The Clouser Minnow
If I mention “fly fishing” chances are you envision tiny, elegant representations of insects tied on a microscopic hook that requires surgeon’s touch and magnifying glasses to tie. The Clouser Minnow is none of those things. It is big, flashy and resembles a lure more than a fly. But it is also very effective – if used correctly.
The Clouser Minnow was first tied by Southcentral Pa’s own Bob Clouser. This in itself is not unusual, the Limestone trout streams of the Keystone State have produced a whole box of flies and the expert anglers to use them. What is unusual is that Clouser did not fashion his new fly to target local trophy trout, he made it to chase the equally impressive smallmouth bass of the nearby Susquehanna River.
In the over 30 years since the Clouser Minnow was first tossed at a hungry smallmouth it has proven itself a keeper with fly fishing legend claiming nearly 100 different game fish species on it in both fresh and salt water. From the original Susquehanna smallmouth to Tarpon of the Florida Keys there does not seem to be a game fish that swims who won’t consider the Clouser a tasty offering.
The Clouser is different than most other streamers and needs to be fish in a manner which takes advantage of those differences. First, due to a weighted lead eye the Clouser swims with the hook on top meaning it is more effective in weeds or areas prone to snags. By using different flies tied with different amounts of weight you can also vary the depth and speed at which it runs, making it exceptionally adaptable to a variety of conditions. Whether you are fishing grass flats, rock covered bridge pillars or deep fast channels there is a Clouser for that.
The Clouser depends on an action filled retrieval to attract the big boys. To get the best action keep you tip near the water and rod low, something which takes some adjustment for many traditional fly anglers. Along with inventing the fly itself Clouser also developed the optimal retrieve called the ‘Susquehanna Strip”. This involves a full arm strip from under the reel which you end sharply, causing the fly to dart like a wounded minnow. The speed of your strip should be adjusted to meet the conditions and match fish activity but it should never stop for more time than necessary to reposition and start the next strip. The idea is to replicate a wounded minnow and a wounded minnow keeps moving. Whether a fish strikes, misses or makes a direct hit the minnow keeps moving and so should your Clouser Minnow. Only have you feel the weight of the fish on the other end of the line should you raise the tip and begin the battle.
So next time you are looking to combine fly fishing and catching big fish skip the tiny, delicate offerings – go big and tie on a Clouser Minnow.
Good luck, good fishing!