For any saltwater fly fisherman the Clouser Minnow is simply indispensable. It’s an easy fly to tie for beginners, so please read on to learn how to tie a Clouser Minnow.
As far as versatility goes, no other pattern comes close to the Clouser. Not the Woolly Bugger, Semper, or even the Alphlexo Crab. Nothing. The Clouser Minnow is deadly in both freshwater and saltwater environments.
If we suffered refusals or were targeting picky and spooky fish during my guiding days in Seychelles, I always turned to the Clouser Minnow to save the day. It’s truly amazing seeing this simple fly produce the goods.
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- Difficulty Level: Easy
- Tying Time: 3 – 5 Minutes
- Materials: Saltwater hook, thread, weighted eyes, super glue, bucktail, flash, and UV resin
- Hook Size: 6 – 8/0
What Is A Clouser Minnow?
The Clouser Minnow is a baitfish imitation developed by Bob Clouser in the late 80s. Originally designed for freshwater use, Lefty Kreh soon got hold of this pattern and claimed to have caught more than 80 different fish species with it.
Today, it’s one of the most widely used saltwater patterns around the world.
Although the fly is very simple to tie, I believe it has two key characteristics that make it so effective. The first is the weighted eyes. When retrieved, they give the fly a jigging action.
The second thing I love about the fly is that it’s tied relatively sparse. This means that the fly sinks quicker and has a more natural action in the water. Sparse flies also work better in areas that have higher fishing pressure.
How To Fish A Clouser Minnow
A Clouser Minnow is a baitfish imitation. Always try to mimic the action, speed, and direction you would expect from the bait.
Cast out to likely fish-holding structure, drop-offs, and current lines. Once you have made the cast, take up any slack left in the line. Many times, fish pick the fly up while it’s dropping. As soon as it has sunk to the desired depth, retrieve the fly.
One of my favorite retrieves includes long strips, extending my arm back as far as it can go. Another effective retrieve is short, pronounced jerks. Some fish, like the Giant Trevally I guided in Seychelles, want you to strip it as fast as humanly possible.
Materials You’ll Need To Tie A Clouser Minnow
The following materials are needed to tie a Clouser Minnow. As with all other patterns, it’s totally up to you. Keep in mind, the two most important functional factors of the fly are the weighted eyes and the relatively sparse bucktail wing.
As you’ll be fishing the Clouser Minnow to predatory fish, make use of a correctly sized strong hook that won’t open on the intended quarry. For saltwater species, make use of saltwater specific hooks.
Depending on the species you are targeting, Clousers can be tied on hooks ranging from size 6 to 8/0.
Recommended Fly Tying Hooks:
→ VIPMOON 500pcs Fishing Hooks
Make use of a medium to heavy thread. I recommend Danville 210 Denier Flat Waxed in white. If you want a different colored head, you can swop the white thread out with your desired color/material when finishing the fly.
A pair of metal dumbbell eyes are used. Depending on the size of the fly and the sink rate you want to achieve, various sizes and metal alloys are used. They include, brass, aluminum, and tungsten. On very small Clouser Minnows, you can even use two sections of a bathroom plug chain.
Recommended Fly Tying Weighted Eyes:
→ Prime Fish Co. Dumbbell Real Eyes
Used to secure the eyes on the hook after some thread wraps. This adds to the durability of the fly. The last thing you want is to chuck a fly every time you catch a fish.
Recommended Super Glue:
→ Zap-A-Gap Fly Fishing Adhesive
You’ll need two colors of bucktail for a Clouser Minnow. Most often, you’ll be making use of white bucktail fibers for the tail and/or underwing. Popular colors for the overwing include olive, chartreuse, blue, pink, and my favorite, tan.
A couple of strands of flash are tied in on either side of the wing. If you are a beginner fly tier and can only choose one color, I would recommend pearl crystal flash. It can be used on most flies. You can also add accents with the flash, like adding red flash to simulate blood.
To add more durability to the fly, a good coating of UV resin is applied to the finished head.
Recommended UV Glue / Resin:
→ Loon Outdoors UV Clear Finish
Tools Needed to Tie A Clouser Minnow
You’ll need the following fly tying tools to tie a Clouser Minnow. For the vise, ideally you have a rotating head vise as it will make this tie a lot easier.
But if not, you can always remove the fly from the vise, turn it over and resecure it instead of rotating the head of the vise.
Let's Get Started!
How To Tie a Clouser Minnow
With all the background info covered, let’s dive into the step-by-step guide to tie a Clouser Minnow. In today’s tie, we’re going to tie one of the most popular patterns, the Olive & White Clouser Minnow Fly.
