Ken Hanley's Salty Bunny


Ken Hanley and I have been friends for a long time. He never ceases to amaze me with his creativity and, of course, his boundless energy and enthusiasm. I watched Ken tie at the Sacramento ISE show, and again at San Mateo. If you ever have a chance to watch Ken tie, be sure not to let the occasion pass you by. You will learn a lot and have fun doing it. At San Mateo, I sat with Ron and Jeanne English, watching Ken tie several of his salt water patters. They were all good, but I especially liked his “bunny fly.” He had no special name for it, so that’s what I’m going to call it (until he tells  me otherwise). The key to this fly's success,  according to Ken, is its movement in the water. I like it because it is so simple to tie. I even talked him out of one.

Ken discussed the difference between the various cuts used to make rabbit strips. The “zonker” cut slices the skin lengthwise, so that the hair is directly in line with the cut. The “cross-cut” cut slices across the skin, or side to side. The result is that the hair is cut on the bias, making the hair quantity much more sparse. In constructing the fly, Ken uses both types of strips.  When purchasing rabbit strips, be sure that you know exactly which type it is that you have selected.

The fly can be tied in different color combinations. Or, it can be tied in a single color (e.g., black). The fly that Ken gave me sports a tail and body of burnt orange rabbit, and a front collar of grey rabbit. Select any color you desire for the contest—the flies will be judged on their construction, not on the colors used.

Ken uses the fly in salt water, fishing the surf and along rocky shorelines. Its durability and attractiveness to fish makes it a “go-to” pattern for him. The fly is made to ride upside down. It can also be fished as a killer bass pattern.



Daiichi 2546 or

TMC 8089N, size 2


Black flat nylon such as Flymaster


Spirit River “Real Eyes Plus” eyes, size 7/32,” nickel/yellow color (nickel with yellow eyeballs)


Rabbit zonker strip


Cross-cut rabbit strip


Black thread



  1. Attach the thread about ” behind the eye. Build up a small mound of thread at that spot. Move the thread back about 1/8” and there build another small mound of thread. The purpose of these mounds is to make it easer to apply the eyes.

  2. Take the eyes and place them between the two mounds. Wrap figure eights around them, using 8-10 wraps. Now wrap horizontally below the eyes and above the hook shank. Make the wraps tight. This has the effect of tightening the figure eight wraps, and locks the eyes into place. Turn the fly over and put a drop of head cement directly on the wraps. Return the fly to upright position and place a drop on the wraps at the top. It is important to glue in both places.

  3. Cover the shank with thread to the spot on the shank directly above the point of the hook (note that this is different than trout patterns, most of which call for the tail tie-in point to be a bit farther back, above the back end of the barb).

  4. Cut off a piece of the zonker strip; it should be about 1 times the length of the shank. Tie it in directly above the point of the hook. This will be the tail.

  5. Cut off a longer piece of cross-cut rabbit strip. Tie it in skin side up. This will make the next step, wrapping the body, much easier.

  6. Wrap the cross-cut strip forward in consecutive, overlapping wraps, forming a nice, full body. Tie it off directly behind the eyes.

  7. Bring the thread to the front of the eyes and make a small head, leaving about 1/16” of the hook shank bare behind the eye. Whip finish, snip the thread, and apply head cement.

Copyright 1998 by Granite Bay Flycasters unless otherwise noted.