River Reflections – The Little Big Fish

By Matt Mittan

The older I get, the more I see the “bigness” of little things. This applies to my fishing excursions as well.

I spent years of my life chasing the biggest fish, the toughest catches, and took pride in pulling beasts out of places that most anglers would wade, paddle or engine on by. It was all great fun. But life happens along the way and situations often cause us to reassess our time management priorities.

That’s what happened with me over the past five years. Divorce, a career change, medical challenges within my circle – all these things combined to shift my focus. Fishing trips no longer needed to be full blown expeditions anymore. They couldn’t be.

That’s when I discovered the vibrant and spirited Creek Chub. This species inhabits small waters across most of the eastern half of the country and is reportedly showing up in other places further west. It’s size ranges from 2 to 6 inches, most commonly, but I have read reports of them growing up to 10-12 inches in some places.

Most people look at this fish as a baitfish, but I see it as a battle breed. It rules over its domain with strength and confidence. And if you’re willing to humble yourself down to some ultra-light gear and fishing in the little creeks that most people think are not much more than rain runoff, you could end up having some pretty amazing fun. And that’s one of the best kept secrets about it. You literally can find these in almost every neighborhood.

I took my youngest son out to a small wash creek behind a local fire department earlier this Fall with the smallest gear we could find, a tiny, plastic, clear grub, and a gentle touch. As we walked along the bank, we could see a few little minnows dart around occasionally in the current, but as soon as we flipped that grub into the water, behind a rock, or behind a log, a small swarm of attackers torpedoed right for the lure.

They hit with the same angered focus of many predator fish I’ve gone after over the years. The difference being that there were lots of them, not just one or two seen per day. Therein lies the real fun. We found a deep little pool at a bend in the creek. We must have spent an hour there, feeling quick tugs on every single cast. We took turns reeling in fish. Some had colors as beautiful as any fall trout. Others looked like something from another planet, as their heads were enlarged and lumpy for the spawn.

I still like to get out on the water when I can and spend the day chasing trophy fish, but I have to say that this little big fish, called the Creek Chub, has given me – and my son – as many smiles and sighs as any other fish we’ve gone for in years.

It’s been a blessing to be reminded that so much joy is found in such small things. Whether you’re fishing or wading through the waters of daily life. You just have to decide to see them.

“As we walked along the bank, we could see a few little minnows dart around occasionally in the current, but as soon as we flipped that grub into the water, behind a rock or behind a log, a small swarm of attackers torpedoed right for the lure.”

Matt Mittan is a long time broadcaster in WNC, an entrepreneur and USAF veteran who has fished all around the world. He can often be found aboard his classic red Old Town canoe in search of mountain Bass. Matt currently has an insurance business, partnered with AFLAC, providing benefits and tax solutions for area businesses. Email MattsFishingDiary@gmail.com with story ideas or feedback.

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