Fathers’ Day weekend is a great time for us pass on some tips for fly fishing with kids. We guide customers who bring their children along and we have two young children ourselves. Kids naturally love the outdoors and water so they should have fun, but there are plenty of ways to mess it up. We always make these suggestions to anyone who wants to take a child fishing.
Make it Easy
This is not the time to spend time figuring out whether or not trout are rising to emergers, eating nymphs just below the surface, or keying in on cripples. Kids aren’t fascinated with the small details but are always excited with a bent rod. Go to a pond full of bluegill or a heavily stocked trout stream. You may turn your nose up at the idea of a trout farm but it’s the perfect place to take a young child because it’s a sure thing.
Don’t Be a Tech Geek
As much as you loved A River Runs Through It, you should NEVER subject a child to hours of fly casting instruction before taking them to the water. Kids don’t know or care what tippet is and may not even care what the lure is. They don’t know a nightcrawler from a CDC Comparadun. They don’t care either. Parents already speak a foreign language at times so don’t lay into the techno geek talk.
Simply take them to the water, put the rod in their hand, and help them get the fly or lure in the water. Again, try to do this where there are a few suicidal fish (or fish with a good work ethic as we say in the guide business).
If the cast is a little far or tough you should make the cast, then hand the rod off. Keep your hand on the rod to help set the hook. Once the fish is hooked help the child keep the tip high and strip line or let them reel the fish in. One of the best things you’ll ever see is a kid holding a rod with a fish on the line. They’ll be thrilled, excited, and scared all at the same time. It’s a moment neither of you will forget.
This Is Not Your Fishing Trip
One of the most regular mistakes parents make is to forget they’re not really the ones fishing. It can be easy to get distracted by some rising fish or the sight of a sexy patch of water. Don’t take your focus off of the child. If you lose their attention it’s almost impossible to get it back.
Keep it Short & Sweet
Before you even head for the water you need to plan on keeping it short. If the fishing is slow or the child is disinterested you don’t gain anything by staying too long. Even if the fishing is good you need to cut it short while the child is still enthused. Don’t hang around until it gets boring.
If you tell them it’s time to leave while you’re catching fish they’ll be begging to go next time. This really needs to become a habit until the child has been regularly and gets older with a better attention span.
Keep it Fun
This is one of those things that even we can forget at times. Kids aren’t always into the fishing but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to be out on the water. It’s your job to ensure that they have a good time no matter what. If the fishing is no good or they lose interest in a few minutes you might show them how to skip a rock across the water. I know you’re wincing at the thought of pitching rocks into your favorite fishing hole, but it’s all about building enthusiasm for the outdoors.
Bring a swimsuit and PFD for them so they can get in the water if they want. Even better, flip rocks and look for nymphs and salamanders. They’re having fun and learning at the same time.