Bob Clouser's Minnow…don't leave home without it
By Paul Prentiss

Bob Clouser, an eastern fishing guide, developed a bait fish pattern in the 1980’s which has become one of the most recognized fly patterns in the world.  Its formal name is the “Clouser Deep Minnow,” but everyone simply calls it the “Clouser.”  Whatever name you use, it catches almost anything that will eat a fly.  One of Bob’s long time friends and fishing companions, Lefty Kreh, has pointed out that he has caught over 86 different fish species using the pattern.  I don’t think that any other pattern comes close to this record.

What brought this fly to mind was a recent fishing trip for Wipers along Colorado’s Front Range.  There were four of us fishing from the shore of a lake. While the action was not red-hot, we were picking up occasional fish.  As we talked back and forth it became apparent that we were all using the same fly.  It wasn’t planned that way but each of us knew this pattern produces fish.  Returning several days later, I made a point of talking with other fly fishermen.  Guess what, the folks doing well were primarily using a Clouser.

Bob Clouser’s fly was originally developed for catching smallmouth bass in the Susquehana River in Pennsylvania and Maryland.  In the 1980s, he began tying his early four to five inch long in-line lead wrapped streamers to attract smallmouths.  In 1985 Wapsi Fly Company sent him a new product they had been working on, lead barbell shaped eyes.  “The wheels started turning in my mind.  These new eyes could add weight and look great on a deer-tailed streamer.”  In 1987 he added the Wapsi eyes (painted for realism) to his sparsely dressed bucktail patterns and the new fly was born.

Mounting the eyes on the top of the shank forced the fly to ride with the hook up which kept it from snagging on the bottom.  Additionally, it made the pattern dip and dart in the current during the retrieve. The use of bucktail produces a relatively stiff wing that covers the hook point and allows the fly to become nearly weedless.

While the original fly used bucktail, the choice of materials quickly spread to other natural materials – rabbit, calf-hair, etc..  Today synthetic hairs and flashes have become a very popular.  I think there are four primary reasons for this - translucent appearance, consistent quality, long length, and ease of application on small flies.

Effectively, the Clouser has evolved into a tying style, by varying the color and size of the pattern any form of baitfish can be imitated.   The belly section is always a light color like white or yellow. The body color becomes darker as you move up laterally. This becomes a copy of the typical coloration of most baitfish.   I think the most popular combinations are chartreuse and white, grey and white, brown and white, chartreuse and yellow, red and white and blue and white.  Using silver, gold, or pearl flash in the center of the fly has become pretty standard.  There is no question in my mind that a certain amount of flash out fishes flies that don’t use it.  I have heard others claim this is not always the case, but my experience does not bear this out.

One of the features I really like about the Clouser is that it gets to the bottom fast and no matter how fast or slow you retrieve the fly is always darting and diving due to the weighted eyes. On the retrieve it rises up and on the pause it sinks. When a fish takes this fly it’s a solid hit.  One thing you can do is to tie various size eyes on the same size hook to vary the sink rate.

Most of the fishing I do with this pattern is on a floating line with a 10-foot leader.  A typical setup for bass, wipers, and carp is a 6 or 7-weight rod 9-feet or better using a 2 or 3X tippet section.  I like to tie on the pattern using an open loop knot which enhances the movement of the fly.

When casting, a certain amount of care is in order.  If the weighted head comes in contact with the graphic rod, the result can be disaster.  Perhaps the best way to avoid this to use smooth follow through casting strokes with a bit of a sidearm/oval throw.  This will keep the direction of the fly away from the rod and the angler.

The Clouser’s appeal to game fish is universal.  This is definitely a "don't leave home without it" fly.

This Wiper fell for a white and chartreuse Clouser

From Fly Fisherman Magazine -

HOOK: Mustad 3406B, #1 to 1/0.
THREAD: Yellow 6/0.
EYES: Dumbell eyes, black with red pupils.
WING: Bucktail.

Tying Instructions
This fly can be tied in an amazing number of color variations including yellow and brown, yellow and red, white and red, white and chartruese, and white and yellow to name just a few. Put the lighter color on the bottom (on the same side as the lead eyes) and the darker color on top. Match the thread color to the bucktail you are using.

The original Clouser is easy to tie, even for beginners. The most important step is tying the dumbbell-shaped eyes securely to the hook shank. Unless the eyes are tight, they will twist and make the fly useless.
The eyes can be attached to the shank of the hook as the first step of tying the fly. You can also pre-wrap a number of hooks with eyes, then tie the completed Clouser Minnow as needed. I find it very useful to have several dozen hooks with eyes in different sizes tied and ready to go.

Step 1. Place the hook, Mustad 3906B, upright in the vise. Secure the thread on the shank, approximately 1/3 of the way back from the hook eye, and cover the spot with a few wraps of thread to provide a base for Step 2.
Step 2. Place the metal eyes on the first 1/3 of the hook shank. Leave enough space between the metal eyes and the hook eye to attach the wing materials and make a proper head for the fly.
Step 3. Secure it by wrapping the thread diagonally across the eyes, alternating wraps from the left and right side of the metal eyes to straighten them. The thread wraps will form an "X" cross the center of the dumbbell.
To tighten the diagonal "X" wraps, wind the thread around the base of the metal eyes-- on top of the hook shank--in a circular motion. Finish by wrapping the thread around the hook shank in front of the metal eyes and secure with half-hitches. Apply a drop of head cement, super glue, or Sally Hansen's Hard- As-Nails on the wraps to hold the metal eyes to the shank.
Step 4. Place the wing/tail material that will become the bottom (or belly) color on top of the hook. The length should be determined by the species you intend to fish for (shorter for toothy fish such as trout; longer for bass that take streamer flies head first).
Secure the bucktail (shown here), or other material, between the eye of the hook and the eyes and wrap the thread forward to create a cone-shaped head. Pull the material across the cleavage between the two eyes then wrap the thread to behind the eyes.
Step 5. Holding the material up, spiral-wrap over it approximately two-thirds the length of the shank-- usually aligned with the hook shank. Securing the material this way keeps it on top of the hook shank, helping to keep it from twisting and causing an "underwrap" while casting.
Turn the hook over in the vise so the hook point is riding up. Tie in your choice of flash material--silver, gold, pearl, or a combination. When the fly is completed, trim the flash so that it extends just beyond the tips of the body material.
Secure a second, equal length of wing material (double the amount) in front of the hook eyes and wrap the thread forward to the hook eye, completing the head of the fly. As for colors, you can use a combination here such as chartreuse in the middle and blue on top, or pink in the middle and olive on top (to make a Little Rainbow Trout). Finish wrapping the head and seal it with head cement.
Note: When using synthetics such as Superhair and Ultrahair, Clouser ties all of the materials beneath the hook shank to provide the necessary baitfish profile.