But I give you what works well for me.
I usually fish small to medium sized rivers, often with low water. And for this circumstance the NT8 10’ #7 is my number one rod. Not too stiff, lots of felling and a perfect length to steer the line in the dark. I have this rod loaded with a Vosso #68 but the New Halo #67 can be my new future favorite. And now to the lines… Where I fish, we have a lot of bushes and trees close to the riverbank and sometimes they even hanging over the river so a WF line and over hand casts is more or less impossible. Therefore, I always do this type of fishing with a shooting line and shooting head. For many years I used the Compact multitip with the floating belly and intermediate tip, but from now on the ULS 3D+ Float/Hover/Intermediate is my weapon of choice. Easy to cast, easy to steer and it’s casts like a bullet (without being splashy) And for this type of fishing, I prefer to fish just under the surface.
The fish is shy, so long leaders is to prefer! 12’ Power Strike 0X is my favorite. If the fish is extra shy, splice it with an extra meter of 1X Power Strike+. Some people ask why I don’t use fluorocarbon, and the reason is simple. It´s bad for the nature. And I like the nature.
Now when you have your setup ready, it´s time to start talk about this Muddler Zonker!
I start with a 2,5cm 3mm tube and insert a 1,8mm inside it. Use what brand you like, but I prefer FutureFly on muddles because of their little extra hard 1,8mm. With a little more stiffens you avoid cutting the tube when you tie in the deer hair. The thread I’m using is a FutureFly Nano GSP 12/0 (same as NanoSilk). Start 5-8mm from the end part with 5 turns of golden tinsel, don’t cut it off! You should have 10cm left for later. Then tie in a small bunch of fluoro fibre in the color chartreuse. Double it back, secure it and taper it with your scissor. Tie in 10-12 cm of Frödinflies SSS holo braid, Alta gold and make 1 cm body of it. Now, use the leftovers from the tinsel and ribb the body (the fish doesn’t care, but it looks nice). Tie in 2cm of lead-free wire. The reason for this is not to make the fly heavy, it’s to compensate for the hook in the back and the big muddler head which pushes the fly upwards. We want the fly to ’hoover’ in the water.
Tie in the dubbing. I like a little coarser dubbing for this fly. SSS Glitz, Nasty Rusty have colors that matches the rest of the fly (dark gold, green, a little orange). Do not skimp with the Glitz! It should be bulky. Finish it of just where the 3mm meets the 1,8mm tubes and secure it whit super glue. Now you should torture the Glitz so it comes to life! Brush it hard and let the fibers out.
Now its tome to cut the zonker strip. This is a moment that many tiers are afraid of. But starts with a skin that doesn’t cost you a fortune. There are a few things you can think of to make this process easier. First of all, a SUPER sharp razorblade or scalpels is a key. Don’t buy sheep crap, you never going to cut good with it. Buy industrial scalpels or razorblades like Wilkinson sword. Then mount the skin upside down in the tabletop with a clamp. Try to look at the fibers so there are in line with the cut you thinking of. Then cut a piece with the shape of a golf peg. Around 10mm wide in the front and then taper it down to the length you want. I use pine squirrel from Wapsi in the color Sculpin olive. It has a thin skin with good stretch and a nice color. When you have cut out the strip, pinch it in the front and in the tip and stretch it a little bit.
Place the strip in top of your tube and leave a couple of millimeters of the skin in front of the tying point. Make sure you have the strip strait and the front part goes around the tube. Put some vanish on the thread, make a few turns wait 15-20 seconds so the vanish soaks in the skin and then put some pressure on the thread to secure it. Place a few strands angle hair that matches the colors of the dubbing wide on top of the zonker strip. Tie them in and double them. Use a razorblade or scalpel to remove the access skin in front of the tie in point. If you want, you can apply a pair of rubber legs or jungle cock. If you don’t want them, skip it.
Now it’s time for the muddler head. Try to find deer hair with as little underwool as possible. Deer hair belly is the best if you don’t want the underwool, but it’s hard to find the right colors. I bought a Premo deer hair strip from Hareline. It’s dark olive and matches the color of the squirrel well. Cut a pretty big bunch of deer hair and use a comb to brush out all of the underwool. If you like, you can stack the bunch. I like to do that, but let your feeling tells you what right to do. I place the tips along with the gold tinsel on the body, make two loose wraps around the bunch and distribute the bunch even around the tube. When you are satisfied, pull it tight and go through the flared bunch with a couple of wraps. Push the bunch against the body with your thumbnail or a tool to make it tight as possible. Now I take a new bunch of deer hair, but just a quarter of the size from the first one. Brush it through and cut the tips, turn the bunch around and tie it in with the bottom ends facing backwards. With this technique you got a smooth, even head on the fly.
Time to trim the head. I always start with the bottom part. Place the fly upside down and use a razorblade as tight as you dare against the tube and do the cut.
Flip the fly and switch to a scissor. Now to the tricky part. To get this flare of deer hair to an even and smooth head there are many techniques you can use. I start in the front and cut a ”guide” how I want the shape. Taking if just a millimeter or two and when I’m satisfied, I’m working my way in to the bunch. It’s always better to take of a little hair and do more cuts instead of cutting too much and you ruing the whole fly. Relax and take it easy. When you are finish, cut the tube and gently melt down the tube to a collar.
Summary of materials
Tubes: FutureFly 3mm and 1.8mm
Butt: Gold Tinsel
Tag: Fluoro fibre, Chartreuse
Body: SSS Holo braid, Alta Gold. Gold tinsel
Dubbing: SSS Glitz, Nasty Rusty
Zonker wing: Wapsi pine squirrel, Dark olive
Flash: SSS Angle Hair Nasty Rusty
Rubber legs: FytureFly, Cream/Neon yellow
Muddleer head: Hareline Premo deer hair, Olive
Words & images by Emil Westrin, Guideline Power Team Sweden.