Fly Fishing with the Clouser Minnow

Complete Guide to Fly Fishing with the Clouser Minnow (Setup, Fish, and Tie)

We are now talking about a fly that has probably caught just about every gamefish known to man and many more other freshwater and saltwater species alike. The Clouser Minnow, AKA the Clouser, has a very highly regarded reputation in the fly-fishing world, and most saltwater anglers won’t leave the house without it.

What’s interesting is that the clouser was originally tied to target smallmouth bass and was adopted for other species with great success. It was needed to get deep down in the water to get to those fish hanging in the column.

Clouser Minnow's drift with Dumbbell eyes down
Clouser Minnow’s drift with Dumbbell eyes down

What makes the clouser so popular is that it can be fished in many different conditions and for many different species. It’s right at home in the surf, a marsh, or under a log near a lake bank.

I like to fish the clouser in the estuaries on an incoming tide. You never know what you may catch, and I am always pleasantly surprised at what comes to the net.

Why the Clouser Minnow is Great

One of the main contributing factors to the success rate of the clouser and its ability to catch almost every fish, is its action. The heavily weighted dumbbell eyes give the fly the extra weight needed to sink fast and almost vertically.

The long bucktail hair provides a beautiful baitfish profile and helps in the swimming action of the fly pattern. A little added flash, I like to tie two to three strands on each side really does help with the overall appearance. I like to tie my clousers in blue over white and chartreuse over white. These two-color combos have caught many fish for me over the years, and I have great confidence when casting them.

A Little History on the Clouser Minnow

The story goes that two fly anglers, Bob Clouser, a river guide and fly shop owner, and Tom Schmuecker, owner of Wapsi Fly Company, combined their ideas for the combined need for a deep swimming streamer pattern.

Being the early 80s, tungsten dumbbell eyes weren’t around yet, so the two had to make a few moves to get the desired weight. Split shot and bath chain eyes didn’t work. They were either too light, or they didn’t stay on the hook for long. Tom decided to make a lead mold for dumbbell eyes and cast a few prototypes. These worked off the bat! The clouser deep minnow was born. The eyes could be tied on tightly and offered enough weight to the fly to get down deep.

The rest is history!

What the two anglers didn’t realize is that their pattern, the Clouser, would go on to become one of the most popular fly patterns in the world and catch over one hundred fish species. A lesson to take from this is that you don’t have to overcomplicate your fly. Make it imitate what you need it to and keep it as simple as possible.

What Fish Does a Clouser Minnow Catch?

Smallmouth Bass Fly Fishing
Smallmouth Bass Fly Fishing

The clouser was originally designed to be a baitfish imitation to target smallmouth bass. The issue that Bob Clouser was having was that he couldn’t get the fly down deep enough and maintain the movement and profile of the fly pattern to get those picky spring bass to eat.

Once they had developed the lead dumbbell eyes, they could get the fly down to the correct depths and keep its movement and profile. This was revolutionary to the success of the fly pattern.

The clouser has caught over 100 fish species, and I’m sure it will catch a few more. This is a very effective pattern to have for both fresh water and salt water. Various color combos and sizes will account for many fish.

Looking to Learn the Tips and Techniques for the Fish You Love to Chase? I’ve Got You Hooked Up Below

How to Setup a Clouser Minnow

The clouser minnow is a baitfish pattern that is fished quite progressively. Most of my clouser fishing, whether for smallmouth bass or saltwater estuaries species, is done on my 8wt rod and reel setup with a wf 9 floating Rio line. I like to overload my 8wt as it’s a little faster than most, and with the winds that we have on my local waters, it really does help.

Setup a Fly Fishing Rod and Reel
Setup a Fly Fishing Rod and Reel

I use a tapered 12–15-foot leader with a fluorocarbon tippet around 3X. As you know, this is a sinking setup, and the clouser gets down quickly. The Fluorocarbon tippet will aid this, giving us the strength, we need without the diameter drag of the line.

