Introduction: Budget Microfishing

About: General outdoors person

Unlike regular fishing, microfishing aims to catch the smallest fish species in our local creeks, streams, and ponds; bodies of water which most anglers would overlook. Microfishing originated in Japan as Tanago (English: Bitterling) fishing where small species of fish were caught on the tiniest hook with the lightest line attached to a short Tanago rod which often only measured 2-3 feet long. Microfishing is a great way to get outside with friends and family, explore local forests, see what species of fish live in your backyard, or wind down after a long day of work. I will show you how you can do it on a budget.

Step 1: Equipment

Of course like any hobby or past time, you can spend as much or as little as you want. I suggest starting with cheap gear first then upgrading your kit as you go. This way, you can get out and have fun then optimize your gear to your own needs.

  • Collapsible pole (5-20$): The longer, the better. A telescopic rod is ideal so that the rods can be stored in a backpack while hiking to locations. Guides are not necessary for microfishing as it is a fixed line style fishing. If you already have another type of rod such as a fly fishing rod, you can use that instead and just fix the line to the tip to save some money. I used to use a 3.6m and 4m telescopic rod which cost me 4$ and 6$, respectively (ordered from China). I have since upgraded to a 3.6m rod but collapses to 32cm (instead of 74cm as my old ones did) for easier packing which cost me $20.
  • Fishing line (1-5$): The lightest line you can find will be best. Tippet is often used but light fluorocarbon or monofilament can be used too. I use a 4lb test red fluorocarbon which cost me $2 for 100m.
  • Hooks (0-1$): Specialty Tanago hooks can be found online ( for about 0.20$ a hook (which becomes 0.75-1$ a hook for international shipping). Small fly fishing hooks (size 20-32) can also be used but are often difficult to find. I make my own hooks from larger hooks which end up costing about a penny or two a hook.
  • Split shot weight (1-2$): The smallest split shot you can find. I used to use the smallest my local Walmart had in stick which cost 2$ for 80. I have since upgraded to the weights that weight 0.07g and cost about $2 for 300 from my tackle shop.


  • Viewing Tank (0-5$): A small, clear plastic container that can hold water. Used for taking pictures of your catch. I use an old acrylic ant farm.
  • Floats (0-1$): In my experience, I don't use them often but I still carry some homemade ones as I couldn't find small enough ones in the store.

Step 2: DIY Hooks


If you decide to make your own hooks, WEAR EYE PROTECTION. The last thing you need is visit to the ER with a hook point in your eye.

I bought the smallest hooks I could find on the internet which ended up costing about 2 cents a hook. The problem was that they were not the proper shape of a Tanago hook which is designed to fit in the mouth of small fish. These hooks can easily be reshaped and work very well.

Sorry for the poor quality pictures, no macro on my camera unfortunately.

Step 3: Making Your Rigs

A typical knot used for snelling a hook IS used to secure a spade ended hook. I like to add a drop of nail polish to the attachment point to prevent any line slipping.

A split shot should be pinched about 5cm above the hook.

Different lengths of line should be spooled out. I usually make 60cm, 90cm, and 120cm long rigs. Those reflect the water depths of my local water bodies.

A loop at the end of the rig should be tied with a figure 8 knot.

Step 4: DIY Rig Holder

This has saved me so much time and I highly recommend you make one (or several) instead of carrying rigs in little plastic bags like I used to.

I push 5 sewing pins through a wine cork then cut the points off on the other side. Make sure to file the sharp parts flat. The great thing about these are that they are cheap and keep your rigs tangle free.

Step 5: Preparing Your Rod for a Rig

A telescopic pole often does not have any guides. Instead, at the tip of the rod, you will find a short length of cord called a lillian. Although it is traditionally knotted and the line is looped then secured to the line, I find it easier to just tie a split ring or swivel to the lillian then secure premade rigs to it. It is also easier for first timers to fix lines as a regular knot can be used.

Step 6: Bait

A small piece of worm or piece wax worm hooked behind the tip of the hook works well.

Alternatively, a fishing dough can be made and put into a syringe and brought to your location if you would rather not dig up worms or buy them from your bait shop. I haven't been able to find a good recipe though, if you have one please let me know.

Step 7: Scouting a Location

I often use Google Maps' Satellite feature or Google Earth to look for small ponds and creeks along local trails. Of course, you will not be able to see everything from the sky but it is good to have an idea of where to look before heading out. You're looking for small creeks or streams and ponds that form off of fast moving water.

Step 8: Fish!

Very often you will be able to see the fish swimming around in slow moving/ still shallow pools of water. This is a good place to start as you know there are fish and can see them as they investigate your hook. Once you've become used to feeling the bites of these microspecies (which is surprisingly strong on a long rod), you can move to water that fish may not be able to be seen due to water clarity, vegetation, etc.

You'll see a lot of other aquatic life too! A great opportunity to teach kids.

I hope you get out there in your free time and explore your local area with your friends and family. Be sure to take the proper precautions when going out in the sun such as sunscreen and bottled water. Have fun!

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Outside Contest 2016