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Kids can handle a fly rod with proper instruction and patience beginning as early as age 7. Private classes are available for $325 for up to two people. Add an optional overnight camp outing ($75) and you will create a life long memory!
Kids love the great outdoors so, at some point, you are sure to be out on the pond, lake or river with your favorite youngsters. Putting a rod in their hands will add to their enjoyment. I am fortunate to have a dad who loves to fish and who took me along when I was a child. I was holding a rod in my earliest childhood memory and have been passionate about it for as long as I can remember.
Since starting my teaching career, I’ve had the chance to introduce numerous children to fly fishing. I have learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t work, so I’ve listed a few tips that will help to add to your enjoyment during the first days out on the water with your young fishing buddy.
What Age to Start
As a rule, I don’t recommend starting with a fly rod with kids younger than the age of 7 or 8. Some kids could start younger but, in most cases, the kids aren’t strong enough to hold the rod, and their attention span is very short. I have a 4-year-old cousin who I started out with a cane pole and a worm. He swings out the line, doesn’t worry about dealing with a reel, and enjoys frequent hook ups. He couldn’t get the smile off his face at a recent family outing where he landed a hefty catfish. I think this method is an excellent first step. He is certain to be a student in one of my fly fishing classes in a few years once he grows a bit.
When they are ready, it’s a good idea to have someone other than a parent lead the instruction. It’s important to have patience and, believe me, a kid will look around while you’re talking, pick their nose, change the subject, ask, “when will we be done?” or “why are we doing this?” Leave the teaching to a professional. Both you and the child will benefit greatly from this choice.
Where to Start
Most children will be unable to handle a rod with one hand, so I have found that teaching a two handed method works well. Beginning with the role cast is just enough to get them started. Once this is mastered, the back cast can be introduced.
Break It Up
During my full day outings, I mix up the time we have together. We begin with a very basic discussion on the gear so they know the difference between the fly line and a leader. I typically go over how to hold the rod and the concept of casting the line, not the fly itself. Then we’ll move on to casting, using a yarn fly. Adding a hook comes later in the day. If at any time I see their eyes glaze over, I’ll change it up by getting into the river and turning over rocks to look for nymphs, larva and terrestrials. It’s important that the lesson doesn’t feel like school. Otherwise, I will lose them.
I also like to incorporate tying a fly with the fishing lesson when time allows. I will start with something simple like a San Juan Worm, simple Popper or Woolly Bugger. Obviously, it will not be a professional looking fly, but many times it will do the trick. If I can get a kid to lure in a fish on a fly that they have tied themselves, it’s a sure bet they will be hooked.
Cold or Warm Water Fishing
I’ve heard the term, “the tug is the drug!” Starting a kid out on a fly rod by fishing in a pond or warm water stream is an excellent idea. Trout are picky, and often require precision, delicate casts, proper mends and other advanced techniques, which a child hasn’t grasped at their early age. A blue gill on a fly rod is exciting. I personally love to fish for them, so imagine the excitement of a child hooking a fish that fights like the devil! The blue gill is always my first choice for fishing with kids for this very reason.
Graduating to Trout
Once the child is ready to step into the stream, be sure to outfit your youngster with a proper pair of waders. Trout water is cold, so keep them comfortable, warm and dry. Safety is key, and you should either keep them very close or insist on a life jacket. As for flies, I like to begin with a wet fly or a nymph with a strike indicator. Swinging a wet fly in the current is a simple technique and enables the child to feel the fish strike. This is always exciting and tends to pique their interest once they feel the tug, even if they miss the first few hits. Using a nymph and a strike indicator works well since most will already understand the concept of fishing with a bobber. The next trick is to teach them a proper drift, which usually is a simple next step. Just remember to use a strike indicator that is easy to see and keeps its buoyancy. It’s hard to beat the joy of seeing the ear-to-ear grin on the face of a kid landing their first trout.
Again, each of these tips is a reminder that patience is key. Don’t expect to keep them on the river for an 8-hour day. Plan to incorporate lunch, paddling, or even a back up cane pole to keep their interest. As happened in the case with me and my dad, teaching a child at a young age to appreciate both warm and salt water fishing will lead to a lifetime of memories and could turn out to be a life long passion.
Private Classes are available for $325 for up to two people.