The Clouser Minnow (or Clouser Deep Minnow) is an astonishing series of patterns.
It doesn’t look, at first glance, like a fly that would attract just about every game fish on the planet, in both fresh and salt water. It’s one of the simpler patterns to tie and the original is just bucktail, krystal flash, with those silly looking giant lead eyes perched up on top.
And yet it does exactly that. In terms of total number of species caught, I don’t think anything can hold a candle to the Clouser Minnow.
Don’t take my word for it though. Legendary flyfisherman Lefty Kreh was quoted as saying:
I believe that this pattern is the most important and effective underwater fly developed in the past 20 years. During the past three years I have been able to catch 63 species of fish in fresh and saltwaters around the world with this pattern!
Apparently, Lefty later revised that number to 87 species. I’m not sure that I could even name 87 different species of game fish, let alone catch them all on a single pattern. Not even a Clouser Minnow.
What Does a Clouser Minnow Imitate?
Essentially, the Clouser Minnow is a baitfish – any baitfish. Depending on the colors and variations, it can imitate just about any species that a larger game fish is likely to be interested in.
Bob Clouser, the pattern’s inventor notes:
My main goal in designing that type of fly was to mimic the movement of an escaping baitfish.
Clouser notes further the large lead eyes don’t look like anything you’d see on a baitfish. What they do, however, is immediately sink the fly when stripping is stopped. This creates a constant motion seen in few other streamer patterns.
When the fly is retrieved, it rises and darts forward. When you pause, it drops or darts to the side. It never stops moving.
The History Of The Clouser Minnow
The Clouser Minnow originated out of traditional bucktail streamer patterns – the kind that have been around since the advent of streamer fishing.
Bob Clouser developed the Minnow pattern in 1987, to target Smallmouth Bass on Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna River.
The story is that during the mid 1980’s, both Clouser and Tom Shmuecker of the Wapsi Fly Company were both trying to get streamers to run deeper in the water, with Schmueker targeting large trout and Clouser targeting bass.
Schmueker had been experimenting with bead chain for eyes but had found them to be too light. The addition of lead to the inside of the hollow beads proved effective but time consuming. Eventually, he developed a mold to cast lead dumbbell shaped eyes that could be simply tied to the back of a hook shank.
Those lead dumbbell eyes proved to be exactly what Bob Clouser had been searching for and not long after, the Clouser Minnow was born.
How to Fish a Clouser Minnow
Since the Clouser Minnow is a baitfish pattern, you need it to act like a baitfish. After your cast, take in your slack line, keep your rod tip down, and prepare to strip it in quickly.
Keep it moving and erratic. A frightened fish is an appealing fish to a predator.
Bob Clouser (and really, who better to turn to for advise on this fly?) recommends what he calls the “Susquehanna strip”. This involves a full arm length strip done under your reel.
You should end this long strip with an abrupt stop, which will make your fly dart quickly in the water like an escaping minnow.
When to Fish a Clouser Minnow
Given that Lefty Kreh has used this pattern to catch eighty- seven different game fish, you’d be hard pressed to find a time to not use it. Any time you’re reaching for a streamer, the Clouser Minnow should be near the top of your list.
It’s effective for big, piscivorous trout, for bass, for pike, and for saltwater flats fishing.
An added benefit is that, because the lead eyes are tied on the top of the hook, it swims upside down. This means that, in shallow, weedy water, the Clouser can be fished more effectively over the top of weedbeds than traditional streamers.
Variations Of The Clouser Deep Minnow
While the original Clouser Minnow was tied with white or brown bucktail and gold or silver krystal flash, the variety of Clouser Minnows on the market today is virtually endless.
If we include everything with those big dumbbell eyes under the Clouser moniker, there are probably hundreds, or even thousands, of variations.
With that in mind, your local fly shop will be a goldmine. See what they have in stock. Talk to the staff. They’ll know which sized and colors are catching fish.
That is to say, they’ll know which Clouser Minnow variation is catching fish. It’s all but guaranteed that they’ve got some in stock and one variety or another is producing on your home waters.