Monday, March 3, 2014

Small Fish Are Cool Too.

I think a large part of many an angler's life is spent in search of the next "big" thing.  The next "big" hatch, secret Shangri-La stretch of water, or next big fish.  It's true, fly fishing folk are the kind of people with their heads always in the clouds, daydreaming about that next big steelhead, tarpon, salmon, or kyped out slob of a brown trout. 

We regale to each other, stories of that time on River X where we "slayed them," all on dries, and they were all big fish.  We are always in search of that next adventure or new piece of water.  We make big proclamations every year such as; "I'm definitely going to go to Silver Creek this summer" or "I'm not missing the Salmonfly hatch on the Big Hole this June."  Sometimes these prophecies come true, sometimes they don't, but at any rate, we never stop dreaming.

I digress.  The point I was out to make when I started writing this was that small fish in small water are cool too.  I mean, what if that next "big" thing happens to be that beautiful meadow on a tiny mountain stream a few miles up that bumpy dirt road?  

Often I find myself plotting on how, when, and where I'm going to catch more and bigger fish.  I spend money I don't have on food, gas, licenses, flies, and fixing flat tires in order to get to big famous rivers with their (if you read all those fly fishing magazine articles) supposedly never ending supply of big fish.  Don't get me wrong, I love a good adventure, and I REALLY love to catch large trout. Who doesn't after all? 

However no matter how many big fish I catch, and all the big rivers I fish, my first love will always be for throwing dry flies on small streams for beautiful, clean, and (mostly) small fish.  I can't really even explain why I love this kind of fishing so much.  All I know is that by the middle of July, all I want to do on my days off is grab my Tenkara rod, and run up the nearest trail into the mountains.  Small mountain stream fishing for me is like coming home, I feel like a kid again, it washes the dust of life away.  Plainly and simply,  I can never get enough of it. 

The small fish that are found in these mountain streams never cease to amaze me.  From the fiery red of a pure blooded cutthroat's slash, to the shocking Technicolor shades of a wild brookie, to the leopard spots of a wild rainbow, these fish are simply gorgeous.  Pure and wild.  Missing are the shredded fins, washed out colors, and beaten down bodies of a hatchery trout, or the ripped lipped, missing mandible, hooked-scarred-been-caught-100-times tailwater fish.  These small stream trout are fresh, bright, clean and 100 percent wild.  I'd rather catch one of these six inch fish than a 20 inch trout that looks like it's been through World War II any day.   

Folks that claim to be above catching small trout are okay with me.  Less competition for me, less pressure on the fish I love, I'm cool with that.  You can have your drift boats and big rivers when it's one hundred degrees outside at 2pm during those dog days of summer.  I'd rather be standing in an icy mountain stream catching six inch cutthroats, alone, unbothered and unencumbered. 

If your goal is to have your face up on the Slab of the Month page on Moldy Chum this may not be your kind of fishing.  If however you want to be alone and feel like a nine year old all day, this may be your thing.  Small fish are cool, and as I would argue, the most amazing of all.         



  1. Very cool pictures... I love the way small fish are so aggressive! They just fly out of the water and are so feisty! All size fish have a place in this hobby of ours... Variety is the spice of life!!!

  2. I couldn't have said it better. Small stream fishing is where my love for fly fishing turned into an obsession. Great photos and write up!

  3. Sweet pictures Bob.I will always remember small steams and dry flies as the root of my flyfishing experience. I used to haunt Hays Creek when i first moved to Montanan, i should go check it out for some nostalgia

  4. Couldn't agree more...there is something about catching a fish that you know has never been caught makes you feel that much more connected to nature and the true sport of fishing. I've hiked and backpacked into some rugged places much farther than I'd care to admit to catch exactly these "small" fish that somehow make me feel FULL :)