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The Clouser Deep Minnow - Ohio River Style!

by Joe Cornwall

First Published in Country Anglin' Outdoor Guide, November/December 2005




The Clouser Deep Minnow is an American classic.  It is a perfect example of form following function.  Simple, elegant, effective and – to a fish at least – irresistible.  The Clouser minnow is probably responsible for more big fish than any other single pattern.  From salt water to fresh, from smallmouth bass (for which it was originally designed) to striped bass, trout to tarpon, the Clouser Minnow possesses the ability to mimic uncounted natural food forms and any flight of fancy that you’d care to take down the road of “attractor” pattern. 


I am a great fan of the Ohio River’s fabulous hybrid bass fishery.  While you could probably catch fish on just about any pattern, I’ve experienced enough hours on the big river to know that certain strike triggers really do make a difference.  The Clouser delivers those triggers in spades.  It has an ability to plummet through the water column and deliver a wonderful bobbing, jigging action on retrieve.  With the addition of holographic eyes it mimics the key strike trigger of a gizzard shad.  And when tied correctly for this specific fishery, it possesses that rare and necessary quality for clear water and sight-feeding fish -  translucence.


I've found that, to attain the critical translucency so necessary for an effective pattern, it is vital to tie a Clouser sparsely.  Most ties from fly shops are hopelessly overdressed.  This is true for the ties I see even from experienced fly fishers.  Here is a trick to help make a better Clouser Minnow: however much hair- be it bucktail, foxtail, coyote tail or man made fibers- you typically use, use half that much. You’ll still probably overdress the fly, but you’ll also see an improvement in its fish catching ability!  The fly pictured is tied on a size 4, 4XL stainless hook.  It uses about 20 hairs for the belly and about the same for the back.  There are only three strands of peacock herl for a topping.  And there are precisely eight strands of crystal flash sandwiched between the wings.  For a size 10 designed for trout I’d suggest half that amount.


Next time you tie a Clouser Minnow, count out the hairs you use.  See what a true sparse tie looks like.  Fish it even if you initially lack confidence in this slim design.  I’m confident you’ll be pleasantly surprised.


Hook:  3xl or 4xl ring eye, size 4 in the example

Belly:  Not more than 20 white bucktail hairs for the size 4 pictured

Flash:  Not more than 8 strands of pearl crystal flash for the size 4 pictured

Wing:  Not more than 20 strands of minnow gray bucktail for the size 4 pictured

Overwing: 3 strands of peacock herl

Eyes: Medium (1/20 oz) lead eyes, filed flat to accept the holographic Mirage eyes.  Glue the Mirage eyes on with a strong, waterproof cement such as Gorilla Glue or Goop



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