Invented by the legendary freshwater guru Bob Clouser, the Clouser Minnow is one of the most important and versatile patterns in all of fly fishing.
Often referred to as the fly angler's equivalent of a bucktail jig, countless species have fallen to the Clouser's darting, jigging action. I quickly became a fan of the fly many years ago and have successfully used it on species like trout, largemouth bass, stripers, snook, and false albacore. Despite all the fancy streamers available today, variations of the Clouser are always stocked in my boxes 365 days a year.
Not only is the basic version of the Clouser Minnow extremely simplistic, but it also offers a great basis for a multitude of custom tweaks. While I do fish a standard, basic Clouser in some instances, I more often fish one with a little added spice to it. I've seen a lot of different custom touches to these flies over the years, but four upgrades in particular have really stuck with me because they can really help boost both my confidence and overall success rates.
Let's take a quick look at my four favorite Clouser Minnow customizations...
Adding a flash tail to a Clouser is a very common modification. With this done, the fly is typically then called a "Flashtail Clouser." Tying in long strands of Flashabou or similar material at the base of the hook shank gives the fly not only shimmer and more undulating action, but also makes the fly appear bigger since the flash usually extends past the tips of the bucktail to some degree.
While the long strands of flash can foul around the hook at times, you can help lessen the issue by coating a short portion of the base of the flash with a product like Loon's UV Clear Fly Finish. This will help stiffen up the base to prevent excess fouling but still lets most of the fibers' lengths flow freely in the water.
Besides flash, adding hackle feathers is a favorite of mine, especially for bass fishing. A wad of several feathers can be tied on, but I prefer going with just two for several reasons: it keeps the fly more castable, the fly will sink faster, and I feel that two feathers more closely emulates the tail of a fish or even the pincers of a crawdad. Being a big conventional bass angler, many jig trailers I use have two flaps or appendages that hang down below the jig skirt, so the two feather idea kind of goes along with that as well.
Just like the flash tail, a hackle tail can also add length and swimming action to the Clouser. For added appeal, I sometimes like to use grizzly hackle since the bars on the feathers add contrast and help imitate fish like bluegill which often have subtle bars down their sides. You can also play around with feather thickness – thicker hackle for a beefier look, thinner hackle for more action and a slimmer appearance. Finally, if the hackle has natural curvature to it, tie in the feathers so they are angled outward away from each other.
The Clousers I tied in the distant past used very simple eyes of either the plain dumbbell or bead chain variety. Of course they caught plenty of fish, but I've long since moved on from those and now prefer painted eyes.
Whether they really increase my success or not, painted eyes add visual appeal to the whole package which at the very least helps to boost my confidence. There are a bunch of colors to choose from for imitating specific prey or to simply add some vibrance, but a staple at my tying bench are red eyes which I use on a variety of Clouser types. This color also suggests blood which predators love to key into.
Painted eyes are often made from materials like lead, aluminum, and brass, but tungsten eyes are another interesting option. Tungsten is very dense and therefore heavier than the other materials, so if you want to help your Clousers to sink as fast as possible then these are a smart pick.
A jig hook is ideal for a Clouser. A jig hook certainly isn't a necessity when tying one, but it does offer some benefits that we previously discussed in a post found right here.
Just because you most often see a Clouser tied one or two different ways doesn't mean you can't stray from those standards. Like many different patterns, this is a fly that's infinitely customizable with possibilities extending far beyond what's mentioned here. From weed guards, to mixing in different materials, to using markers to add detail to the body, don't hesitate to experiment and have some fun!
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