The author and Bob Clouser
By Jack Rodgers
A few years before I started my internship at Trout Unlimited, I had the incredible opportunity to meet fly-fishing legend and inventor of the Clouser Minnow, Bob Clouser.
Growing up in the Washington, D.C., area does not offer very many opportunities to catch trout. Fortunately for me, my Dad is from Pennsylvania. By the age of 12, he had me hooked on the thrill of fly fishing for trout in the mountains of Western Pennsylvania.
Some years later, I started tying my own flies after receiving a beginner fly-tying kit for my birthday. One of the first flies I learned how to tie was the Clouser Minnow, which was perfect for fly fishing for bass on my home waters of the Potomac River.
I am a member of a small club that holds fly-fishing-related events in Pennsylvania. The club sends out a monthly bulletin, updating its members on events that are coming up. One day as I was checking the mail, I saw Bob Clouser’s name. Very excited, I immediately told my Dad that we had to attend the event.
In September 2017, my Dad and I drove up to the club to join a small group of anglers in the mountains of Western Pennsylvania. We arrived Friday evening and had dinner in the main club house. Shortly after being seated, an older looking gentleman and his wife were seated at the next table over.
My dad leaned over and quietly whispered, “I think that’s Bob Clouser.”
We politely waited for the right moment after dinner to meet him. Bob was very welcoming and asked if we had already met, telling me I look very familiar. I told him, “No, this is the first time we’ve met, but I am a big fan of yours.”
I then went on to tell him that I use his Clousers to catch bass on the Potomac. He told me to come find him before his seminar in the morning, and he would give me a gift.
The next morning, I was extremely eager to participate in the seminar and find out what his gift could possibly be. I believe we were the first ones that showed up, followed shortly by Bob Clouser. I picked his brain with what knowledge I had about fly fishing while waiting for everyone else to arrive to the event.
He told me a great story about how he came to invent the Clouser minnow. He had been experimenting with different materials to find a good fly that could be used to catch smallmouth bass on the Susquehanna River. One day his father brought home a buck he had harvested to fill the freezer for the winter. This sparked his introduction to using bucktail on the Clouser Minnow. Later on, he made his first lead weighted eyes and painted them red, and thus the Clouser Minnow was born in 1987.
After chatting for a while, he invited me to sit right next to him while he gave his presentation to the group of 30 or so anglers.
Obviously, I accepted. Who could turn down that offer?
I watched as Bob Clouser demonstrated how to tie his Clouser Minnow “the right way,” right up close. While he tied, he shared some of his best memories fishing with the legendary Lefty Kreh. Kreh originally coined the phrase “Clouser Deep Minnow” in a 1989 article in Fly Fisherman Magazine. Lefty Kreh claimed that he caught over 87 species of game fish using a Clouser Minnow.
After the presentation was over, he took the fly he had just tied and stealthily placed it in my hand behind the table. I discretely held it in my hand in an effort to not make the others jealous of my newly acquired gift. After the event was over, I thanked him for the amazing opportunity to learn from the master and for being so generous. He gave me 4 more of his Clouser Minnows and taught me his style of casting a fly rod. Then, we parted ways.
Bob Clouser must have provided me with some good luck because later that day I landed a beautiful brook trout.
After returning home, I framed all of the Clouser Minnows he gave me to memorialize that incredible weekend.
People like Bob Clouser make such a huge impact on us anglers. From my time with him, I could tell that Bob really wants to make sure that the next generation will enjoy the sport of fly fishing just as much as he does. By sharing experiences and stories of the outdoors, leaders like Bob Clouser do a huge part in educating people on the importance of conservation. In fact, meeting Bob Clouser was a key influence in my interest to be an intern at Trout Unlimited.
Conserving cold water trout habitats for the next generation is vital to ensuring that people can continue to have experiences like the one I had.
I will never forget that weekend and hope to see Bob again soon.
Jack Rodgers is a TU intern in our Arlington, Va., office.