A Clouser Minnow for Trout? Sometimes, It’s a Great Choice

Last update:
Man wearing jacket standing in the water holding a trout.

The ubiquitous Clouser Minnow is a great all-around fly that is tied to imitate a baitfish. Since larger trout do, indeed, eat baitfish, a Clouser can be a good fly for trout in the right instances.

The venerable Clouser Minnow might be the most versatile baitfish fly ever crafted at the tying vise. Composed of bucktail, heavy denier thread and barbell eyes, the Clouser has fooled fish from all over the world since it was first tied in 1987. 

Named for its creator, Bob Clouser, the fly was originally tied to fool smallmouth bass. But, over the years, the Clouser has found its way into just about every fly box out there. Saltwater fly casters use the fly for everything from jack crevalle to tarpon. And, yes, trout anglers use it, too. 

Great for Larger Trout

Man smiling holding a trout with both hands.
Larger, predatory trout that eat other fish will go after a Clouser Minnow, like this brown trout in Argentina.

Some years back, while fishing the Rio Limay in northern Patagonia for big brown trout, my guide for the day instructed me to cast a heavy Clouser across the current of the big river and then let the fly swing out below me. 

I was casting from the bow of a boat, and I was afraid the heavy fly would get caught on the rocks along the bottom of the river. Just a few casts in, and that’s exactly what happened. Or so I thought. 

My fly stopped short on the swing, and when I came tight, I was sure I was stuck on the bottom. 

“I knew I’d get snagged,” I said to the guide, a little annoyed that he hadn’t listened to my concerns. “That fly is seriously heavy.”

And then the rock I was stuck on began to move downstream. I wasn’t snagged on the bottom. A giant brown trout grabbed my Clouser and was busy running off with it. 

Thankfully, my guide was a good sport. 

“That’s not a rock, my friend,” he said, smiling. “That’s the biggest brown trout of your life.”

And, as it turns out, he was right. When we finally got the fly to the net, it measured a full 27 inches. It was the biggest trout I’d ever caught up until then. 

The next morning, my fishing partner caught a brown that stretched the tape a full 30 inches. The fly he was using? Yup. A Clouser Minnow. 

A Great Fly for Lakes

I’ve enjoyed great trout fishing from float tubes and boats using Clouser Minnows as my go-to fly. Fly fishing in lakes can be a lot of fun, but you have to have the right gear, and the right mindset. 

Often, it’s not a dry-fly game. Fly fishing in lakes usually requires a sinking or sink-tip fly line and heavier leader than normal. Often, anglers will use streamers, like Woolly Buggers, Slumpbusters and, of course, Clouser Minnows. 

Clousers can be tied in a variety colors to better match the baitfish you’re trying to imitate. The “average” Clouser is a half-and-half mix of white and yellow or white and chartreuse. Fished in deeper waters, it’s a great fly for bigger trout that prey on other fish. 

Where I live, in eastern Idaho in the northwestern U.S., we use Clousers from float tubes on area reservoirs. Depending on the water depth, I like to use a full-sink line and fish the fly on a slow troll

It’s particularly effective just after ice-out in the spring, and again in the fall. 

Easy Fly to Tie and to Fish

The Clouser, in addition to being one of most effective streamers you can fish, is also easy to tie. Even if you’re a beginning fly-tyer, you can tackle a Clouser Minnow fairly easily

It consists of bucktail fur, some flash material and a barbell eye. That’s it. And, with a little practice, you can get really good at tying Clousers and tie several in an hour at the vise. 

When you’re fishing a Clouser for trout, first consider the water you’re fishing. If you’re fishing in a river or stream, you will likely want to fish the fly on the swing. If you’re fishing in a lake, I recommend a slow retrieve that causes the fly to rise and fall in the water column. 

I’ve even used Clousers when ice-fishing for trout. The way the fly behaves when it’s jigged is very appealing to predatory fish like trout. It looks like a struggling baitfish and, therefore, an easy meal. 


The Clouser was first tied by Bob Clouser, a well-known guide and fly shop owner in Pennsylvania. Clouser first tied the fly in 1987, but it didn’t get his name until 1989, when legendary angler Lefty Kreh called it the Clouser Deep Minnow and featured it in an article in Fly Fisherman magazine. 

Over the years, Kreh boasted that he was able to catch almost 90 different species of fish on a Clouser Minnow pattern. That list, of course, includes trout. 

Final Thoughts

Clouser Minnow tied in all kinds of color combinations.
The Clouser Minnow can be tied in all kinds of color combinations, but the most common combo is white over yellow or chartreuse.

The Clouser Minnow is a classic fly pattern that is often mentioned in the same breath as other famous flies, like the Adams, the Deceiver, the Woolly Bugger and the Royal Coachman. 

It’s an excellent fly to use when you’re trying to imitate baitfish that trout eat, like minnows, fry and other small fish. It can be fished using different methods and in different types of water. 

It’s also easy to tie, which makes it a great fly for beginning fly tyers. If you’re interested in tying flies for trout, a Clouser is a good pattern to start with. 


What is the Best Color Clouser Minnow for Trout?

The most common colors for Clouser Minnows tied for trout are yellow or chartreuse over white. But other colors work, too. I’ve caught steelhead on pink and purple Clouser Minnows, and I’ve caught big brown trout on simple yellow Clousers.

Is the Clouser Minnow a Streamer Pattern?

Yes. Flies tied to imitate other fish or food sources that swim, like leeches and tadpoles, are classified as streamers. 

Is the Clouser Minnow Used for Other Fish Besides Trout?

Yes. The fly was first tied to imitate baitfish that smallmouth bass eat. Over time, it’s become a go-to fly for saltwater fly fishing, where it’s been used to catch anything from bonefish to barracuda. And, as we’ve seen, it’s a great streamer for trout.

What Does the Clouser Imitate?

As the name suggests, the Clouser imitates minnows or small baitfish. 

Chris Hunt Avatar


Leave a Comment