Ten Lessons from Tiny Trout

TinyTrout Head

Ten lessons from tiny trout.

I recently spent ten days in Rhodes, it isn’t exactly the same as “Seven Years in Tibet” but probably closer than you may imagine. The place could be the “Centre of the Universe” but you are hard pressed to find: bread, deodorant or even a pack of smokes on some days. The bottle store is so called because it has a bottle or two in it but don’t expect 15 year old single malts, actually scratch the idea of Scotch entirely. Brandy is available in limited vintage, it isn’t something you would worry too much about diluting with cola and the rivers were for the most part about as dry as the off-license.

That said there was some tremendous fishing, a lot of small fish, OK perhaps too many small fish but it did offer ample opportunity to experiment and when I am not guiding experimentation is something that I love to do on a river.

So, as the British Government are apt to recite on a regular basis, generally after some monumental cock up on in the health system or similar, “Lessons were be learned”, and they will stand me in good stead for the future.


The Festival is about fun and learning.

Lesson #1: Good presentation is Good Presentation.

It mattered not that the fish were tiny and quite probably more naïve than a virgin on wedding night, they still responded a lot more positively to good drag free drifts, lack of line shadow and all the other things that go with that. In brief you can never short cut presentation.

Lesson #2: Tastes vary.

On one day these little fish would respond well to a dry fly and the next to a nymph or a soft hackle, you just didn’t know which. Playing with combination rigs of dry and dropper I found that if they kept on hitting the dry you could forego the subsurface pattern, but if they didn’t you would do very well to leave it on. On top of that if the soft hackle didn’t produce a slightly heavier 2mm tungsten bead nymph would often produce a few more fish or perhaps on occasion the first one from a run. It paid to keep at it and ring the changes even if the water looked too low to throw a subsurface pattern at all.


We were blessed with low but crystal clear water.

Lesson #3: A response to a fly isn’t a hook up.

These small trout would get such a rush of blood to the head if they had a large dry fly land anywhere near them that they would attack it with glee. Trouble is that they would frequently miss the fly and on one notable occasion a fish missed the fly in an act of suicidal youthful exuberance and landed on the bank anyway, I did mention that the water was low didn’t I? Yes that low!!

Lesson #5: Be efficient.

The smaller fish were grabbing the dry on occasion so frequently that one spent nearly the whole day trying to dry it off. I found that by fishing very small but visible flies as indicators I would pick up the odd fish on the top but they would then often take the nymph or soft hackle, getting a better hook up and avoiding that endless shaking of damp morsels in the top ride powder.


Catch and Release is the norm on these waters.

Lesson #6: Strike sideways.

Small fish offer little by way of resistance when you strike, they are too small and weigh too little to give the required opposition to set the hook. By striking low and sideways I managed to greatly increase the hook ups of the tiddlers and at the same time never missed a bigger fish. It would seem that a low strike drags the fish through the water, providing more to pull against and for longer allowing the hook to set properly. I am trying to adapt to that for all my fishing, it seemed remarkably effective.

Lesson #7: Sharp Hooks are happy hooks.

Yes I have said that before, but with small fish and light tackle it was all the more apparent and every fly got a good working over with the hook sharpener. On a couple of occasions the clients (when I had some) inadvertently tied on flies with micro barbs, when they hooked a trout with those, and that wasn’t too often because barbs are an anathema to good hook ups on light gear, it was a dreadful struggle to remove the offending metal. Barbs are nasty little things, bad for hook ups, bad for the trout and bad for you if you stick one in your ear. Barbs are best removed or barbless hooks used for all trout fishing and no doubt a good deal of other situations too.


Guide Tony Kietzman casts on a very low Bell River.

Lesson #8: Casting is important:

You simply cannot fish well and effectively if you can’t cast well. Poor casting results in poor presentation, poor line control, lots of tangles and a whole lot less fish. Every “client” I guided over the course of the WTA festival caught a good deal less fish than they might have simply because their casting wasn’t up to scratch. It’s silly because casting is the one thing that you actually can practise away from the river. Casting is king actually, learn to do it well, ingrain it and forget it. Not only will you catch a LOT more fish but you will enjoy your angling a heap more to boot.

Lesson #9: The 1%’ers count.

By combining sharpening of hooks, long leaders, 8X tippet, matted down rod blanks, careful presentations and sideways strikes as well as doing all I could to dissuade the fish from eating the dry fly where possible I did on one occasion land 160 trout in a day. That is a helluva lot of fish and although naïve and small fish for the most part it just showed that the little things add up more than you may imagine when fishing. Fly fishing hasn’t got a great deal to do with luck, it has to do with playing the percentages, focusing on good technique and thinking the problems through. I haven’t fished much of late so the past week or so was a wonderful opportunity to “get my eye in”. I am better prepared now and feeling more confident than I have in a while. I don’t wish to spend my life beating up baby trout but it proved a worthwhile exercise none the less.


Even the better fish weren’t that large but it was all great fun.

Lesson #10: Friends are as important as the fishing.

My time in Rhodes afforded me the opportunity to meet up with old friends and make some new ones. To the old ones “it was lovely to see you again” to the new ones “thanks for participating and being amenable to learning something”. Fly Fishing is a great sport, it is in my blood but for all the fish it is the people who make it special. Dedicated, perhaps a little obsessive, passionate and suffering mostly from some form of OCD, you are all appreciated. 🙂 Thanks for the memories.


Further information:

The WTA festival is held each year at the same time, centred in Rhodes in the Eastern Cape Highlands. Participation affords access to hundreds of kilometres of fly fishing water, guides are available for those in need of them and the entire weekend is simply an immersion in the passion of fly fishing. For more information contact Dave Walker at Walkerbouts dave@walkerbouts.co.za

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6 Responses to “Ten Lessons from Tiny Trout”

  1. Tony Mair Says:

    ….and I thought Rhodes was a Greek island!! I am struggling to find enthusiasm for fishing this year. I have normally visited the Usk in South Wales, which is one of the first rivers to open (March 3), by now, but the very cold weather persists, and rains are now snows, and therefore! But two chums and I will be in the French Pyrenees in mid May, so that is something to look forward to. In addition, my wife and I have bought an apartment in the South of France ( to escape to!) and there is fishing in the lower Alpine slopes to the north of Nice to explore, as well as to the far west of Provence above Marseille, not to mention in Tuscany, which is only five hours away! There is hope!! Best wishes Tony

    Sent from my iPad

    • paracaddis Says:

      What about trout in every Province in France as a next step Tony? 🙂 I hear the weather has been dreadful so I feel for you. South of France sounds like a good idea. As to Rhodes, yes it is a Greek Island and I think that currently the small homonymic village in the Eastern Cape Highlands probably has an equivalent sized economy with little chance of an EU bailout 😦

  2. Ian Says:

    Thanks Tim for the interesting read. Did you try any pink flies?

  3. Spillers Says:

    Well written as always – fond memories of Rhodes – my first fishing adventure December 1995 – met Tony and Dave in the pub – casting clinic the next day with Tony usung the gum pole I bought in a second hand shop – caught first on a walkers killer – hooked forever – Keep up the good work Tim, Dave and Tony

  4. Miss P Says:

    Awesome post, thank you!!!

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