Less is More

Tying the Clouser minnow.

In the 30-plus years I’ve been fly fishing, the general trend in streamers has been to make them bigger and uglier—and thus more unwieldy to cast. From zonkers to double-bunnies, articulated fat-heads to sex dungeons, for most anglers the thought of streamer-fishing conjures something of obscene proportions designed to attract monstrous trout. And far be it from me to suggest otherwise. Anyone who has spent time “chucking-and-ducking” these patterns will have doubtlessly caught some brag-worthy fish. But what if you could catch larger trout more often with a fly that was pleasing to cast and fit in your fly box without inches of fur and feather sticking out the side? Enter the Clouser minnow.

Hook: Mustad 3407, Tiemco 811S or something similar. Sizes 4-8 (smaller ties can be deadly).
Thread: 3/0 monocord, color to match the aquatic creature you’re trying to imitate.
Body: a mix of bucktail, synthetic hair, crystal flash, Flashabou, and whatever your imagination conjures up. I've had all kinds of success using the fur off my housecat. Try a coyote or fox pelt.
Eyes: choose among nontoxic hourglass eyes, lead barbell eyes, bead-chain eyes, or anything similar that adds weight and gives the effect you’re after. My favorite color is red. 

1. Wrap the top third (toward the eye) of the hook and tie in a set of eyes using a figure-eight wrap. Run the thread around the base of the eyes several times to stabilize them. Make sure to place the eyes back far enough from the eye to leave room for a conical head. I like to add a drop of head cement or even superglue at this point to better secure and protect the head of the fly.
2. Tie the lightest hair or material you’re using (bucktail, synthetic hair, fox fur, etc.) first behind the hook eye, then behind the eyes. The hair should be pulled tight between the eyes before it’s finally secured.
3. Remove the hook from the vise, turn over, and place it back in the vise with the point up.
4. Tie in a small patch of crystal flash or Flashabou in the desired color behind the hook eye.
5. Add another patch of hair in the desired color, again, behind the hook eye.
6. Add a darker patch of hair, create a smooth head, whip finish, and cement.

Note: When pulled through the water, the hook should ride with the point up.

Final Note
When tying Clousers, think sparse and minimalist. Don’t overdo it with hair. Think of how the fly/material will look in the water. The pattern, when tied right, should make your friends whose idea of a streamer is something seven inches long scoff at your selection. 

The video above is courtesy of the Fly Fishers International archive.

A Bozone local for nearly 20 years, Jimmy Lewis has been fishing and guiding the waters around southwest Montana for the better part of his dubiously motivated existence.