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Ahead By a Hare

Bunny Leech



Hook:        Daiichi 2220 #8-#1

Thread:     MFC 6/0 or UTC 140, Color to match body

Tail:           Rabbit Zonker Strip mixed with a few strands of Crystal Flash (Color to compliment rabbit)

Tail Loop: 20LB Mono

Body:        Cross Cut Rabbit Strip and 1 strand of Polar Chenille (Color to compliment rabbit)

Head:        Gold, Copper Silver or Hot Orange Cone


Tying Note:  Tie this pattern in a variety of sizes and colors to suggest leeches, baitfish, crayfish or flesh


There are a number of fly tying materials offering a wide degree of diversity and value to all fly tyers.  Peacock, pheasant tail and rabbit fur are three such examples.  All of these three are readily available and easy to work with.  No tying kit should be without them.  


Rabbit fur is soft and supple, springing to life once soaked.  It accepts dye easily and is available in a kaleidoscope of colors.  Recently, dyed barred and two-tone rabbit for flesh flies have become popular.  Tiers using just the fur find it to be perhaps the friendliest dubbing to work with, suitable for wet flies, nymphs and dry flies.  Rabbit fur tufts also make excellent tails on damsel nymphs and small leech patterns, a durable alternative to traditional marabou.  Yearís ago Dan Byford created the Zonker, a baitfish pattern utilizing a rabbit strip wing secured along the top of the fly at the head and tail.  Danís creative rabbit use spawned a fur strip revolution sparking fly tiers to find other creative uses.  Today, fur strips are an important component of many baitfish, leech, crayfish, and flesh flies, even mouse patterns. From trout to salmon or char to pike, no game fish is immune to rabbit furís seductive charm.  The only drawback to any fur strip pattern is its wet weight.  Large rabbit strip patterns take on the feel and mass of a saturated sock.  Simply step up your rod weight to compensate.


The term Zonker is synonymous with any fur strip cut following the natural grain of the fur, from the head back to the tail.  Zonker strips are ideal for any pattern requiring fur to flow and trail such as down the back of baitfish patterns, claws on crayfish imitations and of course leeches.  If you are struggling to blend four feathers for Matuka patterns, consider Zonker strips.  Moisten the fur to stand it upright so weaving the wire over the hide and through the fur to secure it is simple. 


A traditional Zonker cut is 1/4th of an inch wide.  Super Strip or Magnum cuts are 3/8ths of an inch wide and are popular for large salt-water streamers, sculpins and huge leeches for aggressive toothy customers such as huge bull trout and pike.  In addition to the small packages most Zonker strips come in some suppliers also offer Zonker cut half rabbit hides.   This alternative offers value both in strip length and quantity.


Zonker strips can be wound or palmered around a hook shank creating a fur strip body.  A concept first popularized by the late Charlie Brooks for his Assam Dragon.  Zonker strip bodies offer a wide tall profile as the fur stands almost perpendicular to the shank.   In many instances a slimmer profile is preferred calling for crosscut fur strips.  Crosscut strips have been cut perpendicular or across the natural grain of the hide.  If you lay a cross cut strip down the fur flows or leans 90 degrees to the hide.  Cross cut strips wound around the shank flow back, allowing the creation of slender leech and baitfish imitations.  


Rabbit is not the only fur available.  Other furs such as squirrel, muskrat and mink are suitable rabbit substitutes.  These rabbit substitutes are popular choices for smaller flies due to their short fur length.  Squirrel has become popular for tiny baitfish patterns with many suppliers offering narrow 1/8th wide strips.  Another alternative to consider for smaller patterns involves trimming Zonker or crosscut strip fur from the hide and inserting it into a dubbing loop.  With this approach, the bulky hide does not negatively affect the finished look of the fly.


