Fly Fishers' Republic


December 17, 2006

by Ian Colin James




I developed the Plonker in 1985 as a drowned mouse pattern for Northern Pike, large Brown Trout, and Smallmouth Bass. I tied it on a #4 Mustad 3366, so I could go after these fish using the same 5-weight rod that I used for nymphs, dries, and smaller fish. In the last twenty years I’ve seen nothing to make me dress the fly different.

If you were wondering about the name ‘Plonker’, well, I guess it’s just a bit of fun. You see, my father was a great fan of saying the word ‘plonker’, as in, “That chap who missed the penalty is a plonker,” or, “I bet on a plonker in the Grand National.” When I’m on the river, if someone asks me what I’m fishing with, and I answer, “A Plonker,” one is never too sure if that’s a reference to the fly or to the chap I’m sharing the pool with… you get the idea.


I like to use a very slow retrieve with this pattern because there’s a lot of “wiggle ‘n’ movement” in the dressing, and you don’t have to do much to make the fly look like it’s alive in the water – I guess that’s a silly thing to say, as I developed it as a copy of a drowned mouse, but there’s logic in there somewhere!? Anyway, after a quick flash flood, or if the rivers end up being over the banks from a few days of heavy rain, fish will scarf down dead mice, shrews and voles as they drift past them, and that’s where the Plonker comes in. If you fish these conditions remember that when the water is on the drop, the fish will still hang tight to the banks, so make darn sure you fish the edges.


I’ve never been a fan of using heavy weight tackle for bigger fish because I can hook and land them just fine on lighter stuff. Fishing that way is good fun, it’s effective, and avoids the pain in the butt of dragging an extra rod up and down the river, something both my clients and I always appreciate. With this kind of set-up I can fish for Steelhead; Czech Nymph all day (something I can’t do with my 7-weight); I can fish dries and nymphs, detecting the subtlest hits. So, when some anglers dress the Plonker on larger hooks, that’s defeating the purpose of the fly – it’s not that you can’t it’s just that you needn’t!

The Plonker is a cracking fly for going after big carp. Some anglers who use them along the edges of Lake Michigan, tie a glass rattle onto the shank and wrap the cross cut strip over the rattle. They swear that it makes a difference when they target big carp. I have never tried this, but I sure do dress a lot of flies like this for those guys.

One last thing: I have tied the Plonker with squirrel skin strips and I even tried a few with chinchilla skin strips, but they were both remarkably unproductive. Mink is by far your best bet.

Further reading:

Carping: Fly Fishing's Crack.


If you can invest in a full mink skin, rather than picking up bags of pre-cut strips, you will be well ahead of the game. The full skin will give you tons of strips, and you will end up with smaller bits which you can then use for dubbing on dries and nymphs. When you are picking out a skin, try to find one with long guard hairs as I find that flies tied with fur which has long guard hairs will produce more fish. I have no clue as to why this is, I just know that it works out like that. With a full skin you can produce thinner cross cut strips which will wrap much easier than the thicker strips found in shops.