Clouser Minnow

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Clouser Minnow

Postby nielson » Sun Mar 30, 2008 1:23 pm

The Clouser Minnow


The Clouser Minnow is one of those workhorse flies – one that if it’s all you had, you’d be just fine. It is basically a bucktail streamer with lead barbell eyes tied on the top of the hook shank. With the lead eyes on top, the fly rides hook point up in the water. Like many of the other flies recommended to be used to entice river bass, it can be tied in a wide variety of color combinations and with a bunch of different materials. There is plenty to be said about this fly but before we get to that, here’s a basic recipe and some incredibly tedious tying instructions:

Hook: Mustad 3366, size 4-1/0
Weight: Lead barbell eyes
Top Wing: dark colored bucktail
Flash: Krystal Flash
Bottom Wing: light colored bucktail

Tying instructions:
1. Place the hook in your vise as you would for tying up any fly. Lay down a thread base with the center about 1/3 the hook shank length back from the hook eye.
2. Mount the barbell eyes on top of the hook at that 1/3 distance from the hook eye. (If you don’t, you’ll have a difficult time getting a nice head tied in.) Use a figure-eight wrap to secure the eyes (about 6 complete tight wraps). To tighten it up even more, take another 4-6 wraps underneath the eyes but staying on top of the hook shank. This will pull the figure-eight wraps closer in to the shank and the eyes. If need be, grab the eyes and give them a wiggle to set them straight on top of the shank.
3. Bring the thread in front of the eyes.
4. Optional: put a dab of superglue on the underside of the wraps.
5. Preparing the bottom wing (it’s tied in on top of the hook shank but since the fly rides point up, it becomes the bottom of the fly):
a. Cut a bunch of hair, a little larger than a wooden matchstick, from a light colored bucktail (white, yellow, tan, etc).
b. Remove the very short hairs and even the tips a bit. Hold it near the tips in one hand to remove the short hairs. The short hairs will fall out or you can fan the butt with a finger to help remove them. Even the tips by holding the butt, pulling out the longer hairs and then putting them back in the bunch and aligning the tips. You don’t want it perfect but you don’t want any real long hairs and the real short ones will just add unneeded bulk at the head. You’ll be passing the bunch from hand to hand a number of times before you get it the way you want it – be patient.
c. If you don’t end up with a match stick size bunch after dicking around with it, add some more hair or start over.
6. Tying in the bottom wing:
a. Lay the butts at a slight angle (tips up a bit and butts lower) in front of the eyes with the bunch split on both sides of the hook shank. The butts should extend to the hook eye or a bit beyond it.
b. Tie in the butts with a few tight wraps close to the front of the eyes. As you do so, keep hold of the bunch.
c. Continuing to hold the bunch, wrap the thread under or over the eyes so that it is in back of the eyes and then take a few somewhat firm but not tight wraps close to the back of the eyes while still holding the bunch. This binds the hair bunch over the eyes and between the barbells with wraps in front and behind the eyes. Holding the bunch slightly at an up angle helps keep the bunch on top of the shank where it needs to be.
d. Now take some open wraps toward the hook bend and stop when you get slightly past the mid-section of the shank. Take one or two normal wraps, you can now let go of the tips, and then take an equal number of open wraps (as done with the earlier open wraps) back to the back of the eyes. This results in a couple of criss-crossed wraps.
3. Take a couple more normal wraps just behind the eyes and then wrap the thread back in front of the eyes. Put in a half-hitch.
4. Pick up your scissors and trim the butts as best you can in to a taper from the hook eye to the barbells. Don’t leave any hair butts extend beyond the back of the hook eye.
5. Grab your bobbin again and make some wraps around the butts to form a taper to the eye. End up with your thread next to the front of the eyes. Put in another half hitch or whip finish knot but don’t cut the thread.
6. Remove the hook from the vise, flip it upside down and reattach it in the vise with the point up.
7. Cut a bunch of Krystal Flash (as much as you like) and tie it in on top of the hook (which was the bottom in the previous steps) and in front of the eyes. The flash should extend beyond the tips of the hair bunch you already tied in. Trim the butts so they do not extend passed the hook eye.
8. Prepare another bunch of dark bucktail (brown, olive, etc) as you did for the first wing.
9. Tie this new bunch in on top of the flash and in front of the eyes and put in a half-hitch. Again, extend the butts at least to the hook eye. The tips of this bunch should extend beyond the tips of the first bunch.
10. Trim the butts of this top wing, tapering them to the eye as you did with the bottom wing.
11. Grab you bobbin again and begin wrapping the head to completely cover all the butts in front of the eyes and to form a neatly tapered head.
12. Whip finish the head and apply cement to the entire head.
13. Optional: give the head and eyes a coating of epoxy.

