Fly-fishing: Rabbit fur flies are cheap, easy to work with and very effective
Having all but ignored it for many years, I’ve begun experimenting with rabbit fur as a fly-tying material, and I like it.
I’m not sure why I never got much into it before — there has always been ample evidence of the effectiveness of flies like the Double Bunny, the Bunny Leech and the Zonker.
Then again, I’ve probably never paid enough attention to streamers in general. It’s common for us trout nuts to be more interested in flies that imitate bugs than those that imitate fish.
That’s probably something we should re-think, since big fish do eat little fish.
A strip of rabbit fur has great characteristics in the water: lots of what I’ve come to think of as macro movement (twisting and undulating like a small fish) and micro movement (small, wavy, fluttering movements of the fur itself even when the fly is nearly at rest).
A zonker strip, as strips of bunny hide are known, doesn’t have quite as much movement in the water as saddle hackle feathers, but it makes up for that with bulk — seen from any perspective, it’s a meaty half-inch thick (more if you use the magnum zonker).
It also happens to be cheap, readily available in many colors and easy to work with.
I’ve never really cared for the Bunny Leech pattern. That’s the one with a nice, wiggly tail of zonker strip and a body of rabbit strip wrapped up the hook shank.
The front is an inch-long shapeless blob. It has plenty of action, and I suppose to a hungry bass or trout it probably looks like a tempting treat, but to me, it just looks a little weird.
I’m also not wild about the Double Bunny. That’s the one with a strip of brown rabbit fur on the top and a strip of white on the bottom, glued together.
It looks good and it’s not really that hard to make, but it requires the use of some kind of leather repair glue that I don’t own and don’t feel like buying and adding to an already cluttered tying bench for just one kind of fly.
So my rabbit flies are just one zonker strip, tied to the hook — once at the bend, and again at the eye. Simple and effective.
So far this summer, I’ve caught just a few modest bass on my bunny flies, in local ponds. Another pond I’ve had my eye on, one that’s close by but seldom crowded, with a nice, undeveloped shoreline, has so far been a disappointment.
The most excitement I’ve had there was on Sunday, when I spooked a carp and watched its wake as it steamed away, purposefully, but not panicky, toward the middle of the pond.
I figured this might be a decent place for carping on a sunny day, but not much for bass fishing — until I chatted with an angler fishing with spinning gear on my way out.
A burly guy enjoying a cigar, he told me he’s always wanted to take up fly-fishing. And then he told me he travels all over looking for big bass, but only recently learned that this pond, almost walking distance from his home, has been known to give up three- and four-pounders, along with big pickerel.
He had caught some himself. The rig of choice, he said, was a simple rubber worm, bounced along the bottom.
I don’t own any root beer-colored zonker strips — at least not yet — but I’ve got black and purple, and I bet they’ll work, too. Bend the shank a little, add a heavy cone or dumbbell eyes, tie the zonker to the underside of the hook and voila — a fly that looks and acts a lot like a rubber worm and rides with the hook pointing up to minimize snags.
I may have found the place to finally get acquainted with bunny fur flies after all these years.