Micro fishing gear encompasses the rod, line, hooks, bait (or flies) and accessories you need for catching smaller fish. It can be as simple as a willow shoot, a bit of light fishing line and any small hook. On the other end of the spectrum is specialty equipment imported from Japan, where catching small fish is big, and where the anglers who pursue them are as fanatical as any bass, trout or salmon fisherman.
As with any other type of fishing, there is equipment that was designed for the purpose - catching small fish. To some extent, micro fishing may be where tenkara fishing was just a couple years ago. People are still asking if they can do it with cheap crappie poles. And of course, the answer is yes, you can, but you might find the specialty equipment to be more enjoyable.
I think in time people will realize that there really is an advantage to using hooks that are specifically designed for fish with small mouths, floats that are designed to be sensitive to the bite of a very small fish, shot that is small enough to work with the floats, and rods that are actually designed for catching small (or very small) fish.
Micro fishing rods run the gamut. Some people use ultra light spinning rods, some use crappie rods, some use the Kiyotaki rods or Tanago rods or seiryu rods like the Oikawa III, Air Stage 190 or Kurenai HM30 sold here on Tenkarabum.com.
Because "micro fish" encompasses so many different species, which live in a wide range of habitats, there is a wide range of rods that are appropriate for at least some of the fishing conditions you will face.
Two of the things I look for in a micro fishing rod are the same as I look for in a tenkara rod: light weight and portability. Another attribute that is very important to me is that I want the rod to be sensitive enough and soft enough that even a small fish will put up a fight. Granted, a mosquitofish isn't going to put a bend in the rod, but there are lots of chubs and shiners and small sunfish that could if you chose a rod that is actually designed for catching small fish.
The Owner Micro Fishing Kit provides hook, line and sinker to get you started. The line has markers attached, which allow you to see if a fish has taken your hook and is swimming to the side rather than down. The float included in the kit is quite sensitive, but the markers will show movement before the float does. A bit of lead sheet is included to wrap on the line as a weight and the whole thing comes on a line holder to hold it and keep it from tangling between fishing trips.
Also available is a small tackle box just about the right size for the Micro Fishing Kit, along with some spare floats and sinkers. I call it the Tanago Tackle Box.
By all means, start with the hooks. If you want to catch a small fish, you need to use a hook that will fit in its mouth. For small sunnies in the neighborhood stream or the pond at the edge of town, there is no need to go really small, but for some of the micros, you really will do better with the tanago hooks from Japan. The shape of the hook is quite a bit different from even the smallest fly hooks, and considerably smaller fish can take them.
For some micros, though, not only can you use small fly hooks, you can use small flies!
If you are not going to be sight fishing you may want a float to keep your bait suspended off the bottom. You will want to use a float that is small enough and sensitive enough that a micro can move it. There are two that I have in stock, the tanago floats that are used in Japan and the Unibobbers, which were designed for fly tying, but work nicely for micro fishing floats.
You may want to use a Unibobber if you want to try fly fishing for micros. It is a bit difficult to cast a line that is light enough for a micro to make twitch or hesitate, which will be the only indication of a strike if you fish micro nymphs or wet flies. If you use the Unibobbers as strike indicators, they provide enough extra weight to cast more easily, and are still small enough for micros to pull under (or at least sideways).
If you use the tanago floats, you will definitely want to have some micro sized split shot to make the float cock properly. With the right amount of weight, it will float with just the tip exposed above the surface and will take virtually no effort for a micro to take under. With no weight underneath, it will float on its side.
The Dinsmores No. 10 shot is the smallest shot I've found in a single size dispenser. It will cock the tanago floats and will not be too heavy for the Unibobber floats.
Micro fishing line is line geared to the size of the fish. There is no point fishing for two inch fish with four pound test line. The flies or baits used are so small, and the hooks are so small that anything other than a very thin line is going to look like a rope in comparison.
There are a number lines you could choose instead, ranging from 2# test down to about 1/3# test, which is the lightest line I've ever seen.
Micro Fishing Line Winders allow you to store rigged micro fishing lines. Since the hooks are small and the lines are very thin, it is easier to make up your lines at home.
If you have several of the Micro Fishing Line Winders, you could rig lines of different lengths. You could also rig lines with floats for fishing at mid depths and lines without floats and with heavier shot for fishing on the bottom.
A tippet connector is one of those things that you might not actually need but will certainly appreciate. It makes tying the very light line used to snell the tanago hooks to your main line a snap.
Tie your main line to the eye of the tippet connector. Pull the snell line into the tight hook part of the tippet connector. Then wrap it around the connector once and pull it into the hook again. If you use the lightest of the Japanese micro fishing lines, you will have to wrap it around the connector twice to hold it securely.
The line won't slip and you don't have to tie a knot it the very fine line.
Micro fishing gear is small. It makes sense to have a small box to hold it. The Tanago Tackle Box will hold your hooks, floats, weights and two line winders. Each compartment has its own lid to securely hold your gear.
The Stonfo Hook Tyer makes it much easier to snell the extremely small tanago hooks. The hooks are available either snelled or unsnelled, but since the hooks do not have eyes, if you do not buy them snelled you will have to snell them yourself. Whether you buy them snelled or unsnelled, the price per package is the same. Just for the convenience factor, most people buy the snelled hooks.
With the unsnelled hooks, though, you get 21 hooks in a package compared to just 10 with the snelled hooks. The loose hooks are essentially half price! The savings from only 3 packages of hooks is enough to pay for the hook sneller.
The bulky hemostats you use for trout fishing or needle nose pliers you use for bass fishing might not fit in the small mouth of a dace or a darter. These hemostats have particularly small tips, which makes them ideal for micro fishing.
The Micro Photo Tank allows you to examine and photograph your catch while keeping it in the water. One of the most interesting aspects of micro fishing is trying to determine just what you've caught. Having the fish in a photo tank allows you to look for key identifying characteristics.
Lots of small fish have pretty much the same dark stripe down their side. For the fish in the photo, the small black spot on the dorsal fin clearly identifies it as a creek chub. If you just hold a creek chub in your palm the dorsal fin is not erect and you can't see the spot. That is a very easy and obvious example, but some are very tricky and having detailed photos of the fins or the mouth or even the top of the head can be critical.
The 3x5 Photo Tank holds larger fish than the Micro Photo Tank (like sunfish) and also holds several micros at once. That makes it much easier to compare several similar looking fish. Also, with more than one fish in the tank, they seem to settle down more quickly so you can get better photos. Molded from a single piece of plexiglass, it has no seems to leak. The hinged lid will keep fish from jumping out. Inside dimensions roughly 3.5" x 5.5" (3" front to back).