Size of the fish isn't that important to me; one of my best days fishing this year came on a small stream I have been meaning to explore for a very long time. My biggest Brookie was probably all of 10 inches, but he was born and grew up in that little piece of Heaven; he's still there and growing. I caught a lot of fish that day, but the best part was the trip back to my trout fishing roots.
The brook across the way from my house has a good population of native brookies. Most are smaller than 6" and a fully mature fish is around 9". I don't go bother them often, but they're fun to play with sometimes.
Pan fish are a regular sport with me and I regularly harvest them to eat.
The bigger ones are easier to clean than little ones, but it's the smaller ones that need to be culled out to improve the population. I don't keep bass, so if I'm out to fill the stringer, I'm after a "mess" of small ones
Striper fishing is often "Big vs Small". The different year class fish just don't hang with each other. Some people (newbies) are just interested in catching fish, but if all you're picking up are dink 14 inchers it's not going to get any better and you need to move. Even if you're catching one after another.
After all, there are "more fish in the sea"
I love to catch fish, lots of them, a few of them, large or small, I love to catch fish. The throbbing of a fish I just fooled on the end of my line is pure nirvana for me. The combination of using a flyrod, tying and choosing a passable imitation, knowing what line, leader and tippet to use in varying situations and then to get the right cast after reading the water, getting the perfect drift and then all of that combined for a hookup is just one of life's sweetest simple pleasures.
Do I prefer to catch big fish? Of course, who doesn't? Nevertheless, I love to fish.
For me, it is both size and the difficulty, knowledge and skill involved in getting the bite. Often, within the same specie they are one and the same.
For instance, I have never fished out of the US for saltwater fish - though round trip plane fare to the bahamas is only $140. I would prefer to fish for "downtown bones" which are much bigger and much more difficult to fool. I'd rather fool one big downtown bone than catch 50 little ones in the islands.
Salt water (even more than fresh water in my view) is about the whole experience - deciding what species to fish for, where to fish for them, when to fish for them, how to fish for them, what the best way of finding them is, and then getting a fly to them at the moment they are most likely to accept it.
The two most memorable bones in my life, never even picked up my fly. One, by far the biggest I've ever seen, I never even cast to because he'd not have taken it. I was hoping for a change in his attitude, but it never happened before he disappeared.
I also like the big pull, the long fast run, the high jump and the big splash.
This is a great question and great to see the different responses. I think the differences in answers stem from our experiences, our surroundings, our fish available to us and the stage we are in in our flyfishing journey. I read an excellent article on that sometime back... and actually managed to find it first time! 2010 September The Fishing Gene
For me I crave big fish right now... I want to tussle with the heavy weights around... be it pike, trout or carp or whatever else is around... I have caught some decent fish in my life so far, but after my first season in Canada where I have been exploring a new countryside my motivation has been fueled by a desire to catch big fish. I relish the opportunity to take on the challenge and solve the puzzle and experience the reward.
It will be a while before I can take my rod in my hand again, but when I do, I want to be ready! I can handle getting skunked for the simple reason that being outdoors is a reward in itself, but I am prepared to go to just about any length to find those photo worthy fish, the fish that I can get a picture of, even maybe a replica mount, so that years from now, when I have kids/grandkids and they ask me about that pic/mount I will be able to sit them down and tell them a real good story.
I used to fish competitively for a number of years back in South Africa and it got to the point where I was sick of catching small fish in numbers... while I am no longer sick of that and when the days of getting skunked get to me I know where to go where I can get my fill of setting the hook 30-40 times a day... but when I am left on my own, for any length of time, I plot and I plan and I dream of those fish... I have set myself some goals, and they drive me... They are: a 10lb Rainbow, a 20lb Northern Pike and a 30lb Carp... Once I have met those goals I'll re-evaluate...
You know its kind of a contradiction for me, because when I have those days where I've caught and released 30 average <12" trout when I'm in the moment I am having a blast and it is a other worldly feeling. Nevertheless, when I have caugh above average fish depending on the species even if I've only caught one fish after fishing from morning till dark I have always felt a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I have to admit to that I often feel like I'm tired of catching <12" and smaller trout. Matter of fact I have a desire to go fishing in other States then here in CA. so that I can fish some less heavily fished waters in hopes that it will increase my chances of catching "Walter" more often. If it were not for the fact that my elderly mother and my children live here in CA. I'd probably move altogether to another state partially for that same reason.
I'm kind of wondering if this coming season after my son and I start catching fish on the first rods that I've built myself and the flies we've tyed ourselves if the sense of satisfaction will be just in having caught fish with those rods and flies.
I suspect eventually though that it will go back to the above again for me.
__________________ -Tom Wilson Attention New Fly Fishers and those just wanting to improve- Join a Fly Fishing Club. They have classes on every aspect of fly fishing for beginners to advanced for free or cheaper than offered elsewhere. Some offer mentor programs. You will make friends with other fly fishers. Clubs often have outings in which members pay special group rates for guides or to fish prime private access areas.
Personally, I like it all, including the occasional skunkeroo. The skunks keep you humble...
If all you have is a 5wt, then a day of smaller fish can get old....but if you bring out the 2 wt, then those 10" trout get to be a little more interesting. Seems to me if you gear up or down to match your quarry you can enhance your enjoyment...-Mike
I think that it's all a matter of perspective. I live within a 30 minute drive of more water than I could fish in a year of daily fishing, but the vast majority of the trout are under 8". If you're luck and get a footer, you have a trophy.
So I've sort of resigned myself to catching what most people would call bait, and fish accordingly, using my 2wt. Since doing that my satisfaction and "thrill of the catch" have increased while catching the same sized fish.
So I guess my answer is that I love latching into Bubba, I've adapted my fishing to enjoy his little cousins Leroy and Gertrude too.
Small fish, lots of small fish. About 30 years ago we started a club, Ultra Light Hawaii. We only use 1#, 2# and 4# test line. The reefs around Oahu are pretty fished out, so chances of catching anything of any size (2 pounds or larger) is pretty slim. But using ultra-light you catch a lot more fish than if your using 15 or 20 pound test.
Now days when I use the Tenkara rods... I only use up to 5# test tippit, so I don't even worry about catching large fish. All the 3 pound or larger peacock bass just keep breaking my line.