"The Foxee Redd Minnow is a
version of the Clouser Deep Minnow that has become a staple for many
species of fish. I do not leave home without this one, and I carry
it in a variety of sizes. It has become my favorite fly for trout
and carp," says Bob Clouser in his outstanding 2007 book, Fly
Fishing For Smallmouth In Rivers And Streams (Stackpole Books, ISBN
0-8117-0713-5). "The Foxee Redd Minnow is a good imitation of
sculpins and crayfish," says Clouser. "Lefty [Kreh] thinks it
looks like a baby carp or rock bass. I love to fish this pattern for
trout in sizes 2 through 8 in coldwater rivers and carp in sizes 2 through
6 on the Susquehanna from late July to September." Any fly with
such a recommendation from two giants of contemporary fly fishing deserves
the immediate attention and respect of any serious angler. I'll even
go one farther; this fly is so good at fooling summer smallmouth that I'd
happily fish it and it alone. And I'm not alone in these sentiments!
Bold claim? Try it yourself and find out!
I tie the Foxee Red Clouser
differently that Bob Clouser ties his own Foxee Redd Minnow. The
slight difference in names is very deliberate. This is a different
fly, but it remains such a close cousin that to do other than fully honor
the original would be a deep violation of ethics. You see, this is
Bob Clouser's pattern, but simply refined for the slower, shallower and
more intimate waters in which I often find
It's proven it's worth, in this incarnation, in flows as diverse as
Florida's St. Johns and Econlockhatchee to Minnesota's Pine and
Ottertail, from Kentucky's Elkhorn to
Michigan's Flat River. Everywhere I fish this fly, it catches
smallmouth bass and rock bass with amazing regularity. When compared
directly with Clouser's original tie, this fly bumps the success factor up
a full notch.
The Foxee Red Clouser is
different because the main material used in its construction is different.
The original Foxee Redd Minnow was designed using red fox tail fur.
Says Clouser; "My first attempt was a disaster. I cut a clump of
the hair from the tail and tied it onto the hook shank without first
removing all of the soft underfur. Fox tail has a lot of underfur,
which makes good dubbing for nymphs and dry flies, but it caused the fly
to have a bulky head, look horrible and matte when wet. One day it
dawned on me to remove the underfur and just use the long guard hairs,
which have black tips, reddish centers, and creamy brown bases. With all
the underfur removed, the guard
hairs of the red fox tail makes a small, neat-looking Clouser Minnow,
don't tangle or mat, and have the right consistency for the size so that
they look just like deer tail going through the water." I
suggest that Mr. Clouser went in the wrong direction. The tail guard hairs
do look excellent and make for a streamlined minnow pattern.
But the softer red fox body fur, complete with underfur in place a la
Eric Leiser's Llama, makes for an even more translucent and lively fly
that imitates a crayfish.
Crayfish make up nearly 80% of a smallmouth bass' summer diet.
In 2001 I was fishing a local
creek. I regularly parked in the lot of a bait shop on the banks of
the creek, and as a token of my appreciation for parking privileges I
always went in to buy a soft drink and snack and whatever tackle looked
like it might work on a fly rod or fit into my small collection of
spinning gear. On this particular occasion they had soft-craws
available for bait - and they were expensive. I asked about the
$8/dozen crawdads and I was told that there's nothing else like it.
The owner explained that soft craws will take fish when nothing else will.
Because of the difficulty in obtaining and keeping these delicate
creatures - and as a direct result of their effectiveness - they sold for
prices that seemed astonishing. I bought a dozen on my way out and
put them into a small aquarium in my office to study their action, color
I discovered quite a bit about crayfish from that experiment. First,
when they are in the soft-shell phase (crayfish molt their exoskeleton in
order to grow - this happens several times every season to each
individual, so soft-shell-phase crayfish are nearly always in the
environment) these mudbugs are highly gelatinous and almost incapable of
movement; they tumble and twist with any current. This,
of course, explains their penchant for holing up under a rock or log for
the shedding process. They are also very translucent.
Immediately after shedding the crayfish are primarily cream, tan and gray.
The new shell
hardens over a two or three day period, During this time the colors
gradually get darker and gain opacity. The spectrum of colors I
observed was amazingly similar to the colors in a red fox tail I had in my
The specific crayfish patterns
in I researched various books and magazine articles all focused on the
chelae (claws) and were far too dark and without the flowing motions I'd
seen in the real thing. Several tries at complex designs left me
unimpressed. The straight Clouser recipe seemed logical, so my first ties
were simple Clousers tied with the red fox tail. They worked a little
better than accepted crayfish imitations, but the micro-motion and
translucency was still missing. I needed something like marabou, but
with mottled coloring and a different, finer texture. Happenstance delivered
a piece of red fox body fur in a materials swap.
The light creamy pink of the
fox flanks captured the colors of the soft-shell almost perfectly.
The gray underfur, a useful dubbing, added bulk. One experiment lead
to another and the technique of leaving in the underfur, learned from the
Llama, brought the effort to a successful conclusion. The Foxee Red
Clouser, tied in a way I'd truly stumbled upon, exhibited the squared
profile, graduated translucency and spectrum of colors that provided the
effect I wanted, And the fish approved!
I now have a "system" for
fishing Foxee Red Clousers. In the early part of the year, from mid
May until late June, I use a size 4 or 6 fly tied
painted red dumbbell eyes. The spot of red imitates the eggs carried by
the female (at least it does in my imagination). Female crayfish "in
berry" are highly sought by game fish because of their additional
nutrition value and ease of capture. From late June through late
July I use the Foxee Red in sizes 10 and 12 tied with unpainted lead
dumbbells to imitate young-of-the-year crayfish. In August and
September I like to fish sizes 8 and 6 with unpainted dumbbells, in
keeping with the theory of the
inverted bell-curve for size. Finally in late September and
through October I switch over to the flashier and larger
Mixed Media to imitate the adults during the
autumn mating season.
I like to fish the Foxee Red
Clouser with a floating fly line and long, fluorocarbon leader.
Leader lengths vary from 10-feet to 14-feet depending on water depth,
water clarity and fly size. I almost always use a non-slip mono loop
knot to attach the fly to the tippet. For a size 4 or 6 I like 3X, for 8
and 10 I'll go to 4X. Under low, clear water conditions I'll even go
to a size 12 on 5X tippet. This last version is also a killer size
for brown trout that act like they've seen everything.
I prefer to cast up and across
with a quartering presentation and fish the fly on a tight line,
high-sticking the fly back to my position just barely faster than the
current. It's important to keep the fly low in the water column,
crayfish will rarely swim more than a foot off the bed of the stream, and
in the soft-shell phase they really can't swim at all. Takes are never
subtle, smallmouth bass and rock bass eat this fly. The take is
firm and positive. Using a light wire hook and keeping the point
sharp ensures positive hook placement in the mouth or lip.
Tie a few of these and take
them to the river on your next smallmouth bass outing. Try them in
the lakes along rocky bottoms where large numbers of crayfish find
themselves a frequent target of marauding largemouth. Try them the
next time those wily brown trout turn up their noses at your
best-presented nymph. Finally, cast this one in front of a tailing
carp and hold on!