Olive Over White Clouser Minnow Recipe
- Hook: Grip 21711-NSL Size 2
- Thread: Danville 210 Denier Flat Waxed Tan
- Eyes: Medium Tungsten Eyes
- Bucktail: White and tan
- Flash: Red
- Superglue and UV resin
- Barring (optional): A brown permanent marker
Step 1: Place The Hook in The Vise
Place the hook between the jaws of the vice and lock it in place. Ensure that the hook is secured properly to prevent it from moving around while you’re tying the fly.
When tying a saltwater fly, it’s common to pull hard on the thread, so a hook placed securely in the vise is important for these types of flies.
Step 2: Lay a Thread Foundation
While holding the tag-end of the thread in your hand, make a couple of wraps around the hook shank. Then run the thread over itself to lock it in place. Cut off the excess tag end.
Now cover the first half of the hook’s shank with a neat thread layer.
Step 3: Tie In The Weighted Eyes
Run the thread forward and place the weighted eyes on top of the hook, about 1/3 to ¼ the length of the hook shank behind the eye. Secure the eyes with 7 wraps of thread.
Then, turn the eyes perpendicular to the hook shank and secure them with some figure of eight wraps.
Step 4: Glue On The Eyes
Before applying the superglue, ensure that the eyes are level. This is done by looking at the fly from the front and top.
Apply a couple of drops of the superglue to the top and bottom of the eyes and make another 4 to 5 figure-of-eight wraps. Then, run the tread around the eyes to pull the figure of eight wraps tight.
Step 5: Lay The Body Thread Foundation
While holding the fibers of the bucktail tightly, it’s time to start securing the bucktail body to the hook shank.
To do this, with touching turns, run your thread to the back of the hook. Stop where the hook starts to bend and move your thread in the forward direction. Leave it hanging in front of the weighted eyes.
Step 6: Measure & Cut The White Bucktail
Cut the desired amount of white bucktail from the hide, taking into account the sparseness and total length of the fly. I personally like to make my clouser minnows a bit more sparse and not too overdressed.
Measure the length of the fibers, it should be slightly more than twice the total hook length.
Step 7: Tie In The White Bucktail
Tie the bucktail in just in front of the eyes. Pass the thread through to the back of the eyes. Fold the bucktail over the eyes and secure it with thread.
Now, while holding the bucktail on top of the hook shank, secure the bucktail with tight and widely spread wraps.
Step 8: Finish The White Bucktail Body
When you reach the bend of the hook, secure the white bucktail with a couple of wraps. Also make one or two wraps under the material.
Then run the thread forward and leave it just in front of the weighted eyes again. Trim any excess white bucktail material.
Step 9: Turn The Hook Over
As the weight is placed on the top of the shank, the fly will swim hook point up. From this point in the tying process, all material will be tied to the bottom of the hook shank, so it’s easiest to flip it around.
Remove the hook from the vise, turn it around, and re-clamp it with the jaws. If you have a true-rotary vise, just flip it around.
Step 10: Tie In The Flash
When adding flash to any fly, I like to keep it very simple. Remember the rule “less is more”.
Select two longs strands of flash and fold them in half. Place the loop you just created over the eye of the hook and tie in the flash with a couple of wraps. Splay them out equally to either side of the hook point and secure in place.
Step 11: Tie In The Tan Bucktail Wing
Cut the desired amount of tan bucktail from the hide. Measure the length of the wing against the tail on the fly. The length should be the same.
Tie the bucktail in right in front of the weighted eyes. Ensure that an equal amount of fibers are on each side of the hook point. Pass the thread under the bucktail wing once to make it stand up. Cut off the excess material.
Step 12: Finish The Fly
Cover any exposed material with the thread and create a neat long, tapered head. Whip finish the fly twice and cut off the excess material.
Coat the bottom, sides, and top of the head with UV resin and cure with a UV light. Cut the flash fibers to the same length as the wing and tail.
Optional: Add Barring To The Top Wing
Separate the tan wing from the flash and tail fibers. While pulling the wing tight with your non-writing hand, create a neat barring effect with a brown permanent marker.
Simply tap the marker against the bucktail wing two or three times an eighth of an inch apart to give the fly the appearance of having barring on it’s side like a real minnow would often have.
The Clouser Minnow
Now You Know
How To Tie a Clouser Minnow
Now that you know the basic mechanics behind the process of tying the Clouser Minnow, you can experiment with different color combinations and sizes. If you are looking for an even faster way to tie it, leave the body out and just tie in the white and tan wings on top of each other in the front of the fly.
I hope that this step-by-step tying guide was insightful. Please share it with your fellow tiers and friends. If you have any comments and questions, please do leave them at the bottom of this page.
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