With all of the streamer choices available today, the Clouser Minnow remains a top pick for myself and countless other fly anglers. Often referred to as "the fly angler's bucktail jig," it's simple construction and enticing action makes it both easy to tie and catch fish with. While it indeed catches fish quite well in stock form, how can it be made even more attractive?
If you tie flies, you have the power to customize. Just because a fly is often tied in one style or in certain colors doesn't mean things can't be toyed with. Often times, playing with the ingredients can result in a fly that works better on the bodies of water you fish. In this case, it just so happens the Clouser Minnow is one of the easiest and most perfect flies to trick out!
Beyond just changing the color scheme to match local forage, changing or adding components to a Clouser can make it a much fishier fly. I used to be stuck in the rut of just using one or two styles of the fly, but over time I began to play around with things a bit more. The result? I definitely noticed getting a few more bites, and on top of that the fly often just looked better in the water to me. When I have extreme confidence in a fly my success rate tends to increase as well, so I'm all for that!
This is by no means the end-all list, but the following are a few different ways to easily customize a standard Clouser Minnow for more bites....
Add Long Flash: Adding in long strips of flash can really turn up the action. Doing so transforms the fly into what is commonly referred to as a "Flashtail Clouser." The key here is to make sure the flash extends past the ends of the body fibers. How long you go is up to you, but I tend to make mine only extend out about an inch. When tied long in this fashion, these flashy fibers will shimmer and flow as the fly is pulled along, thus making the fly more visible as well as giving it an increasingly tantalizing swimming action.
Quite a bit of flash can be tied-in for use in dirtier water, but for most clear to stained conditions I tend to not go overboard with the amount. The most common type of flash that's used here is likely Flashabou, as it's flat, relatively limp, and produces great underwater action. Tailoring the color to the water clarity and local forage is a good bet, but also don't be afraid to sometimes try an "attractor" color that grabs extra attention. A little added contrast can be a good thing!
Feather tail: I've always been a fan of Flashtail Clousers, but more recently I've become a huge believer in adding hackle feathers to the rear of the fly. Just like with Flashabou, tying these feathers in so they extend just past the body fibers lets the feather tips flutter and move around in the water without making the fly too big or prone to fouling. A few feathers can be used at once, but I find that simply tying-in two of them gets the job done and adds that nice fish tail or crayfish claw look I'm after.
Eyes: I'm a huge stickler when it comes to choosing eyes for my Clouser Minnows. Sure, regular bead chain or unpainted dumbbell eyes can work fine (I'll often use them when fishing places like local private waters where the fish aren't very picky), but I much prefer to use a detailed/colored eye in many other situations. Choosing the right eyes really helps complete the overall package by complimenting or even contrasting with the fly's body color(s) and simply just looking more lifelike. If all else fails, red can be a great choice—the color of blood!
In addition to color, look at what the eyes are made from. The bulkier your fly the slower it'll sink, so sink rate must be taken into account. While lead eyes are quite prevalent, ones made from tungsten will offer a slightly better sink rate to help any Clouser—bulky or not—get down into the strike zone quicker.
Jig Hook: This style of hook looks damn cool and has real benefits. So as not to repeat myself, I'll simply link my recent article on this subject, right here!
Blood: Any sign of weakness draws in predators, and blood is a huge attractant of hungry critters. Typically when tying Clousers of a medium to larger size, I like to add a touch of red around the "throat" of the fly. Whether it looks like gills, blood, or an open wound, that little flash of red as the fly moves along just might help draw an extra strike. Something like several small strands of red Krystal Flash or a tiny tuft of red marabou is all it takes!
Rattles: Conventional anglers use rattling baits a ton, and fly anglers can do the same by securing a small rattle chamber to the hook. It may not produce the same super-loud rattle as something like a lipless crankbait, but any added noise can help in dirtier water. A small, slim chamber works well on larger Clousers and doesn't interfere too badly with tying-in the bottom body fibers. Note: Tie the rattle in on the back side of the hook (the same side as the eyes) to help keep the fly upright in the water.