The darker, smaller side of our sport
If Stephen Robert, Rob Bergeron and myself were ever locked in a nuclear laboratory, within 24 hours the world would end.
On a hot summer day our diabolical minds were conjuring up yet another mad idea. This time it was holding a fly fishing tournament for the smallest bream. Certainly no one had ever thought of that before, right?
Au contrare, Robespierre! Turns out that “micro fly fishing” — in fact, micro fishing in general — isn’t an original idea of ours. It’s been around for several years.
While numerous youth tournaments held each year have a prize for smallest bluegill, there’s a growing number of adult tournaments that have added this category, or made it an event all to itself.
There’s even a website dedicated to the pursuit of small fish — it’s MicroFishing.com.
In fact, at ICAST last year, one of the former legends of bass fishing told me he was all into micro fishing. Well — maybe that’s not exactly how he put it. What he said was that all he catches these days are small fish.
Maybe that’s why he’s a former bass fishing legend.
But thanks to the growing popularity of micro fishing, he has a great opportunity for a career comeback.
Back in June, the Fin-Addicts Fly Fishers of Houma held a two-fly tournament during which the top prize went to the angler with the highest cumulative total inches of three bream. A typical biggest fish event.
After the final weigh-in around noon and the subsequent awards ceremony, the club held an impromptu micro fly fishing event. Smallest fish of any species.
Stephen Robert came in first with a 6.8 centimeter bluegill.
That day, I learned just how difficult it is to catch a 3-inch (or shorter) fish. A lot of anglers I talk with say they catch that size all the time. I challenge them to measure their fish — looks are often deceiving.
Be aware that getting into micro fishing will not win you any popularity contests among animal welfare groups. It’s looked upon in the same vein as cat juggling and cock gunfighting (that’s where the roosters are given tiny handguns instead of metal blades).
Also, if you decide to pursue this niche sport, you’ll need to downsize your tackle. A lot.
Many flyrodders own a 3-weight rod, which is considered an ultralight. It makes a 10-inch bass feel like a lunker.
However, in micro fishing, the most-common rods are 1-weight or less. Temple Fork Outfitters makes a 1-weight and 1/2-weight rods in their Finesse Series. Orvis also makes a 1-weight rod. Sage goes even further with their TXL-F Series: The series includes a 0-weight, 00-weight and a 000-weight.
Let’s put this into perspective. A 000-weight rod is five sizes lighter in action than a 3-weight. Catching a 10-inch bass on a 000-weight rod is like catching a big red on a 3-weight.
Catching small fish requires small flies and small tippets. Both hook sizes and tippet material have bigger numbers for smaller sizes, much like the gauge number for electrical wire.
For micro fishing you need flies tied on hooks smaller than the typical sizes 8 through 12 used for most bream flies. Sizes 16 to 20 are more viable. In one particular tournament, the winner credited a size 24 caddis pupa for his success.
For folks who tie their own flies, Gamakatsu and Tiemco make hook sizes down to size 32.
If you don’t tie flies, or you don’t want to tie flies this small (who does?), then there’s a website called micromidge.com that sells flies sizes 20 to 30 at very reasonable prices.
Use of tiny flies requires small-diameter tippets. For small-diameter monofilament or fluorocarbon tippets, it helps to know the ‘Quantum Rules of Fly Fishing.’
The first is the ‘Rule of Eleven’. Most freshwater tippet material is marked as a number followed by an ‘X.’ The formula is X = .011 inches minus actual diameter in inches. For example, 0X = .011 inches, 1X = .010 inches, 2X = .009 inches, 6X = .005 inches, 8X = .003 inches.
The second rule is the ‘Rule of Fours.’ It is used to estimate the size tippet for the size hook. Too large a tippet, and the monofilament or fluoro won’t be able to pass through the eye of the hook.
The formula for the Rule of Four is: Tippet size in X = hook size divided by 4. With the advent of higher-strength tippet material, the formula has been modified by adding 1 to the rounded result.
Using these two rules, one can estimate the size tippet required for a size 26 fly. Take 26 and divide by 4. That equals 6.5, which is rounded up to 7. So the largest size would be 7X tippet, the recommended would be 8X (where 1 is added).
The real problem will be passing the tippet through the eye of the hook. To get an idea of the difficulty, pick up a dime. Look for the ‘D’ on the backside of the dime. That’s the dimension of a size 30 fly.
Which brings us to the most needed accessory for micro fly fishing — a good pair of magnified reading glasses!
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