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Part 5 - Project Clouser: Variation of the Clouser - Related Flies

Updated: Mar 11, 2023

The Clouser Deep Minnow was really the first fly to popularize the lead dumbbell eyes that were new to the fly tying world. Ian Whitelaw writes in The History of Fly-Fishing in Fifty Flies that Bob Clouser was playing with attaching split shot to get flies deeper and then along came Wapsi dumbbell eyes in the mid-1980's. It took Mr. Clouser a few years to work out the pattern with these new eyes but once it was worked out, it has been amazingly effective.

Interestingly, the Crazy Charlie was invented about a decade (1977) before the Clouser Deep Minnow (The History of Fly-Fishing in Fifty Flies). I had always assumed that the Clouser came first. Learn something new every day. The story behind the Crazy Charlie is a pretty great tale.

This is a most incomplete list of Clouser-like patterns but is more to give an idea of how the Clouser has evolved, much like in last week's Project Clouser post. As On the Water writes in the blog post, The Remarkable Clouser Deep Minnow, "Perhaps more so than any other fly, Bob Clouser’s ubiquitous fly pattern has been tweaked, tuned and “improved” by a legion of freshwater and saltwater fly-fishers...". Not only has the pattern itself been tweaked, it has spawned a number of related fly patterns.

Bonefish and Carp Flies

My rough estimate is that 58.3% of all bonefish flies are basically variations on the Clouser Minnow and Crazy Charlie. Ok I made the number up but I'm probably sort of close. Pat Ehlers, owner of The Fly Fishers in Brookfield, Wisconsin, lists his top 10 bonefish flies and most are some variation. Joe Buntom's top 10 list for Orvis is fairly similar but for a few more crab imitations.

Gotchas, Christmas Island Specials, and the lot are all are basically Crazy Charlies / Clouser Minnows. These shallow water flies are often tied with bead chain eyes to sink more slowly and different wing and body materials but the Clouser blueprint is quite evident in at least 43.6% of bonefish flies (yes, another made up number). Or is the Crazy Charlie blueprint evident in the Clouser Minnow? But seriously, take a look at Ole Florida Fly Shop's Bonefish fly selection and tell me I'm not close.

A pretty fair number of carp flies certainly owe their origins to the Crazy Charlie / Clouser Minnow family as well. Take a look at Fly Fisherman Magazine's list of the top 15 carp flies.

Slow Jig Clouser (Gunnar Brammer)

If you're not familiar with Gunnar Brammer's flies, you really need to take a look at them and his YouTube channel. He ties some of the most innovative and interesting streamers and his videos are excellent for understanding the choices of materials and techniques to tie his streamers. As a science guy, I appreciate how well thought out and tested his flies are. And, he is rather modest. Take the Slow Jig Clouser, there are certainly Clouser elements - the eyes and tail - but it is only moderately "Clouserish". The eyes are tied under the hook shank and the head changes the action of the fly. The name is certainly a ode to the jiggy action of the Clouser being slowed down by the bulky head.

Slow Jig Clouser pattern

Hook: Ahrex NS110 size 2

Tail: Bucktail Tip Hair at 2+ shank lengths

Flash: Hedron's Pearl-A-Glow in Chartreuse

Body: 3" EP Foxy Brush, and 3" EP Sparkle Brush - 5 turns, denser at the head.

Head: Hedron's Strung Fuzzy Fiber blended with Hareline's Ripple Ice Fiber, toned with Chartpak Marker

Eyes: Painted Lead Eyes

Jiggy Fly (Bob Popovics)

Jiggies, as Mr. Popovics calls them, are basically a cone headed version of the Clouser Deep Minnow which is similarly designed to have a jiggy action (earth-shattering news there, I know). In the excellent book, Pop Fleyes: Bob Popovics's Approach to Saltwater Fly Design by Ed Jaworowski and Bob Popovics credits the Clouser Deep Minnow with the general blueprint of the fly, its jiggy action, and slim profile. Popovics ties them in bucktail and synthetics (Ultra Hair and Super Hair) depending upon the fish and conditions. Like most things, tie and fish both and figure out what works for you.

While I could certainly go on and talk about other patterns that have some element of the Clouser Deep Minnow - its jiggy action, inverted hook, use of dumbbell eyes, etc., it is probably about time to stop. I'm certainly not the first to write about the venerable Clouser Minnow. In fact, some have done it quite better. See this, this, and this for a start. Next week, we will test a few of the assumptions that many have about the Clouser Deep Minnow.

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