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Tying Deep Minnow Clones
Fly and photos by Richard A. Lewis, CA

Background:

The Clouser Deep Minnow, which is the universally popular mid-eighties fly design of Bob Clouser, is one of the most versatile fly patterns ever created. This pattern has caught at least 86 freshwater and saltwater species and the list is still growing! This great fly pattern, in all its variations, could easily be considered the "perfect" minnow imitation. The reason that it works so well, according to Bob Clouser himself, is that the fly is always in motion. Even while this fly is at rest, the winging and flash materials slither to and fro suggestively. The placement of the weighted dumbbell eyes on the underside of the hook impart a dipping and darting motion and also forces a hook-up swimming configuration which and makes this fly virtually snag-free.

The "Clouser Deep Minnow" is a relatively easy fly to tie. In fact, besides the Woolly Bugger, it may be the one of the first flies that many beginning tyers, myself included, learn to tie. However there is more to making a perfectly balanced and well proportioned "Clouser" than meets the eye. In fact, Bob Clouser has authored a two-volume video set dedicated to tying his pattern: "Complete Clouser Minnow" Volumes 1 and 2" Ref: Ref: ISBN: 0-0RR-00090-0 and Ref: ISBN: 0-0RR-00110-0; Publisher: Reel Resources. Bob Clouser recently releasd a new book titled Clouser's Flies-Tying & Fishing the Fly Patterns of Bob Clouser. Mr. Clouser also has a thriving fly shop, guide service and a website: http://www.clouserflyfishing.com/.

Owing to the extreme popularity of Bob Clouser's fly pattern, Rio Products has designed a series of specialty fly lines designed to throw weighted Clouser flies easier. Rio sells both Freshwater Clouser lines and Tropical Clouser Lines. These new Clouser lines make fishing weighted flies much easier and therefore a lot more fun and rewarding.

Tying Clouser Deep Minnows

If you want to tie better, or even perfect "Clousers" then besides visiting Bob Clouser's books and videos, you will be well served to re-visit some excellent "Clouser Deep Minnow" tying instructions found here in the FAOL archives. "Deep Minnow" By Art Scheck are some of the best instructions that I have ever found on this pattern. Art Scheck even ties them fancy and I appreciate the extra touches on the pattern he so well illustrates for us in that FOTW article. Please review those instructions here: http://www.flyanglersonline.com/flytying/fotw2/112403fotw.php

Two (2) Key Elements: I personally feel that there are two (2) important elements that need to be maintained in order to get the best performance out of the Clouser Deep Minnow. These key elements both involve maintaining proportions-something common in tying a great fly pattern of any type faithfully.

1) The Eyes: Placing the eyes in the correct position along the hook imparts the famous Clouser Deep Minnow's "dipping/darting" action. Therefore, incorrect placement of the eyes dramatically affects the way that this fly swims. If the eye is too far forward (a common oversight), the fly nose-dives and becomes merely a "doll jig". If placed too far back, the fly drops flat without the dipping motion known to trigger strikes. As important as eye placement is on this fly, I have even noticed Clouser Deep Minnow flies tied by seasoned professional tyers can be inconsistently tied. Do you make six (6) wraps from the hook eye and then attach the dumbbell eyes? Or do you "eyeball it" and hold the eyes about where you want them to be, depending on the particular hook you are using, and then get those eyes tied in? Is hit or miss eye placement good enough? Bottom line: It is not that easy to tie a dozen Clousers and have them all look and swim exactly alike.

2) The Tail: Extending the flash materials beyond the winging materials will enhance this fly's undulating action. Of course it also adds additional reflected prismatic light to this already attractive and deadly fly. The extended flash tail is a straightforward addition to the Clouser Deep Minnow. Dan Blanton is responsible for the innovation of the "Flash Tail Clouser" modification as well as other "FT" enhanced flies. The "Flash Tail" upgrade, if you will, improves the action and fish catching prowess of the Clouser so much that Bob Clouser himself now advocates the incorporation of the "FT" into his Clouser Deep Minnow pattern and credits Dan for this improvement to the pattern.

Cloning the Clouser Deep Clouser

I ran some experiments a few years ago and feel that I have solved the eye placement issue on Clouser Deep Minnows once and for all. This method makes perfect eye placement extremely easy on these types of flies. In doing this experiment I also stumbled on a few more refinements to the Clouser that I would like to share with you.

I am now tie Clouser Deep Minnows on Mustad Signature Series CK52S and CK74SS popper hooks. Yes Popper Hooks! These forged, chemically sharpened, tempered hooks have kinked shanks, and have been developed to provide proportionally accurate bends, gaps, and shank lengths across the hook style for more accurate scaling of fly patterns.

Since these Signature Model Popper Hooks are available in sizes ranging from #14 through 3/0 in both fresh and saltwater finishes, just about any Clouser Deep Minnow pattern can be tied on these fantastic hooks. There is an added benefit of this particular hook style having a wide gap.

The obvious question is: Why would you tie a Clouser on a popper hook? Admittedly this sounds odd! Well for one thing, since the Mustad Signature hooks are proportionally accurate across the entire range of sizes, it allows you to place the dumbbell eyes in the exact same location along the hook shank each and every time. In doing so, your Clouser Deep Minnows will be clones that swim exactly the same-no matter which size hook you use. Tying the pattern on a popper hook totally eliminates the problem of irregular/improper eye placement when tying Clouser Deep Minnows.

Secondly, placing the dumb bells into the kinked shank of the popper hook places the weight of the eyes "barely below the centerline" (BBCL) of the hook shank. As long as weighted dumb bell eyes have been placed below the centerline of the hook, the fly will flip to the weighted side. This yields the classic hook up, snag resistant swimming position of a Clouser Deep Minnow.


