Just what is it about small flies that has captivated me for decades ? Hard to come up with an answer but the river is on the rise so I am going to give it a go !
It would be easy to say I like them because I have caught (and continue to catch) a ton of fish on them . The thing is I know that it goes beyond that . I have caught a ton of fish on lots of different flies and yet they don't hold my attention the way the wee ones do . A #12 Quill Gordon just doesn't do it for me the way a #32 Olive v-wing does ! I am thinking it has something to do with the improbability of the endeavor , which is to say that while it is easy to envision an 18" brown rising to inhale the big bite of protein the #12 represents it is much harder to see why the same fish would rise to eat something so small that you could set a dozen on the back of the #12 with room to spare . I guess I have an addiction to seeing the improbable happen ...
Is that all there is to it though ? Hm... nope it is more then that ! I think it also has something to do with the whole process involved with having the flies in the 1st place . Now with a #12 it is an easy matter to secure the hooks . Drive to or call any shop and they are yours , case closed . Not so with the tiny hooks . Most are no longer made so buying a box or 2 becomes a treasure hunt of sorts . There are lots of almost's , thought we had a few's and maybe you could try so and so's for every solid lead you find , let alone for every time you actually score some . It literally often takes , depending on the hook you are after , somewhere between a dozen and several hundred inquiries to strike pay dirt with a Mustad 94840 or Tiemco TMC 100 in a #28 being at the low end of the scale and a Mustad 277 gold real #32 being at the top . Even with the one micro hook that is still made (and imported to the US ) , the Gamakatsu c-12bm in #28 & #30 a dozen calls may get you nothing but "they are on back order , not sure when we will have them again . Tracking them down is a challenge and actually scoring a box or two is an adrenaline rush ! There is almost a "high" that comes with knowing you have a 100 pack of 277's on their way , said high getting infinitely stronger when you get your hands on them ;) .... I guess I enjoy the chase !
Now the tying part , with the exception of the 277's and some of the #30 and #32 emergers , is a fairly easy matter as there is really just some thread and a feather or 2 involved . Still you do have to adjust things to scale (which for me usually requires a "warming up" period) and you do have to really watch crowding . You have to focus and get locked in (more on this is a minute) ! The 277's are a whole other animal .... If someone has never seen one up close and personal (and if they are not darned close they still won't see them) there is no way to convey just how small these things are ! Here are a couple pictures of one (magnified many times ) beside a TMC 100 #28 ...
With these little gems special materials (20/0 thread ) and concerns (you have to create an eye out of 10x tippet ) come into play . Shoot just getting them into the vise is a challenge ! You do this knowing all the while that they won't hold a good trout anyhow but also knowing you will have the pleasure of fooling some that would otherwise not be fooled .... I mentioned getting locked in . This is even more true when fishing the tiny stuff . You have to focus when fishing to a pod of sippers ! Your casting must be precise , your adjustments subtle and your sets swift but oh so soft . Now the good thing is this tends to magnify what I like to think of as the "magic moment effect" that happens with all fly fishing this effect being that it feels like you have only been out an hour or so then look at your watch and it's been 6 ! Hours go by like minutes ... There is a peace that comes from being focused and I guess I find this peace appealing .
Another good thing about fishing them is that they let you touch trout that you otherwise simply couldn't ! If the trout are "on" a white #32 you need to be fishing a white #32 if you mean to do much business . There is an undeniable pleasure that comes from approaching a pool full of rising trout (and full of fishermen in various stages of frustration ) knowing full well that you have exactly what you need to get it done and knowing just as well that in all probability no one else in the pool has them ! There is even more pleasure in being able to share the flies (and the magic) with those in the pool then pulling up a seat on the bank and watching the untouchable trout become very touchable indeed . It's sort of like being Santa for an evening ! You meet a lot of very cool people this way that you otherwise would never have met . You also make a lot of people smile and that is something I have always loved to do .
Finally (for now) I think the appeal has to do with the fact that many of the tiny insects these patterns imitate are here all year long as opposed to a couple weeks so once you adjust to fishing small it's like having a perpetual hatch situation and in many/most cases the midge hatches are infinitely heavier then their Mayfly or Caddis counterparts . It lets you enjoy top of the water column fishing year round and I am an unrepentant top water addict .
PS: It might just be nothing more then that I associate tiny flies with the Lady and she has always made me smile therefore a box full of them is a box full of happiness . Hard to say . See you on the river , might want to bring the 2wt :) !