Monday, January 24, 2011

Get Down, pt 2

My personal collection of authentic Clouser Minnows
Bob Clouser is a household name for most fly fishers. His namesake Clouser Deep Minnow was created by him in the 1980’s when Wapsi sent him some of their new lead dumbbell eyes. The rest is fly fishing history. The Clouser Minnow is now one of the most popular flies in the world and Lefty Kreh has caught well over 80 species of fish on it. Absolutely deadly fly. The key element is those dumbbell, or hourglass eyes. They give the fly a jigging motion that predators love. I use a lot of this style eye in my flies. It lets them sink fast and gives that dying baitfish sudden drop at the end of a strip.

Lead and brass hourglass and dumbbell eyes
You can get hourglass and dumbbell eyes in brass, aluminum, tungsten and the original lead. I have used the brass and lead eyes extensively but I have yet to try out the tungsten. I am sure I will, I just haven’t wanted to drop the dough on them yet. I have found a few places to get 100 lots of lead eyes and brass eyes and that is how I buy them. I have to admit that I prefer the lead eyes because they are much heavier than the brass eyes. I really like to have a fly that gets down deep fast and the lead does that much more effectively. One downside to the lead over brass is that if you hit a rock or the side of your boat (I swear I have never done that…. yet this year…) the lead eye sometimes snaps in half leaving you with a fly that has half the sink rate that it used to. I will take that chance. One of the downsides to the brass eyes, especially with larger heavily dressed flies, is that they often will not properly turn over the fly and it runs upside down. It sucks when you have spent half an hour on a big musky fly and it won’t do what you want it to. That is one of the reasons lead is my preference for bigger flies.

Them is big eyes right there!
I didn’t mention the aluminum eyes, but I should. Spirit River does some nice big aluminum dumbbell eyes that are recessed to put in stick on eyes. These things are great! I really like them for bigger flies because of that, but, again, they don’t provide a lot of weight to turn the fly over. You definitely need to use another method of weight to keep the fly riding hook point up if you use them on bigger patterns.

This is as close to Guido as I get!
Bead chain eyes are awesome too, but don’t expect them to get your fly to the bottom fast. I do love using them though. They are great for carp patterns and I use them on my Toad Puppy fly. Bead chain is available in a lot of different sizes and usually easily found in silver and gold. I love finding old bead chain that has tarnished. Usually you get it for free too. Free fly tying materials are awesome! One trick that I use with bead chain if I want a different color is to spray paint it. Doesn’t always last that long, but usually long enough to do the trick. I know craft stores sell different colors of bead chain, but apparently craft stores in Vermont don’t.

Lead tape is great stuff too. Most commonly used for the zonker style flies it can help shape a body underneath Mylar tubing. I have used it like that but you can also use it to shape nymph bodies if you attach it perpendicular to the hook plane as well. I have also used thin strips of it to wrap along the hook shank. I don’t see it too frequently in fly shops these days, but you should be able to find it in a well stocked hardware store.

I have tried out the new Fish Skull heads for flies and I like them. I haven’t experimented with them that much yet, but I have found them to be really easy to work with and they sink like a rock. Watch your casting though- one of these puppies could slice through a rod tip like a hot knife through butter!

Another item I am dying to try is the new channel lead that is out there. This is a U shaped piece of lead that you secure to the hook shank. It would be the perfect addition to a Spirit River aluminum eye fly to keep it hook point up.  I like the idea of this a lot too. I am sure I could come up with a lot of flies using this stuff. It is definitely high up on my list of stuff to try out. Someone could always send me some samples to try out if they really wanted to!

In order to get flies down deep fast I am not averse to using several materials to do that. It is the norm for me to put a few wraps of lead behind a bead head or cone head not only for added weight but to keep the bead or cone in place and to give a bit of extra bulk at the head of the fly. That added bulk helps make the fly a bit more realistic- ever notice most bugs or baitfish are thicker toward the head? Sometimes I will even make extra wraps of thicker lead if I want a fly deeper still and I put a bit of different colored dubbing on the tail or use a different color thread so I know it is heavier. Helps out when you are deciding what you need to use.

So that is how to get flies deep with weight on the fly… coming up next, my thoughts on getting flies deep with your leader!


  1. drew that is a first class post mate

  2. Great post - clousers are probably my favorite fly

    Now I gotta question - where do you find 100pks of lead eyes?

  3. River Rat- shoot me an email at and I will give you the inside skinny!

  4. all my nearby bait shops are discontinuing fly tying material i need to find somewhere new.