We can also purchase complete hides and create our own fur strips.  This is often necessary when using mink, muskrat or squirrel as not all suppliers offer Zonker cuts or when in need of narrow strips less than ľ of an inch.  Crosscuts are possible, but due to the small size of these animals, their length is not always practical for use.  To create your own cutter locate a number of double edge razor blades, washers, 2 nuts and 2 machine grade bolts.  Choose a bolt diameter small enough to pass through the holes in the centre of the razor blade.  Simply slide two bolts through the razor blade holes.  Insert a number of washers between each razor blade to create the desired cutting width.  The nuts hold the blade assembly together.  Be very careful using the cutter unless you are looking to create your own unique blood coloration to your flies.  Square the edges and ends of the hide using a straight edge and razor knife.  Hold one end of the side so it does not slip.  Use firm deliberate pressure to score the hide.  With a bit of practice creating your own Zonker and crosscut strips is easy although the convenience of buying them already complete is tough to ignore.  Whether cutting your own or buying ready made Zonker or crosscut strips look for thin supple hides.  These are the easiest to work with and provide maximum underwater action.


Tying fur strip patterns requires a few adjustments. Fur strips must be secure. Use strong tying thread, a minimum equivalent of Uni 6/0.  Prepare the fur strip by trimming the tie in end to a picket fence point to ease tie in. Pluck or trim the fur flush at the hide at the tie in point to ensure maximum thread purchase.  For Zonker strip tails trim the finished tip to a tapered point, further augmenting the swimming action.  Long fur strip tails are prone to fouling and can become a source of frustration.  Prior to tying in the tail, try tying in a half shank length horizontal loop of stiff monofilament.  Around 20LB is fine.   An Ďunder tailí of stiff hair such as bucktail is another practical alternative. 


The challenge with crosscut bodies is figuring out which end of the fur strip to tie in to ensure the fur flows back away from the head of the fly.  For right-handed tiers, lay the strip vertically in front of you so the hair flows to the left.  Tie in the end closest to you.  Trim the end to a tapered point to ease tie in and reduce bulk.  As with Zonker strips, pluck or trim the fur along the tie in area.  Bind the prepared strip in place along the side of the hook further reducing bulk. Wind the crosscut strip forward, overlapping each wrap slightly.  Pull tightly on the hide after each wrap.  Use a moistened thumb and forefinger to sweep and hold the fur back after each wrap.  Tie off using firm thread wraps.  Pull the hide back and place additional thread wraps in front locking the hide strip in place.  Carefully trim the remaining hide to avoid accidently cutting the tying thread. 


Tying Instructions




1) Slide appropriate sized cone onto hook shank and push forward against hook eye.  Attach tying thread behind hook eye and cover shank.  Form a horizontal mono loop by securing a length of 20LB mono along both sides of the shank.   The finished mono loop should extend back behind the hook bend about half the hook shank.




2) Select a Zonker strip.  Trim the end opposite to the natural grain of the fur to a point.  Trim the fur flush at the point.  Trim approximately 3/8ths of an inch of fur closest to the point flush with the hide.  Tie in the prepared Zonker strip by the point and secure back to the bend of the hook using firm thread wraps.  Trim the Zonker strip approximately the length of the hook.  Taper cut the end to enhance the action of the Zonker tail.




3) Double 3-4 strands of Crystal Flash around the tying thread. Slide the doubled Crystal Flash down the thread and secure in place at the mid point of the shank.  Divide the Crystal Flash into two groups and tie in place along the near and far side of the tail. Trim the Crystal Flash even with the ends of the Zonker strip tail.




4) Lay a crosscut rabbit strip on the tying bench so the rabbit fur flows to the left.  Take the end closest to you and trim it to a tapered point.  Trim approximately 3/8ths of an inch of fur closest to the point flush with the hide.  Tie in the prepared crosscut rabbit strip by the point back to the base of the tail using firm thread wraps.  Secure a section of Polar Chenille that is the same approximate length as the crosscut strip.




5) Stroke the crosscut rabbit strip and Polar Chenille together.  Wind them forward to the rear of the cone.  Overlap each wrap slightly pulling down to tighten.  After each wrap sweep the fur and Polar Chenille back to avoid trapping any fibres.  Tie off the rabbit strip and Polar Chenille at the rear of the cone and carefully remove the excess to avoid accidently trimming the tying thread. 




6) Coat approximately Ĺ inch of thread with head cement or super glue.  Wind the coated thread behind the cone to secure the rabbit.  Whip finish and remove the tying thread.  Reattach the tying thread at the hook eye in front of the cone.  Build a neat tapered head pushing the cone back tight against the front of the body.  Whip finish and apply head cement.


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