"It's a Small World"
In and around the famous trout towns of the West small streams are all but irrelevant. Whispers in a local fly shop. Namesakes for treacherous alpine passes. Little blue veins on a map that carry life to the bigger, more famous rivers; the ones you book expensive flights and expensive guides and expensive hotels to fish. Let's be honest, nobody flies half-way across the country to flick a 6' two-weight about in pursuit of a few over-zealous natives. We go West because everything is bigger (and ergo de facto, better). Bigger rivers, bigger boats, bigger flies, bigger fish. Every now and then a visiting angler will spend an afternoon "exploring" one of those road-side blue lines, but hordes of them come and go without ever stepping foot into any of the countless miniature waterways that surround them.
There was a time not very long ago when I could lose myself for a few hours after work wading the icy waters of a small mountain stream, making short casts to tight spots and catching pretty little trout on an almost comically little fly rod. I could escape with little to no advanced preparation... Enough gas to get up the pass (I could coast back down in neutral if it ever came to that). Rod (pre-strung and at that point a permanent fixture in my back seat). Spool of 5X (a more self-respecting angler would've used 6X, but I didn't really give a shit). A half-dozen flies to stick in the hat (the trout were predictable in that way). Headlamp (the 'big' fish always came out to play right at dusk).... that's it.
Oh, and DEET. Don't forget the Deet.
And then I'd be gone. I may as well have been on Mars, because once I got between the banks on that stream tunnel vision set in. Tiny rivers have a way of shrinking your perspective on just about everything. If you're not careful you'll find yourself examining the spots on a 6-inch cuttrhoat, wondering what evolutionary purpose each of them serves in keeping that fish alive (scoff if you must, but when a creature has survived in the same watershed since the last ice age a question like that is probably worth asking). This is fly fishing at its most intimate, everything condensed to a miniature scale, yet somehow magnified ten-fold in significance.
On days like today I'd do anything to get lost for a few 6-inch trout.