The Clouser Minnow has got to be one of the most versatile baitfish imitations. It has caught dozens of species of fish, worldwide. It’s also a natural progression of streamer patterns leveling up from the venerable woolly bugger. However, I’ll bet you’ve been tying it wrong.
Bob Clouser has videos out there of how to tie his own creation and, at times, it’s vastly different from other iterations of the fly. The renditions may produce, but there are some benefits of the original.
Bob will be the first to say that the biggest mistake to this pattern is crowding the eye with the eyes. Splitting up the hook into “thirds” and then starting the thread at the first 1/3 of the hook (nearest to the eye) is the correct placement. Begin with the thread this point and build up a little bump.
Secure the eyes to the hook with cross-wraps and then wrap your thread under the eyes but above the hook shank and pull snugly, cinching the thread around the dumbell. Make sure the eyes are perpendicular to the hook. Once satisfied make wraps up to the half-way-point between the hook eye and the dumbell eyes.
Start with a 1/2 pencil-width clump of bucktail, snip it from the hyde, and clean the short hairs. Then, measure the length from the hook eye rearward. I typically want a length of hair that’s almost two times as long as the hook shank. At this point, snip the hair squarely. Place the bucktail on top of the hook shank and make a loose wrap around the bucktail and then make consecutively tighter wraps up to the eye of the hook. As you can see above, there is not a big build-up of hair and thread this way.
Take your thread directly rearward and make one wrap around the hair and the hook shank behind the eyes. This produces a “ramp” of hair in front of the eyes. While holding the hair in your left hand, make spiraling wraps with your thread into the bend of the hook and then make spiraling wraps up to the back of the eyes.
Now, take your thread and pull it to the front of the fly and make a few wraps where the bucktail was gathered before inverting the fly. If the previous steps were done correctly, you should be able to see the hook shank on top of the bucktail.
Next, take a couple strands of your favorite flash material and double it around the thread. Make a couple tight rearward wraps until where the bucktail was originally captured with thread. Gently split the flash material evenly between the hook point.
Finally, take about the same amount of bucktail as we did before and repeat those steps of cleaning, measuring, and securing the bucktail to the top of the hook shank. Again, capture the hair at the same point as the previous hair and then make tight wraps towards the eye. What you’re left with is a somewhat slender nose without the bulk of other methods.
Tying the fly the original way will do a couple of things; it will ride with the hook point up and will result in somewhat of a “jigging” motion. But, the ramp of hair on the bottom of the fly and the gathering of the bottom bucktail on top of the shank will act as a keel with the broad “sail” of the top bucktail will impart a swimming motion to the fly. This swimming motion can make a big difference and one that is enhanced by this method.
Tie a couple of these up and you’ll have the continued success of this classic fly pattern. Try them with different weights and amounts of hair, but remember, sometimes less is more.
Thread: UTC 140 – White
Hook: Mustad S71SNP-DT, Sizes 4 – 1/0
Belly and Wing: Dyed Northern Bucktail
Flash: Krystle Flash
Eyes: Lead Dumbell