Random thoughts and ideas:
1. Clouser Origin. According to almost all accounts, the fly was originated by Bob Clouser, Pennsylvania fly shop owner and guide on the Susquehanna River, around 1984. It was apparently designed as a smallmouth fly.
2. The barbell eyes (also referred to as dumbell or hourglass eyes) are the real key to the uniqueness of the fly. Tom Schmucker of Wapsi fly Company, Mountain Home Arkansas, is widely known to be the guy that first came up with the idea and the first to put it on the market in the early 1980s.
3. Although originally developed as a smallmouth bass fly, it wasn't long before it became known as a saltwater fly. In fact, until recently. if you were looking to buy a clouser from a mail order outfitter or a fly shop, you had better look in the saltwater selections and you could expect to find it tied only on stainless steel saltwater hooks. That is changing and you now find it offered tied on standard bronzed hooks and in sizes for trout and other freshwater game fishes.
4. Hooks: You can tie a Clouser on just about any type hook but the standard type hook used has a round eye, short stiff shank and a round bend in stainless or bronzed steel. Don't let not having the standard hook keep you from tying up a Clouser - use what you have and it will work just fine.
5. If you have to settle on one color pattern, make it a chartreuse over white -- it's a classic.
6. Materials. While bucktail is the usual material for Clousers you won't be wrong with any material, artificial or natural. It just needs to be long fibers.
7. Here's an interesting variation by Bill Bell (bbell) which has some pretty good logic behind it: "Many years ago, I started tying the clouser without the bottom wing because it tended to wrap around the hook every dozen or so casts. You can actually tie a layered top wing if you want the dark/light contrast, but I'm lazy and usually just tie in a single color. Something to think about if you've ever experienced the fouling issue, and it eliminates a step in the tying process and makes a simple pattern even easier..."

Here's an interesting opposing view on the evolution of the Clouser Minnow. This taken from a post at Fly Anglers On Line website.

Re: How about a little "clouser" history lesson?
Posted: Sep 2, 2007 3:01 pm

In the '40's in order to add weight to the classic and ever popular bucktail streamers, Joseph Bates added bead chain eyes. He stated that the "new" streamer didn't deserve a "new" name or to be named after him, as he had only added bead chain. (Check out Bates' large streamer book... it holds up well even today!)

In the mid-1980's, like Bates before him, Tom Schmucker of Wapsi, saw the need for an even heavier means of weighting that "classic bead chain streamer", and Tom designed, manufactured, and sold small lead dumb bell eyes to be used in the place of the bead chain on the every popular, small bucktail streamers.

These small lead eyes sold like crazy and soon every tyer in the country, or at least every FFF tyer that attended the Southern Council Conclave in Mountain Home, AR, where the dumbbell eyes were exhibited and sold, quickly adapted the new lead dumbbell eyes and our boxes filled with these new heavier and more effective "Bucktail Streamers".

About 18 -24 months, or so later, Fly Fisherman magazine came out with an article by Lefty Kreh, in which Lefty described the so called "Clouser Minnow"... named after Lefty's long time close friend and well known guide, Bob Clouser.

