If you ask me, there are four hallmarks of a great fly: they should be easy and inexpensive to tie; the material required should be readily available; they should be simple to fish; and they should catch a variety of species.
The Clouser minnow has all these fine qualities.
The fly, which is the brainchild of fly fishing legend Bob Clouser, is a brilliant design that smallmouth bass in my area of Ontario, Canada, seem to particularly love. That is, if other species don't get a crack at it first.
It's hard to fish a Clouser minnow wrong too.
You can strip it in short or long pulls, troll it or jig it in deeper water — in every case it is a great simulation of a baitfish. The deer hair undulates and the flash reflects light beautifully.
Part of the brilliance of the design is the placement of the dumbbell eyes, which means the hook rides point up for less snagging on bottom. When it comes to dumbbell eyes you can buy them pre-painted or paint your own — or even, God-forbid, not paint them at all. I do find that they seem to be more effective with some sort of eye imitation — and they certainly look more finished.
You can also experiment with bucktail color combinations. Chartreuse and white is a classic combination but pink, olive, read or blue and white are also good bets. Each design is enhanced by a little crystal flash too.
There are many YouTube videos that show how to tie a Clouser minnow but the best is the one in which Bob Clouser himself actually explains the fly. It's definitely worth looking up.
See Lefty Kreh Tie the Clouser Minnow from the White River Fly Shop "Handcrafting Effective Flies - Saltwater" DVD with Lefty Kreh below:
Two key things to remember when tying this fly are sparse is better and attach the dumbbell eyes about one third of the way back the hook. Using too much hair and placing the eyes too far forward are the big mistakes most fly tyers make. The head should be slim and tapered; adhering to these two critical points help with that.
The Clouser is one of my few go-to flies when fishing for smallmouth bass. It's versatile and I believe every smallmouth bass fly box should have a dozen or so in various colors.
If you've fished them you know what I mean. If you haven't, you're in for a pleasant surprise. Thank you Bob Clouser.