Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Today I fished a very pressured river in a section known to have few but large trout finning its deep, slow troughs.  Having lost my last #2 Kreelex a few days prior on the same river, I resorted to throwing a #4.

A solid fallfish from Vermont's Clyde River taken on trout tackle when Salmon fishing.
Photo by Matt Reilly.

    Though I did manage to pick up a few small rainbow and brown trout, plus one brown that went over 12 inches, the majority of fish that came to hand were 10-16-inch fallfish--a fish commonly condemned to "trash fish" status by trout anglers, despite being a true native fish.  In fact, in many of Virginia's larger trout streams, where rainbow and brown trout are the target species, fallfish are the only native species to eat a fly or lure.

    Anyone who has caught one of these large minnows knows that they are capable of great fighting power, characterized by aggressive takes, head-shaking, and jumping.  In this particular stream, it is not uncommon to hook into a 14+-inch fallfish--a worthy adversary, even on a five-weight rod.

    My first memory of fallfish goes back to the small warmwater creek that I fished almost every day of the summer in my childhood years.  One winter afternoon, on an expedition, I followed the small creek that tumbled out of the spillway of a neighborhood pond through thick underbrush and into the woods for about a quarter of a mile.  To my 10-year-old amazement, that small creek emptied into a much larger creek, that I quickly discovered to hold a mixed bag of sunfish, chain pickerel, fallfish, and the occasional bass.  On ultralight spinning tackle, an 8-inch fallfish was exceptional sport, and provided me fast action.  My best fallfish on that stream ran over 14 inches, and is a memorable fish to this day.

    So before you write off the omnipresent fallfish for its eagerness to take a lure or fly, do yourself a favor and take advantage of the sportiness it provides.  Trying to interest a kid in fishing?  The fast action provided by the largest minnows is a foolproof method.  If he/she isn't hooked after landing a decent "fally," they are beyond help!

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