What Does the Clouser Minnow Represent

The clouser minnow represents a baitfish. You can tie them in whichever colors and sizes you choose, but they always represent small fry or minnows in whichever waters you fish them.

I have, on occasion, fished them as a crawling crab on a sandbank for a South African Spotted Grunter before. This seemed to get their attention, but I couldn’t get the eat. This is a work in progress, and I will report my findings.

My thoughts were to fish it the same as you would fish for Redfish on the mudbanks. Make the disturbance in the water and mud to get the fish’s attention, then small twitches to get them to eat.

Clouser Minnow Favorite Size and Color

Below are the clouser patterns that I tend to have on me for my saltwater and bass missions. I will also carry a small box with a few smaller clouser patterns, as I will never pass up the opportunity to throw one at a fish that is on the prowl.

Baby Clouser Fly Pattern
Baby Clouser Fly Pattern
Clouser Minnow Fly Pattern
Clouser Minnow Fly Pattern
Bonefish Clouser Fly Pattern
Bonefish Clouser Fly Pattern
  1. Baby Clouser– This is the perfect pattern to throw for smallmouth bass or any predatory freshwater fish, really. The movement and sink rates on these patterns are perfect for those deeper-lying fish.
  2. Clouser Minnow– this is the classic clouser that will catch just about anything. I tie them in chartreuse over white and blue over white for my saltwater missions, and red over black for tigerfish. Never forget this pattern in a plain white version with some flash through the body. It is always lethal.
  3. Bonefish Clouser– A slightly bushier version, this is perfect for bonefish and for the Grunter I mentioned earlier. The bushier pattern sinks slower and pushes more water. They are perfect for those high-sun days on the flats when the water is dropping, and the fish are on the move.

Guide PRO TIP – lead the moving fish with enough space for the fly to sink near the bottom, then give it short, small strips back, giving it that twitching movement.

 

Where to Buy Clouser Minnow

I always say it’s best to support locals where possible. So, if you don’t tie your own flies, then please try to get them from your local fly shop.

If you would like to learn to tie your own flies, then this is a very simple pattern to learn to tie. You don’t need any experience or many materials. Please see below the step-by-step.

How to Tie Clouser Minnow

Materials

Hook- SA210, Bob Clouser classic

Thread- 210 denier flat waxed thread.

Eyes- 4mm tungsten Dumbbells

Body-Silver chenille and Bucktail choice of colors.

Flash- Flashabou (optional)

Recipe

  1. Secure hook in the vice.
  2. Wrap level thread base, finishing 1/3rd from the hook eye.
  3. Tie on your dumbbell eyes and secure them with a few tight wraps. You can, at this point, add a drop of super glue to the wrappings for extra strength.
  4. Tie in the chenille at the rear of the hook, just before the bend.
  5. Wrap tread forward, ending in front of the eyes.
  6. Wrap the chenille forward, and it ties off in front of the eye
  7. Invert the hook, or if you have a rotary vice, turn it upside down.
  8. Tie in your white bucktail first. The length is up to you. I like them to be about double the length of the hook.
  9. Tie in the second color and the flash at this point.
  10. Finish the fly with a good solid thread head.
  11. Tie off and apply head cement.

PRO TIP- you can switch threads and make the head red should you wish; this is a great trigger for most fish.

One Last Cast with the Clouser Minnow

The Clouser minnow is undoubtedly one of those patterns that we all should carry in our fly box.

They are very effective in almost all conditions, and best of all, they catch loads of fish.

Happy fishing!


Kyle Knight writer Guide Recommended

Kyle Knight

Fly fishing has been my passion and pursuit for the past 20 years. I am a South African based fly fisherman who loves nothing more than spending a day on the water. Fly fishing is more than catching fish, being in the outdoors with good friends and family is what it is all about.

Sources and Credits

  • A special thanks to Umpqua Flies – link for photo usage. World’s Best Flies – Umpqua
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