We went at dawn when the river and trees and rocks still faded into a blue shadow waiting for the sun. It was too cold for my son to last long wading through the shallow water, but he woke early that morning so off we went. Neither wore waders. Most of the time he spent crouched along the bank moving sand with a stick and poking at stonefly husks stuck to round river rocks dried up and whitewashed between the grassy bank and where the rocks were wet from the river.
Later that day we returned with the sun on our backs. The water along the bank had warmed.
I tied on a white Chubby Chernobyl with an olive Hares Ear dropper. He knew the names from the mornings we spent tying them in our basement. I knew he would see them easily from his low vantage point and that he would like to watch the big dry float. And of course, I also figured they would catch fish.
I waded into the river behind him. He held the rod tightly and the tip bounced with his steps. The white Chubby skimmed along the surface. We walked slowly until the water was just below his knees and just above my ankles.
“Okay son. Ready?”
“Yup.” His eyes were fixed on the flowing water ahead of him.
“I’m gonna help you and then you can do it by yourself okay?”
A nod. He stood there looking out at the river.
I crouched and reached to grab his wrist and held his hand that held the rod. The line came off the water as we raised the rod together. I moved his hand forward and upstream with slow acceleration.
“That’s right where you want to be. The fish live behind that rock. We cast up above it and it comes down for them to eat.”
He nodded. Followed the fly as it drifted past. It was not far out.
“Okay Pop. I got this. You can go fish, Pop. Go fish.”
I backed up and watched him cast the short distance upstream. A small rainbow exploded straight up out of the water.
“Fish!” He exclaimed.
I moved forward but he wanted to do it.
“Reel him in son. Keep the rod tip up!”
It did not take long to reel in the fish. It was small but beautiful. In his hands, it was a trophy, and now, sometimes, he will say, “Remember when I caught that fish Pop? First cast.”
We caught small rainbows using dry flies for an hour or two. None were big but it was constant action. Those tiny fish showed my son how exciting fishing can be and cemented my love for small trout in that one memory. Here are some other reasons why small trout are special:
Some of the baddest trout in the river are the little guys that attack the big flies. How many times have I wondered: how did this fish even get that fly in its mouth? However they do it, a small trout’s aggressive take on a big bug is impressive and exhilarating.
Kids Get Excited.
Experienced anglers know fishing is not always going to be good. Showing children a day of good fishing matters. I am a firm believer that one day of catching lots of fish on the river is all it takes to create the hope in a child for future fishing endeavors.
After all, don’t we always imagine that the next cast is going to be a fish? Just one more cast, we say. And then cast a dozen more.
A great day of fishing feeds that hope and motivates us to keep going back out to the river after slow days. It does not have to be small trout, but it often is.
READ: WADEOUTTHERE | Lessons From a Five Year Old in Fly Fishing.
Trout are beautiful creatures, but small trout are uniquely beautiful. They have differences in color and patterns from full grown fish. The vibrant flank of a small trout always seems to make me take one more good look before the release.
Often, when you catch a small trout you are discovering something you were not expecting. That in itself, is beautiful.
Small trout often live in small streams and getting to these streams can be an adventure and a wonderful part of fly fishing. Back packing through the Beartooth and Absaroka Mountains in my youth are some of my fondest and clearest memories of nature. It is true what they say. Trout do not live in ugly places.
READ: WADEOUTTHERE | Six Techniques for Fishing Small Streams.
Hope for the Beginner.
In the beginning it is hard. The small trout having not yet been around the block in the river is not quite as wise or picky as its larger comrades. There are some that get lucky and hook a descent fish the first time out, but often it is the little guys that first real step into fly fishing and the moment that ignites a passion that brings tremendous joy moving forward.
READ: WADEOUTTHERE | Every Once in a While, Look Up.
The take and the fight are exciting when you hook up with a nice trout. The memory stands out and I would be lying if I said I do not hope for a solid fish when I hit the stream. But I love small trout too. For what they were to me in the beginning and what they are now.
Small creatures that also bring us to the river and remind us that there is more to fly fishing than catching big fish. Like the joy in a child’s face when he snags a trout on his first cast. Wadeoutthere.
WADENovember 9, 2020 at 6:31 pm
Love small stream trout! The aggressiveness of those fish is unbelievable.
Jason ShemchukNovember 9, 2020 at 8:42 pm
Yes. The takes are often crazy and they fight for their size. Thanks for reading. Cheers.
ScottNovember 9, 2020 at 10:25 pm
The par marks and colorations of small trout are so vibrant and beautiful! Great reminders in this blog!
Jason ShemchukNovember 9, 2020 at 11:00 pm
Thanks! I totally agree. Thanks for commenting and reading. Cheers.
Meandering MikeNovember 10, 2020 at 9:11 am
Give me the choice between a 20 small fish day or a 1 big fish day, and 24 out of 25 times I’ll choose the 20 small fish day. Love the action. Love the excitement. Love the beautiful colors. Love knowing that for that particular day, at least, the stars are aligned and my technique is adequate!
Jason ShemchukNovember 10, 2020 at 9:56 am
Catching small trout is definitely exciting. Of course I’d also love to catch 20 really nice fish too! Always trying to improve and get better but I can appreciate these creatures big and small as you do. Thanks for reading and a great comment Mike. Cheers.