Small Fry: The Lure of the Little

Published Oct 20th 2008

Chapter 10: The Little Angler


Three Flies -
Three Flies
Small fish on the fly have a natural appeal to both little anglers and anglers who angle only a little. Kids love any fish tugging on the end of their fly line, and "the occasional angler" can appreciate the sunny, chub, or single trout that saves an otherwise fishless dry-fly day.
    We "more experienced" anglers should take note: the joy of our art and sport is felt most keenly when there is a fish -- any fish -- at the other end of the line. There are ways to do it better, and strategies to take it bigger, but few fishing experiences resonate more than that first bluegill caught in childhood, or that first season of fumbling on the fly that culminated in a tiny stocked rainbow that somehow seemed to stave off the giant of middle age.
    Most of us began fishing as small fry. As we age, and as more and more sentimental memories enter into our conversations, those days become, ironically, bigger and bigger:
    "That bluegill was a bull!"
    "That brookie jumped two feet into the air!"
    "That smallmouth was, well, BIG!"
    We owe it to fly-fishing to take kids fishing, or to bring our novice neighbors along, if only once a year. Those little anglers will carry on and keep the fly-fishing tradition alive, and those anglers who angle only a little will listen more closely whenever we "more experienced" anglers begin to tell our latest fish story . . .

"Did you get a brownie?"
    The voice I heard was young; a girl's voice that floated gracefully over the soft, almost melodic, water tumble of the creek. I was releasing a small brown trout that had patiently watched my patterns float by for close to half an hour. The fish would not rise, nor would it flush. It had held steady, playing selective, ignoring first my Elk Hair Caddis and next my Muddler Minnow. I tied on a Royal Coachman, more for a sarcastic spooking than a potential catching, yet on the third drift of the third fly she had risen to meet it.
    I turned to face the source of the voice: sandy hair somewhat tucked beneath navy baseball cap; a tight smile; khaki pants muddied at the knees. She stood beside one of the imposing tulip trees casting shadows and golden leaves over our side of the creek. She was ten or eleven, I guessed, a beginner's 5-weight outfit held at her side, the green fly line wrapped rather chaotically down around the reel.
    "I was watching you, sir. You put him back before I could see. Was he a brownie?"
    "She was," I said.
    "How can you tell she was a girl?"
    "Oh, there are ways," I replied, not so sure I could be any more specific. "Having any luck?"
    "Not yet. They weren't biting up where my father is. Whatcha using?"
    "A dry fly."
    "You mean like an Adams, or a Deer Hair Caddis?"
    "You know your fly patterns, don't you?"
    "My father ties ‘em. I can do a Woolly Bugger, but that's better for bass. So, whatcha using?"
    "A Royal Coachman: the king of dry flies."
    "I'm using a Prince. That's a nymph, you know."
    "Indeed. One fit for a princess."
    She giggled at my subtle complement. "Mind if I cast here?"
    "Sure!" I said. "I can use a snack break."
    I sat on a stone, peeled an orange, and watched her cast. Her upstream roll cast was okay, just a bit abbreviated in that stiff, erratic manner most kid's have. Her casting muscles would become more controlled and coordinated with time and practice.
    "That's pretty good," I offered. "Try to throw the line forward more smoothly, though. Remember, it's a roll cast, so rolllll with it."
    She giggled at that one, too. "Thanks. I know. They don't like this nymph anyway. Wish I had a dry fly, too."
    I finished my fruit and stood. A lit light bulb, shining some light onto my memory banks, had appeared just above my mind's eye. I recalled the wise and witty old man who had given me a gift the previous year. He had emerged out of the trees, talked for an hour, pointed out some spots along the creek I had up to that time passed over. I observed that he was a lot more generous with the info than the average angler. His approach had been confident, with a big smile, and he didn't look or hold back. He even handed me some of his own patent patterns before disappearing back through those same trees. Now it was time to do the same, to return a favor.
    "Try these." I said, pulling out my fly wallet from my vest. "I've got plenty more."
    She walked over to me and smiled a wide, closed-lip smile of anticipation. So did I. She: someone's daughter, some fly fisher's daughter, fly-fishing herself with nice streamside manners; Me: a solitary, sometimes ornery guy, one suddenly as sunny as the bright October day we were sharing. I would have given her the entire wallet right then had I not cycled so far from the city just to fish.
    I removed an Elk Hair Caddis and a Muddler Minnow, one after the other, and neatly fixed each fuzzy fly onto the white down patch on the front of her own fishing vest. Then I handed her my only other Royal Coachman.
    "Thank you, sir! I'm really going fishing now!"
    She clipped off her tired Prince, tied on the fresh, fluffy king of dry flies, turned downstream, and hiked away with renewed purpose toward the next bend; a young explorer, hair now blowing in the breeze, fly rod in hand, ready for the future.