Note: Above image shows the weighted eye is located 2/3's below the hook shaft's centerline. The kinked portion of the hook shaft also hangs below the centerline. This weight distribution is ideal for a properly swimming fly.

Balance and Dynamics: One notable difference when using the popper hook is that the eyes are placed into the kink on the shank from the "bend" side of the hook. This is opposite and unlike the traditionally placement of the eyes on top of the hook shank "away" from the bend. However, placement of the eyes into the kink of the popper hook locates the weighted eyes below the center axis of the hook shank. Placing the eyes barely below centerline balances the fly such that is maintains the snag resistant "hook Up" swimming action. Furthermore, the "BBCL" placement of the weighted eyes streamlines the fly! This important refinement makes the fly more aerodynamic and hydrodynamic. Streamlined Clousers tied on popper hooks can be cast further and can also be cast with less effort! The reduction of parasitic drag yields performance gains both in and out of the water. Clouser Clones swim elegantly and are easier to cast into the wind. Those of you trying to shoot a full line with a big fly will benefit greatly from tying "Clones."

Bonded Eyes: Additionally, I utilize adhesive wicking to bond the eye wraps to the hook using a high quality cyanoacrylate adhesive. This robust bonding technique eliminates another common problem with poorly constructed Clouser Deep Minnows; the eyes loosening as the fly is fished hard. Using this bonding technique, along with the braced eyes in the kinked shaft completely solves this issue once and for all. This fly is solid!

Materials for Deep Minnow Clones:

    Hook: Mustad Signature Series CK52S and CK74SS popper hooks-Size to match game fish species.

    Thread: UNI-Stretch, UNI-Floss, or any un-waxed thread in color of choice.

    Eyes: Stainless, Brass or Plastic "Bead Chain" - sized to match hook size.

    Flash Tail: Flat prismatic strands such as Mirror Flash, or Flashabou.

    Optional Wing Flash: Krystal Flash.

    Wing: Natural (Bucktail, Squirrel Tail, Arctic Fox etc.) or synthetics as desired. Choose a light and a dark wing material for a traditional pattern.

    Adhesive & Head Cement: Zap-A-Gap CA Super Thin.

    Optional Head Coating: Z-Poxy 5-Minute Epoxy, Loon Hard Head-Clear, or UV Knot Sense.

    Special Tools/Safety Equipment:

    Vise: Rotary Tying vise, such as the Dyna-King "Barracuda Indexer." Rotary vises make working with polymer coatings a breeze.

    Bobbin: Automatic bobbin. Using a bobbin such as the Ekich Automatic Bobbin will provide superior control of yarns and threads.

    Adhesive Applicator: Modified Interdental Tool or plastic toothpick.

Tying Instructions Deep Minnow Clones:

1. Mount the Popper hook securely in the vise.

2. UNI-Floss can be used effectively. Uni-Stretch Yarn can also be utilized for its superb constriction locking and wicking capacity. Any non-waxed thread is a good choice. Start the thread of choice behind the eye, leaving enough space in front of the yarn for two wraps. Advance the yarn with taught wraps to a point just behind the kink in the hook shank. Moisten that last wrap with a small spot of Zap-A-Gap Super Thin adhesive and allow it to set under tension.

3. Key Element #1 - Place the Bead Chain Eyes "dumb bell" into the kink in the hook. Secure eyes using a figure eight winding pattern and finish with a Boy Scout hitch. Make a medium sized build-up of yarn between the eyes and continue the thread base onto hook aft of eyes. Secure with a hitch. Spot bond it with a drop of adhesive and trim yarn. At this point I usually take a file to the rough burred edges of the crimped holes on the bead chain. These burrs can nick a tippet and cause you to drop a hooked fish. Smooth the edges of the holes for best performance.

4. Important Adjustment: Take the fly out of the vise temporarily. Inspect and adjust the eyes so that they are lined-up perfectly straight on the hook. Apply a Zap-A-Gap to the X-crossed yarn on the top of the fly. Add another small droplet on the bottom side wraps to lock down the bead chain eyes permanently. Make sure that the yarn wraps along the hook shank are saturated with adhesive. It takes very little glue and it wets-out fast. Re-mount the fly in the vise and allow the adhesive to dry for a few moments.

5. Key Element #2 - Working from the bend side of the hook, tie-in at least a dozen strands of flat prismatic flash material, such as Flashabou or Mirror Flash. Extend the flash strands well beyond wing-length to create the key "Flash Tail" element. A Flash Tail Inch longer than the wing after final trim is appropriate. It helps to hold the flash tail in a vise-mounted spring clip. You can alternately use tape or a cloths pin to hold the flash tail straight. Once the flash tail is tied-in securely and stretched taught, wet the first half inch (1/2") of the flash tail right behind the hook bend with a head cement and allow the cement to dry. This cement treatment stiffens that portion of the flash tail and prevents it from fouling the hook when this fly is fished.

6. Tie-in Lower Wing material.

7. Optional Step (not shown): Tie-in a few Krystal Flash strands in front of the eyes and place these even with wing.

8. Tie-In Upper wing material. Use one or two upper winging material colors as desired. Keep the wing sparse. Finish thread head.

9. Trim Flash Tail approximately " longer than the wing.

10. Optional: Apply protective coating (Epoxy, Super Glue, Goop, UV Cure adhesive or multiple coats of Head Cement) to head and area between eyes to enhance durability. Allow fly to dry, or cure.

11. Utilize your usual "Clouser Deep Minnow" tying tips and tricks above and beyond the listed instructions to create your perfect clones - each and every time.

Fishing Tips

Imitate free-swimming baitfish with long, fast strips of about 2 feet or more followed by a pause. Imitate bottom dwellers with longer continuous strips. ~ Richard A. Lewis


For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.


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