To the average person, the idea of catching small fish probably doesn’t hold much appeal. There is a cultural meme, for what has surely been centuries, that involves the besmirching of anglers that can only catch little fish. Not to demean conventional anglers, but even most fly fishers don’t get excited over the prospect of netting trout that hardly span the length of the hand.
But there are some out there that do. And there are several reasons why smaller fish are indeed exciting. For some, small fish are even the exact quarry that they are after.
The first type of angler that champions smallish fish are those who love smaller bodies of water. By and large, little creeks and little ponds produce little fish. The tradeoff, however, is usually native trout that are willing to take a fly. These gems from mountain creeks or spring-fed streams are a direct connection to the last truly wild places in a paved-over and plugged-in world. Size isn’t an issue. Knowing that the fish are there is half of the victory, and then touching or seeing them provides that tangible success.
Smaller fish will also do things that many larger fish will not. Part of the reason for heavy streamers being all the rage is that such tactics are often necessary for luring out the biggest of trout. Some monstrous fish sip midges, but that activity isn’t as safe or energy efficient as one big meal off the bottom. Anglers that want to cast light rods with delicate flies will sometimes be rewarded with a trophy trout, but more often than not the target will be smaller fish. The approach is part of the attraction. The yield: fooling a wild fish.
Lastly, there is a general beauty to a small trout. Parr marks, translucent fins, and creamy white bellies are found on fish less than seven or eight inches long. The thick shoulders, hooked jaws, and powerful tails of older fish are no less captivating – but it is a different aesthetic altogether. Say what you will about the effects of social media on fly fishing. One thing that seems to have transpired in the past decade is an appreciation for smaller trout. In a tiny, square photograph, the size of a fish can only be so impressive. Yet the colors literally shine.
There are many reasons to praise and to seek out small trout. Great contentment can be achieved after a day of catching five-inch brook trout in the mountains. There is success in stalking, making a cautious presentation, and being rewarded with a feisty, rising brown of less than a foot. Trout, especially small trout, have been made with great attention and beauty. Enjoying little fish is largely what you make of it.