All chapters of Small Fry
  • Small Fry, intro - Prologue: These Lines, published June 16th 2008
  • Small Fry, 1 - Chapter 1: The Lure of the Little, published June 16th 2008
  • Small Fry, 2 - Chapter 2: Presenting Brookus bassa; The Smallmouth, published June 30th 2008
  • Small Fry, 3 - Chapter 3: Presenting Rob-fin redbreast; The Stream Sunfish, published July 14th 2008
  • Small Fry, 4 - Chapter 4, Presenting Solid rocky; The Punk Rock Bass, published July 28th 2008
  • Small Fry, 5 - Chapter 5: Presenting White lightning; The Tidal River Perch, published August 11th 2008
  • Small Fry, 6 - Chapter 6: Presenting Mighty minnows; The Chub Family, published August 25th 2008
  • Small Fry, 7 - Chapter 7: Presenting Small wonder; The Mountain Brook Trout, published September 8th 2008
  • Small Fry, 8 - Chapter 8: Scaled-down Gear, published September 22nd 2008
  • Small Fry, 9 - Chapter 9: Thoughts on Knots, published October 6th 2008
  • Small Fry, 10 - Chapter 10: The Little Angler, published October 20th 2008
  • Small Fry, 11 - Chapter 11: Epilogue: Further Reading, published November 3rd 2008

    The chapters are being published with a couple of weeks inbetween.
    When new chapters are ready, they are first announced and then linked from here.

  • User comments
    From: David Swart · davidaswart·at·  Link
    Submitted May 18th 2011

    2 things great story I introduced many folks to fly fishing by taking them to small water & fishing for panfish or bass,my favorite fly for these little buggers is a black body,grizzly hackle,red tailed woolly worm #12 or 10 (non-weighted),love the simple fish.

    From: Nycflyangler  Link
    Submitted November 18th 2009

    This reminds me of the little Vermont brook that runs through my friend's family farm that we fished while we were growing up. Maybe two to three feet wide at it's widest point, it had a good supply of brook trout of the 5 to 8 inch class. Just dap a dry fly across the surface of the water or drift a nymph and let it be pulled by the current under the undercut bank. Then pull it out with one of these little gems attached. They were small and colorful and perfect, just like all trout should be.

    I've caught and have seen much bigger specimens, but some of these trophy trout with their distended bellies are kind of ugly when compared to these jewels of nature you can only find in these tiny brooks that come down from the mountains to feed larger bodies of water.

    It's important to always remember that both ends of the size spectrum are trophies, they just have different criteria.

    From: Boyan · pbojan·at·  Link
    Submitted September 9th 2008

    Instead of comments, all I'd like to say is that I'm impatiently looking forward Chapter 8... :)

    From: rybolov · rybolov·at·  Link
    Submitted August 17th 2008

    My not-so-secret recipe for redbreasties is a #12/10 stimulator or hopper with a #14/16 beaded hares ear dropper. Very much the Western-style approach to catching fish. =)

    From: Eric · ericsabo·at·  Link
    Submitted August 11th 2008

    Chapter 2 really inspired me to get back out to a spot I had visited (and gotten skunked at) over the winter.

    I got out there today with some big time success - including a surprisingly large 14" smallmouth from a pool that was no more than 15 feet wide when the rest of the creek was only between 6 and 8 feet wide. It was like tail-water fishing for trout... except the fish pulled a lot harder.

    So, thank you for the inspiration.

    From: Bernard Yin · LARiver·at·  Link
    Submitted August 1st 2008

    WOW I love this entry. As a musician myself, I was on tour and while somewhere in the south (US) our bus broke down. We were near a small store and a large field. In that field was a farm pond. I went to take a look and spooked a massive largemouth! I ran back to the store and bought a small jig (I had no choice) and a spool of line and walked back out to the pond. It was hot and humid and the insects were loud. I crawled out on a fallen tree branch and lobbed the jig out and caught a beautiful Rock Bass. What a neat species of fish. I will probably be re-playing that moment every day for the rest of my live. Rock and Roll!

    Want to comment this page? Fill out the form below.
    Only comments
    in English
    are accepted!

    Comentarios en Ingles
    solamente, por favor!

    Your name Your email
    Anonymize my information. Name and email will not be shown with comment.
    Notify me on new comments to this article on the above email-address.
    You don't have to comment to start or stop notifications.

    All comments will be screened by the GFF staff before publication.
    No HTML, images, ads or links, please - we do not publish such comments...
    And only English language comments will be published.
    Name and email is optional but recommended.
    The email will be shown in a disguised form in the final comment to protect you against spam
    You can see other public comments on this page