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Part 2 - Project Clouser: Tying Methods

Updated: Mar 11, 2023

Last week was materials to tie Clouser Deep Minnows with, this week, a bit about the different ways to tie on them on the hook. With any of these different ways to attach materials to the hook, there is a lot of flexibility in the what the final fly will look like. As discussed in the materials post, you choose different bucktail fibers from different places on the tail to get more or less flair to the body of the fly. With synthetics, the choice of material will dictate how much flair and movement the fly will have. Also, how likely the materials are to foul around the hook, a problem with some softer synthetics.

Flies for project Clouser.
Flies for Project Clouser - a diversity of materials, tying styles, and hooks.

I have arranged the methods according to how they are expected to move in the water. I'll be a lot less wordy in this post than most...I swear!

Method 1 - Belly Tied Down

The first method is tying down the belly along the entire length of the hook shank. This method should have the least amount of movement - a pro and a con, potentially, depending upon where / how it is fished. One advantage to this style is that you can add flash to the belly as an attractant. Another is it is easier to tie a slimmer, sleeker fly with this method. This style can give you a belly that is smaller - like in the fly below - or you can add another section of white bucktail to the back (upper wing) to add a larger belly. With some CA glue or some UV epoxy, you can make the tinsel, flashabou, or other flashy material for the belly more durable.

Tied down style Clouser
A Clouser with the belly tied down to the hook bend and a shiny belly.

This fly uses a multi-colored tinsel for the belly to create flash that will hopefully attract fish.

Method 2 - Belly Tied Down Behind the Eye

This is what I think of a the "classic" Clouser style - the belly is tied on the top of hook (which becomes the bottom once the eyes flip it over) and it secured both in front of and just behind the eye. I think that it falls about in the middle for the amount of movement the belly produces. A variation of this I've seen - but am not a big fan of - is tying down the upper body behind the eye as well. It will be a very "jiggy" fly but not one that I'd expect to move a lot in the water.

A Classic Clouser - belly tied down behind the eye
What I think of as the "classic" Clouser style - belly tied down just behind the eye.

There are some options for tying flash onto the hook shank but it probably shows up more like a lateral line than belly flash - like in Method 1. It's not readily visible in the picture but the shank of the hook behind the eye was wrapped with tinsel and covered with UV epoxy.

Method 3 - High-Tie Wing

This is often viewed as the "saltwater way" to tie the fly. The biggest advantage here is the movement that the body / wing can have. The biggest disadvantage is that really soft materials (like marabou or soft synthetics) call foul around the hook.

High-Tied Clouser
A High-Tied Clouser where all the body materials are above the eyes.

This fly has some red tinsel or flashabou tied behind the eyes as an attractant and to imitate the gills of a fish. Does it really matter? I am not sure but it might and those are the kinds of touches you can add when you tie your own flies.

Some Other Ideas - briefly a rather non-exhaustive look at some other options for tying Clousers.

Adding flash

All three of the above styles of tying the Clouser have some possibilities for adding flash to the hook shank, several of which have been described above. It is certainly easiest in the first and third methods than the tied behind the eyes version.

A Ripple Ice Fiber Clouser
A Clouser with nothing but Ripple Ice Fiber - so lots of flash in this one.

For the body, there are two standard ways to add flash. The most standard is to add some flash - typically Krystal Flash or Flashabou - between layers of the upper body or between the belly and the upper body. The other is to use flashy materials like Ripple Ice Fiber or other "flashy" synthetics for the body (wing).

Again, a great thing about tying your own flies is that you have total control over the final product. Want a very subtle fly, omit the flash entirely. Want something they will see from some distance away, tie it with nothing but flash. And there are an infinite number of options between those two extremes.

Epoxy head

A rather simple way to add some durability and potentially some color to the head is epoxy. I use epoxy on most Clousers or if not epoxy, I will add superglue or head cement to protect the thread wraps. Some of the UV epoxies are colored (tying tip - give them a VERY good shake before using) and you can add some red, orange, glow, etc. to the heads as a possible fish attractant.

Jig hook

Another way to change how the pattern looks in the water. I have to say this is not one I've fished so I have little idea how it changes things but plan to test it in a few weeks.

Yellow over white Clouser on a 60 degree hook.
A Clouser on a 60 degree hook tied with the belly tied down and a lot of belly flash.

In summary, there are a number of ways to tie the Clouser Minnow that all produce a fly that will have a slightly different action in the water or how and where flash is incorporated. Fly tying to me is about experimenting and figuring out what works for different situations.

Bob Clouser tied Clouser Deep Minnow
A Bob Clouser tied minnow, the belly is tied down along the entire shank (method 1).

What is your favorite way to tie a Clouser? Do you tie them differently to get different actions? Or for saltwater vs. freshwater? Let us know what your experiences are.

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