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Clouser Minnow Pattern & Tying Instructions

Fly Tying Recipe: Clouser Minnow
Mustad 34007, size 2/0
White, 140-denier or 6/0
Nontoxic painted dumbbells, large
Sally Hansen Hard as Nails
Natural white bucktail, two hook lengths
Gold Krystal Flash, 3 or 4 strands
Olive bucktail, two hook lengths
Tying thread
Sally Hansen Hard as Nails, 2 coats
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Video Transcript:

Bob Clouser’s Clouser Minnow certainly needs no introduction. My guess is that it’s caught more species of fish, both fresh and saltwater, than any other fly. Here’s a saltwater version tied in my favorite colors, olive and white with just a hint of gold for flash.

I’ve found the Mustad 34007 in size 2/0 works exceptionally well for most inshore and near shore fly fishing situations. It’s a good all-around choice. Start by getting the hook firmly secured in your tying vise. My vise jaws have grooves that allow larger hooks to be held exceptionally tight without damaging the more delicate jaw tips. There’s nothing worse or more dangerous than a vise that doesn’t hold a hook securely when tying pressure is applied.

For thread, you can use clear mono but I greatly prefer 140 Denier Ultra thread in white, especially when it’s loaded on a long-shank bobbin that can be adjusted to offer a substantial amount of thread tension.

Start your thread on the hook shank immediately behind the hook eye and take warps rearward before snipping or breaking off the tag. Continue taking wraps down the hook until you’re about halfway between the back edge of the hook eye and the point. This will mark the location of the dumbbell eyes. To me, eye location is one of the most important aspects when it comes to producing good looking, well-proportioned Clousers.

There are a ton of different options for dumbbell eyes. Here, I’m going to go with the large, non-toxic painted variety. They’re not too expensive, look good and can save you some time. Position the eyes right over that key tie-in point and make a couple of cross-wraps in both directions to secure them to the top of the hook shank. While doing this, make sure to occasionally take a full wrap or two around only the hook shank, as this really helps to hold the dumbbell firmly in place. Everyone seems to have their own series of wraps to best secure the eyes. I like to follow the cross-wraps with wraps coming up and over one side of the dumbbell, down under the hook shank, then up and over the other. I’ll follow these with a number of flat circular wraps around just the base of the eyes to pull in and tighten all the previous wraps. End with your thread right in front of the eyes. It’s a good time to look at the fly head on and make adjustments so the eyes are level. Turn the hook upside-down using your vise’s rotary function or by reorienting it in the vise jaws to expose the wraps beneath the eyes. Using whatever adhesive you prefer, here, Sally Hansen Hard As Nails, apply a liberal coating to the wraps and then turn the hook back so the eyes are once again on top. Relocate your tying thread so it’s halfway between the dumbbell eyes and the back of the hook eye. This also is an important location.

Most Clousers have a dark back and a lighter belly. Here, I’ve chosen dark olive and natural white. The belly always gets tied in first. I like my Clousers long and lean so I prefer bucktails with longer hair. You don’t want to use hair from down near the base of the tail as it’s more hollow and tends to flare too much under tight thread wraps. The stuff about midway up the tail is usually a good compromise between length and hair quality. Using larger tying scissors, snip an ample clump free right down by the skin, trying to keep the tips aligned in the process. Getting the correct amount of hair comes with experience more than anything else. Run your fingers about 3/4’s of the way to the hair tips and then squeeze. This will allow you to pull out the shorter, lower hairs. The more of these you can get rid of, the better. I don’t stack to align the tips but you certainly can if you want.

To me, the longer the bucktail on a Clouser the better but 2 full hook lengths can be used as a general guideline. Snip the uneven butt ends off square to whatever length you’ve chosen and pull them out of your fingertips to expose about 1/4” which will give you ample room for tie-in. Give your bobbin a counterclockwise spin. This will encourage the thread to jump rearward when you begin taking wraps. Place the butts of the bucktail on top of the hook shank at a 45 degree angle. The lower butt ends should be well in front of the tying thread while the upper ends should contact the back of the hook eye. Really take your time to get this positioning right, it will be worth it in the end. Take a wrap around the bundle and the hook, trying to keep the thread at a 90 degree angle to the hair. Make 2 loose collecting wraps and then pull up with your tying thread, all the while squeezing tight on the bundle with the thumb and the index finger of your left hand. Continue making good, firm wraps forward, toward the eye, to secure the butts to the hook shank. This procedure should allow you to form a nice smooth taper right down to the hook eye without your thread making a suicidal leap off of a bucktail cliff to the hook shank below. Take a few wraps rearward and then spin your bobbin clockwise to cord up and strengthen the thread. Now, get hold of the bucktail with your left hand and pull it down over the dumbbell eyes, toward the hook shank. Take thread wraps rearward on the head of the fly until you reach bare bucktail and then run your thread along the bottom of the hook shank to behind the eyes. While holding the hair up, take 3 or 4 wraps to bind it to the top of the hook immediately behind the eyes. Follow these with open spiral wraps rearward. Don’t make the wraps too tight, as they’re intended to simply channel the bucktail down the top of the hook shank. You don’t want them to flare the hair too much. When you get to just past the hook point, take a couple of wraps and then reverse direction and make open spiral wraps back up the hook. When you reach the eyes, once again, duck under and bring your thread all the way up to behind the hook eye and take wraps rearward to secure it.

Gold Krystal Flash is used to add a little sparkle to the pattern. Snip 3 or 4 strands free from the hank. Rotate the fly so the underside of the hook shank is facing up. Fold the Krystal Flash in half around your tying thread to double the number of strands and then position the fold on the thread wraps like so. Take wraps to get the flash pointed rearward and take a few more to secure it. You can then position roughly equal amounts on either side of the hook.

For the darker back of the fly, snip a slightly larger clump of the olive bucktail free from the hide and strip out the lower shorter hairs just as you did with the white bucktail. Measure so the tips are aligned with the white hair of the belly, and keeping that measurement, snip the butts off square. Once again, leave about 1/4” standing proud of your fingertips. The same tie-in procedure is used here as before. Give the bobbin a counterclockwise spin, position the hair at a 45 degree angle to the shank. Take 2 loose thread collecting wraps at a 90 degree angle to the hair and pull straight up with a third wrap. Make tight thread wraps all the way to the back edge of the hook eye. If you’ve done everything right, you should be left with a nice, smooth, cone-shaped head. As you did with the Krystal Flash, separate equal amounts of the darker bucktail onto either side of the hook. A few loose collecting wraps will help to channel the hair so it runs more closely to the hook shank. Continue taking thread wraps to build up and smooth out the head of the fly. You can then follow this with a 4 or 5 turn whip finish and maybe even a second one for good measure. With the whip finishes complete, snip or cut your tying thread free. To reinforce the fly, use whatever cement or adhesive you prefer. I’m once again using Hard as Nails. Coat the open spiral wraps behind the eyes, the bare bucktail on top of them and the thread wraps that form the head of the fly. With the Hard as Nails, I’ll allow one coat to sink in and harden and then follow it up with a second coat to create a smoother finish.

If I could have only one fly to fish in saltwater, this would be it and nothing else even comes close.