Friday, January 20, 2017

The Clouser Minnow

From my article in this month's Coastal Angler Magazine:
If you’re new to the sport of saltwater fly fishing, and especially if Santa just brought you a new tying vise for Christmas, please read this column carefully.  The green and white fly in this photo is called a Clouser Minnow.  It is the single best streamer ever invented and if your entire box is filled with nothing but this pattern, in a variety of different colors and sizes, you’re in great shape.  Every single gamefish that swims in SW Florida will eat a Clouser Minnow.

Here’s a little history for you.  Bob Clouser originally created his Minnow to catch smallmouth bass from the Susquehanna River near his hometown of Harrisburg, PA in 1987.  Since people have been tying flies for centuries, that makes this pattern an absolute newcomer in the sport.  A short time later, legendary angler Lefty Kreh brought the Clouser Minnow down to Florida and in just three years caught 63 different species on it.  His current tally is over 100 species.  

The secret to the success of the Clouser Minnow is the effortless way it mimics a wounded baitfish darting through the water.  The lead dumbbell eyes give it a slight bouncing action that happens naturally every time the fly is stripped.  On a #2 hook it’s the same size as a small pilchard or large glass minnow, two baitfish that are the favorite food of almost every predator along our coast.  Scale it up a bit and it can imitate a mullet or even a needlefish for the deeper water species.  

I don’t need to go into the details about tying the Clouser Minnow.  Google and YouTube will take care of that for you.  This is without a doubt the easiest pattern you’ll ever have to tie and that’s all the more reason to love it.  It’s nothing more than a couple small clumps of bucktail, some crystal flash and a dumbbell eye wrapped on a hook.  I can whip out an almost flawless Clouser in less than a minute even though tying flies has never really been one of my passions.  I do it mainly for economics and these patterns only cost me about .25 cents each in hooks and materials.  That’s a nice savings from the $2.75 to $4.99 that Minnows usually sells for at fly shops or online. 

You’re obviously unlimited in the color combinations for this fly but my main choice is chartreuse and white, which does a near perfect job of looking like a glass minnow in the water.  Brown and white is a close second since this looks a bit more like a shrimp.  Solid white Clousers work great on snook.  I’ve tied them on hooks as small as #6 for spooky Caribbean bonefish and up to 5/0 for Key West sharks.  My lifetime species count isn’t as impressive as Lefty Kreh’s but the only inshore fish I haven’t personally caught on a Clouser is the notoriously difficult permit, but I have seen that done by one of my clients.  

So sit down at your vice and start filling your brand new fly box up with Clouser Minnows.  It won’t take long and it definitely won’t cost you a lot of money.  And be sure to go out and use them.  You’ll be surprised at how many different species you can add to your own list of fish caught on this one fly.