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The Fly Girl: Clouser Minnow — hated by ‘purists’ and loved by our ‘Fly Girl!’

The Clouser Minnow is one of those patterns that fly-fishing purists love to hate (even though they probably keep a few in their fly boxes and tie one on when they think no one’s looking). That—and the fact that it’s easy and fun to tie, an incredibly effective fish catcher, and amenable to endless, cool variations—is enough to make the Fly Girl love it.

Clouser Minnows tied in various colors and sizes have taken countless species of gamefish all over the world. Photo by The Fly Girl

Invented by guide, author and fly shop owner (Clouser’s Fly Shop, Middletown, Pennsylvania) Bob Clouser in 1987 for smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River, the Clouser Minnow has become one of the most popular patterns in the world, for one very good reason: It catches fish!

In the 24 years since the pattern’s birth, Clousers in various sizes have taken almost every gamefish that swims in fresh water or salt, from bluegills to blue marlin. Clousers are famously effective for smallmouth and largemouth bass, trout (especially big, baitfish-eating trout), striped bass, and various species of tunas. Angling icon Lefty Kreh says he has caught 87 species of fish all over the globe on Clouser Minnows.

Purists may sneer that the weighted dumbbell eyes make the Clouser a jig, not a “real” fly.

Whatever.

The dumbbell eyes tied atop the hook shank give the Clouser two great advantages: It rides hook point up, making it less likely to snag bottom than other patterns. And when stripped, it moves in the water with an enticing, up-and-down jigging motion that rings the dinner bell for predatory fish everywhere.

Because the Clouser Minnow rides hook point up, snags are less likely than with other fly patterns. Photo by The Fly Girl

Caution: When throwing a Clouser, don’t put too much snap in your cast. Because it has some weight to it, the Clouser Minnow casts best with an easy, lobbing motion and a relatively open casting loop. And watch the wind. A Clouser traveling at high speed smarts if it hits you, or can crack a graphite fly rod. I hope you’ve followed The WON’s DamselFly Fisher Katherine Browne’s excellent advice and bought a rod with a lifetime warranty!

Popular colors include all white; all black; all chartreuse; black and white; chartreuse and white or yellow; red and white; and green or blue and white. Because baitfish generally have dark backs and lighter bellies, if you tie Clousers with contrasting colors, use the darker color for the overwing and the lighter for the underwing. Experiment with different color combos and have fun.

HOOK: Heavy-wire, long-shank hook, any size.

THREAD: Monocord (smaller Clousers) or flat waxed nylon (larger Clousers), any color.

EYES: Dumbbell eyes, size to match hook and/or desired sink rate. I like bead chain for small Clousers.

WINGS: Bucktail, any color(s).

FLASH: Flashabou or Krystal Flash, added to overwing.

Step 1: Place the hook in the vise (the “normal” way, point down) and wrap a three-layer thread base, covering the forward third of the shank.

Step 2: Secure the dumbbell eyes. Place the eyes on your thread base atop the hook, perpendicular to the shank, well back from the hook eye. Wind the thread diagonally, crisscrossing between the eyes, with firm wraps. Straighten the eyes with your fingers as needed to keep them at right angles to the hook shank, and roughly level. Bind everything down tightly. Once you’re satisfied, apply Super Glue or clear epoxy over the wraps.

Step 3: Snip a bunch of bucktail for the underwing. (The wings should be roughly even and about double the length of the hook.) Bind this firmly in front of the dumbbell eyes with several wraps of thread. Then grasp the bucktail from behind the eyes and pull it tightly over them and straight back over the hook shank. Pass the thread underneath the shank and bind down the bucktail just behind the eyes with several tight wraps. Then pass the thread in front of the eyes, trim off the bucktail butts close to the shank, and bind down the trimmed ends tightly.

Step 4: Remove the hook from the vise and turn it upside down, repositioning the fly in the vise so the hook point is up. Snip a bunch of bucktail for the overwing, about the same diameter as the underwing. Bind down the overwing in front of the dumbbell eyes with several firm thread wraps. Trim off the bucktail butt ends close to the shank and bind down everything with thread, forming a neat, tapered head.

Step 5: Tie in several strands of Krystal Flash or Flashabou atop the overwing.

Step 6: Wind a neat, tapered head, whip-finish, and cover everything with another coat of Super Glue, nail polish, epoxy or fabric paint.

Cast into fishy water, strip back, and hang onto the rod!

 

The Conversation

6 Comments
  • Barbara Baird says: July 9, 2011 at 8:31 am

    It’s wonderful to have The Fly Girl back in action here at The WON. Welcome back. Keep on tyin’.

  • Dawn Gribb says: July 8, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Great article on the Clouser minnow. Bob Clouser taught me the art of fly fishing and fly tying and I am forever grateful. I never go anywhere without Clouser flies in my box.

  • Beth Cowgill says: July 8, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    I honestly can say I’m extremely fascinated with fly fishing. While I’ve never done this type of fishing myself, my boyfriend fishes with this type of equipment regularly. Recently I went shopping with him to buy more fly fishing gear as he was preparing for an Alaskan fishing trip. Seeing him make flies and looking at all the different types is amazing! I remember thinking to myself, that’s a little tiny hook. How in the world is he going to catch a fish on that thing!

    • Bill Bowers says: July 11, 2011 at 6:01 pm

      Your SO is going fly fishing in Alaska? Be still my heart. Hope he has a great time.