The World’s Best Saltwater Fly
And a few tips on tying it
Look up the word ubiquitous in any saltwater fly-fishing dictionary and you’ll see a picture of a Clouser Deep Minnow streamer fly. Look up the word quintessential and pictured will be that fly in a chartreuse-over-white pattern.
The Clouser is the world’s most popular saltwater fly. It has caught every species of saltwater fish that can be caught on a fly and arguably does it better than any streamer ever invented. The chartreuse-over-white pattern is its most deadly variation, especially in the Chesapeake.
Created in 1987 by Bob Clouser, a Pennsylvania fly-shop owner and smallmouth bass guide, this streamer in this color variation has become the most widely used and effective salt-water pattern since the long rod first migrated from sweet water to the brine.
Winter Pickerel Tournament
Mostly small stripers are still holding around the Bay Bridge and taking jigs tipped with minnows or four-inch Gulp Mullet soft baits fished deep (35 to 60 feet). It is, at this time of year, a catch-and-release fishery.
On the Bay, the chartreuse-and-white Clouser will reliably take about 90 percent of any fish that can be caught on anything. Tied on a No. 4 Mustad 34007 (or similar) stainless steel hook, the creation is deadly for white perch as well as yellow perch, spot and croaker. Tied on a No. 2 hook, it will take sea trout and schoolie rockfish. In larger sizes, it is deadly for our bigger stripers, bluefish and redfish.
Tied correctly, it works even better. Here’s how to avoid problem areas (the entire tying procedure is available in most fly-tying manuals and on the Internet.
Problems begin in step one, which is tying on the weighted, dumbbell-shaped eyes on top of the hook. That weight gives the fly its darting, bottom-seeking action and makes it swim point-up so it is relatively snagless.
After firmly affixing the dumbell at least a third of the way back on the hook shank with your tying thread, saturate the thread connections thoroughly with Zap-A-Gap or a similar super glue. Flexible type head cements will work almost as well, provided they are well thinned so that they thoroughly penetrate the thread ties. Skip this step and the eyes may work loose and rotate on the hook shank at the most inopportune moments.
The Clouser’s dumbell eyes are traditionally made of lead and painted red with a black pupil. In cold weather the lead becomes brittle, and the eyes will often break off if the fly strikes a hard surface. In these circumstances a machined brass dumbell (in silver, black or gold) will prove more durable.
The next step is securing the white belly hair at the head of the fly and then behind the barbell eyes. Be sure to continue the wrap all the way down the length of the hook shank just past the point where the hook bends. This will give the belly hair a flat, rearward, slight-upward (toward the hook point) sweep.
If you end the wrap before the hook bend, the hair will flare out away from the shank and the finished fly will swim upside-down or flop out of balance on its side when retrieved. The Clouser is supposed to swim with the hook point-up.
The next traditional step is to tie on a dozen or so lengths of silver Krystal Flash to lie under the chartreuse top wing (which will be added last). I have always found that placed in this manner, Krystal Flash tends to clump in the water and provide little movement or flash.
I prefer to add four or five separated strands of Krystal Flash in gold (the original color variation championed by Lefty Kreh) along each side of top wing, being careful to trim the strands individually, just beyond the full length of the bucktail hair. This approach maximizes the sparkling effect of the Krystal Flash and keeps the finished streamer looking alive.
Tie your Clouser the right way and your will catch fish.