When that magazine arrived at my friend Bill's house, he opened it up and said "Look at this!" He then walked over to his tying bench and opened one of several steamer boxes - a fly box that contained about 150 "Clousers"... many of them well-worn from catching fish. Bill stated, “I didn’t know that we‘ve been tying CLOUSERS! Where the hell did that come from?”

Now, Lefty is a wonderful guy, and I also hear the Bob Clouser is a fine person. Lefty once told me that he always does what he can "to help out his friends"... as well we all should. But as a tyer who has had my innovative patterns credited in print to people to whom I demo.ed that pattern, I still have a hard time with this whole “clouser” deal.

It goes to show that regardless of which tyer comes up with a new pattern, technique, or innovation, it is the person who first has that pattern, technique, or innovation PUBLISHED WITH THEIR NAME ON IT that gets the CREDIT!

'Cuz ya' can't put the genie back in the bottle, once it escapes... I know - I’ve tried.

So, in answer to your question, “what a clouser like minnow with bead chain be called?” or for that matter any weight-forward Bucktail style streamer?

You can:

A) follow the lead of Joseph Bates and Tom Schmucker and say that the change from bead chain to lead eyes was not enough of a variation to warrant a “new name” – therefore this pattern should still be designated by its classic name, “Bucktail Streamers”.
B) buck the tide and call them after the man who designed the lead eyes and first placed them on a bucktail streamer, therefore this pattern should be known as “Schmuckers”, or
C) honor the man who’s lifelong friend “took care of him” and ignore A and B and call ANY forward-weighted streamer… whether with bead chain, lead dumbbell eyes, or coneheads after Bob Clouser. After all that’s what the “experts” in the magazines do…

The choice is yours. Bowfin47
Last edited by nielson on Sun Jul 05, 2009 9:22 am, edited 17 times in total.
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Postby celticfisherman » Sun Mar 30, 2008 1:27 pm

Those are sweet looking. Clousers catch every thing.
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Postby Jay » Sun Mar 30, 2008 1:39 pm

Very nice Schmucker's Minnows. That Bluegill imitation is a beauty.
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Postby GonetoSeed » Sun Mar 30, 2008 5:27 pm

What strikes me is the composition of the photo. High Blue Bird sky background. A tree limb (Although probably where these will ultimately end up). Very artsy, fartsy if you ask me.
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Postby nielson » Sun Mar 30, 2008 5:46 pm

We're working on this for the GRF River Flies Postee/linkee deal. The old link **** the bed so I thought I'd give it a go myself.

And yes, in the trees for sure. Was out yesterday on local flow stomping around and did exactly that. Did manage a couple crappie and a scrappy 13" riverbass (A dink in some folks book but I'll take whatever I can get).

Your pal, Jim
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Postby bbell » Thu Apr 03, 2008 12:32 am

Many years ago, I started tying the clouser without the bottom wing because it tended to wrap around the hook every dozen or so casts. You can actually tie a layered top wing if you want the dark/light contrast, but I'm lazy and usually just tie in a single color. Something to think about if you've ever experienced the fouling issue, and it eliminates a step in the tying process and makes a simple pattern even easier...
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Postby nielson » Thu Apr 03, 2008 8:06 am

Thanks, Bill, good idea and I know what you mean about that tangle issue. It's a classic problem with most streamers, more so when tied on longer shank hooks.

Without your permission, I lifted your tip and put it up in the main topic, above. Let me know if you wish it withdrawn.

And as to this topic, I'm thinking of adding the half and half here as a variation. If anyone can get me some nice photos and any comments, I'd appreciate it.

thanks, Jim
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Postby GonetoSeed » Thu Apr 03, 2008 8:41 am

Wow. Great detail.

Of course you could have said to just slap a pair of barbell eyes and some bucktail on a hook and go fish it. :)
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