I remember a term that statisticians used: robust. It simply meant that a certain statistical tool could be used for a variety of tests. Whenever I use a Clouser minnow, I think of its robustness in that I can use it for a variety of fish.
I have caught fish in saltwater and in freshwater on Clousers. The list includes blue runners, bonefish, snappers and barracuda for saltwater species and northern pike, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, brown trout, rainbow trout, yellow perch, walleye, black crappie and white crappie in freshwater.
My favorite color combination is chartreuse and white. I probably have 20 of that color combination in my fly box versus about that many for a variety of colors.
While I tie Clousers in a variety of sizes ranging from 2 to 8s, my favorite size is 4. It seems that the size is large enough to provoke strikes from good-sized fish like largemouth bass and northern pike, but is also small enough to entice crappies and perch.
The key material in tying a Clouser minnow is the dumbbell eye. Dumbbell eyes come in a variety of colors and weights. My two favorite colors are red and yellow. My favorite weight is small followed by medium and extra small. While I extensively use lead dumbbell eyes, there are nontoxic dumbbell eyes on the market.
If you are tying your first Clouser minnow, keep in mind that the eyes have to be on top of the hook so that the hook will ride up while you are fishing it.
The hook I use is a Mustad with the old serial number of 34007 or 3407 (stainless steel vs. nickel coating). The hook is a ring eye type and is standard length.
I usually use a 3/0 monocord thread for tying. I use white for the chartreuse and white Clouser and black for most other color combinations. I only tie on the the front third of the hook and like to put head cement on that area before wrapping the thread. I also head cement the thread over the dumbbell eyes after I have secured the eyes.
I used to tie Clousers exclusively out of dyed bucktail, but over the past three or four years I have switched to marabou for some of the color combinations, largely due to a friend, Andy Lowe, doing well fishing with a marabou Clouser. It seems that Lowe didn’t have any dyed bucktail so he improvised with marabou. His first fishing trip with the flies netted some nice smallmouth bass and a 10-pound walleye!
Incidentally, a bit of Krystal Flash between the marabou or bucktail adds just enough glitter to attract fish.
All this commentary on the Clouser minnow ought to be followed by a little fishing story. Last Thursday my buddy, Paul Dubas, and I ventured to Tongue River Reservoir to try our hand at crappies and whatever else would care to bite. Since we were without a boat, I chose to try a shoreline that we could wade relatively easily, but was quite public.
Paul and I both opted for chartreuse and white Clouser minnows, but his was of bucktail and mine was of marabou. We waded out to thigh-deep water and cast just beyond the cottonwoods that were a year or two old. It seemed that it only took a cast or two before we both hooked up with some feisty 8-inch crappies. We were unsure of how good the fishing would be so we released them and continued on. Within 10 minutes we both had landed two or three more, so we decided we should keep some for a meal or two.
Both of us would cast about 25 feet, let the Clouser settle for two or three seconds and then start stripping in line in 6-inch draws. We would pause a second or two after a strip and watch the fly line to make sure a crappie didn’t whack the Clouser as it fell. When we had only a foot or two of line remaining we would lift our fly rods and gently jig the Clousers for another 4 or 5 feet. We probably caught 10 crappie that way in the course of an evening’s effort.
About every sixth crappie would be 10- to 12-inches long and put up a good tussle. After about two hours of fishing, Dubas and I estimated we had caught 40 crappies and had put 20 in the cooler. Throughout the evening we would catch an occasional smallmouth bass.
An inquisitive angler asked us what we were using and we showed him. We even gave him a couple of Clousers to use. He ended up hooking a 16-inch northern pike on his initial attempts with a Clouser.
Clouser minnows may not be in your fly box, but I would recommend that you give them a try. Remember, they are a robust pattern, and you can have a lot of fun fishing them.