What is a Clouser?
I have this little blog that’s primarily my fishing log, but also has a smattering of wildlife items, photography from here and there, and general outdoors related items. Recently, I was gently reminded that some of the folks who read the blog are not fisherpersons and might not understand many of the fishing terms I use. Now, I don’t understand why non-fisherpersons would be interested in my blog (or anyone else for that matter), but, to solve the problem, I plan to begin occasional educational posts, for the uninitiated. I thought you would appreciate the first of the series…
What is a clouser?
The original clouser was the mythical Greek guardian of fishes. Poseidon, god of the water, tasked it with protecting all finned creatures from human fisherman and the clouser fish did so by snatching the lines of the Greeks, dragging the hooks to the bottom, and permanently snagging them on rocks, stumps, and other immovable objects on the ocean’s floor. In those days, a snagged line was the end of the week for fisherman as all they had was 500 lb test, braided hemp leaders, not as easily broken as today’s flimsy material (or any of my knots).
This bit of mythology has been lost until earlier last century when a spindly little kid from Pennsylvania, a young Robert Clouser, started to do some research to learn the origin of his unusual name. Robert was a bookish lad who was constantly tormented by the outdoorsy kids because of his particular form of spatial confusion; young Robert always got things upside down. It was not so bad in the library, but very awkward on the playground. Because of his resulting play-induced bumps and bruises, the other boys teased him unmercifully and never asked him along as they went to the local rivers to fish. The most egregious characters, of course, were the young flyfisherboys.
The mythos of the Clouser Fish fascinated young Robert and, in the story, he saw the route to revenge on his tormentors. He vowed to invent a fly that would attract the fisherboys, yet whack them in the back of the head and immediately hang on the bottom when cast, ruining countless days of fishing and sapping the wallets and time of the young fly tyers, not to mention the Band-Aids. And it almost worked.
Alas, Robert’s special challenge did him in as, you guessed it, he got the hook upside down. Now, it wasn’t a complete failure as his creation does hang on the bottom, but it only does so every 2 or 3 casts. Unfortunately, on those few casts that don't hang, fish eat the darn things. The flyfisherboys loved them (even though the whack in the back of the head idea worked out perfectly) and young Robert was doomed to a life of fishing his creation and spending time with other spatially challenged children (such as the sadly side-to-side turned lad referred to as Lefty), and, more tragically, those awkward souls who gravitate to fly fishing expos.
Robert has the last laugh, though, as his clouser minnow is ubiquitous in the fly fishing world. I suspect that if one were to drain, say, the Roanoke River, you would find the bottom looks like a shag carpet of upturned bucktail and flash, with billions of creepy little eyes peering up at you. (Most of those flies, I think, were once mine). If he had a penny for every sunk fly, I suspect Robert could bail out General Motors, AIG, and buy us each a nice fly rod. Wouldn’t that be nice?
But, you might ask, what ever happened to the original Greek clouser fish? Well, no one is exactly sure, but there are two theories. The first is that, though they were the protector of fishes, they were too tasty for their “benefishieries” to resist, and, over time, they were gobbled up by the creatures of the sea, thus the origination of the saying, “Don’t bite the fin that saves you”, (since modified to more human form). To punish fishdom for it’s shortsightedness, the gods spawned the Orvis monster and turned it loose on the waterways where it torments to this very day.
The other theory of the Clouser’s demise, and one gaining increased attention, is that the clouser fish began adorning themselves in the most outrageous regalia. Pink and chartreuse became their favorite colors, often in vibrant tuti-fruti combinations. The theory surmises that these flaming colors hopelessly disoriented the poor creatures, sexually, and their reproduction went, well, down the drain. So sad.
I hope this helps. Next time maybe I’ll talk about the origin of the woolly bugger, but, I warn you, it’s not a pretty story.
P.S. This is offered with genuine and deep appreciation to Sir Robert for all he has done for our sport. Thanks Bob!!!! We love ya!!!