How to Introduce your Child to Fly Fishing
Looking to teach your child how to fly fish? Fly Fishing expert Danny Mooers shares how to create the perfect day on the water for both of you.
As a high school English teacher, I see countless students who wander through life without a passion or purpose. They’re not sure what they enjoy and often struggle to find things to do in their spare time.
With social media, they have the opportunity to live vicariously through somebody else and their free time is spent watching other people enjoy life while they sit and wonder why they feel lonely or discouraged.
Many kids aren’t fortunate enough to grow up with parents or adults in their lives who show them how to have fun or teach them new things to help pass the time. As a result, we’re seeing more and more people struggling with mental health because of a lack of purpose or hobbies.
The outdoors have proven over and over to be an amazing form of entertainment and therapy. It’s time for adults and parents to start teaching their kids to enjoy them. If possible, teach them to fly fish!
Focus on the Experience
Kids are searching for experiences. Restaurants and other industries are selling an experience more than they’re selling a specific product. We can do the same thing when we’re teaching our kids to fly fish. Sell them on the experience of being in a beautiful area, catching a trophy fish, learning something new, and taking pictures to show to their friends.
On top of the experience factor, your kids will quickly realize that fly fishing is extremely stimulating. There’s plenty happening that will keep their attention for an extended period of time.
And one final tip: if you aren’t enjoying yourself on the water, your kids won’t enjoy themselves. Don’t make it seem like a chore that you’re bringing them along! Kids will match your passion as long as you can stay convincing.
Begin with Spin Fishing
If your kids have no prior experience with fishing, it’s likely best to start with spin fishing. It’s easier and you can show them the “ropes” of what fish do when they feed and where to cast to find fish.
Kids want to spend a lot more time catching than they do fishing. A simple box of worms, a bobber, and a pond filled with panfish can do quite a bit to convince kids that fishing is entertaining. Once they’re hooked, you can introduce more of the realities of fishing and eventually put a fly rod in their hand.
If they see mom or dad fly fishing, they’re going to want to copy you. But it’s important to show them that fishing is a blast even if things aren’t biting!
Start with the “Fun” Parts of Fly Fishing
Again, it’s all about the experience with your kids. Diehard fly anglers find random aspects of the sport to be “fun”. However, remember that you’re dealing with a child when you’re trying to show them the fun side of fly fishing.
When I worked with students at summer camps teaching them how to fly fish, the casting was definitely the most fun activity for them. It takes time to teach patience to let the fly drift, mend, and eventually set the hook. Casting is very stimulating for kids, so start there.
How to Teach Casting
When you’re looking to teach someone to cast, it’s often best to start off the water. Teach them the casting motion before you hook up a fly and start to maneuver your way around a body of water.
Start them with a lighter 3 or 4-weight rod with a 7 or 8ft leader attached. You don’t even have to tie on a fly. If you want, just attach a piece of colored thread or another small object to mimic a fly. This is a very manageable setup for kids; they won’t tire as easily and can maneuver it just fine.
Once you’re set up, make sure you have a target for them to hit. Making it competitive or giving them something to hit is going to provide more incentive to figure out how to cast. It can be anything from a bucket to a section of your driveway!
If possible, start by teaching your kids the roll cast. The roll cast is easy and it doesn’t take long to learn. 1. Have about 5-10ft of fly line on the ground facing the target and place the rod up by your kid’s ear and next to their shoulder. Also, make sure the tip of the rod is facing outward! 2. Move their hand forward and as you’re doing this, push fairly hard with their thumb and the line should roll out to the target! The rod tip should finish right about eye level. 3. Kids are going to rush this! Make sure they stay gentle and let the rod do the work. This is where they’ll require the most patience!
As they gain more comfort with the roll cast, you can start introducing the back cast. There are a few things to remember while you’re teaching this! 4. You don’t have to teach them the back cast motion right away. Have them practice by bringing the rod behind them and stopping around 2 or 3 o’clock. This will show them the limits of their back casts. 5. Once the line is fully out behind them, have them complete a roll cast. They can practice both the back cast and the roll cast at the same time. Remember to stay patient! 6. Keep your hand on theirs while they do this. It will help them stay confident and you can teach them the importance of staying patient.
Once your kids are able to execute the backwards roll cast, you can teach the entire casting motion. Make sure their back cast is unfurling! Don’t teach them the bad habit of being too quick on their front cast. Be patient with that back cast to make sure everything stays smooth.
Start on Simple Water
Once you’ve shown your kids the basics of casting, you can feel free to bring them to the water. I highly recommend starting on a small pond with minimal obstruction! You want them to be able to make full back casts and not worry about getting snagged.
If possible, take them to the water during a hatch. Seeing fish rise to the surface and eat is always entertaining! Plus, even if you cast a dry fly and it’s not perfect, as long as it matches the hatch, fish are likely going to eat it.
As they gain more experience and confidence, you can work your way into smaller streams. Again, the fewer obstacles they can face right off the bat, the more entertaining it will be and the more mental toughness they’ll build for when things get more challenging.
Best Gear for Kids
If possible, teach your kids with a 3- or 4-weight 7ft or 8ft rod. These are going to be the most manageable! Temple Fork Outfitters and Eagle Claw both make great options that are quite affordable. Don’t necessarily choose the cheapest option you can find, but an overly delicate rod isn’t going to be the answer either.
Also, it’s not a bad idea to choose a bit heavier line for kids. If you’re using a 4-weight rod, let them use a 5-weight line. This will teach them to feel the line as it’s loading and unloading! Gaining a feel for that line is vital.
Use shorter leaders! 7ft or 8ft leaders aren’t going to tangle as easily!
Tips for When Kids Get Discouraged or Lose Interest
Odds are you’re going to have a kid who wants to quit or doesn’t find fly fishing fun. Whether you decide that they should keep trying is up to you, but it’s important to know what to do when they’re discouraged.
- Embrace the struggle. We all have bad days on the water! Make it fun and keep a good attitude throughout it. Even if you have to untangle them 100 times, keep encouraging them and do your best to show that it’s the reality of fly fishing, but not the end of the world.
- Be encouraging! Kids don’t want to disappoint parents and there’s no faster way to discourage a kid than getting frustrated with them while they’re trying to learn something you love to do!
- Embrace social media. There are plenty of YouTube channels with younger people who fly fish! WildFlyProductions is a great resource for younger people who fish! A simple search on YouTube will open the door to dozens of resources.
- Invite some friends along! Sometimes some healthy competition with a friend can create more interest for your children. If anything, they’ll have someone to talk to as they learn! As long as they’re outside enjoying themselves, you can consider that a win.
Spending time with the future generation is vital! We need to get young people outdoors to learn new hobbies. Fly fishing is a lifelong activity and they’ll be thankful to have learned it. Stay patient, be encouraging and enjoy the bonding time fly fishing provides. If you have any questions on finding the right gear for your little one, please feel free to reach out to me or one of my fellow Fly Fishing experts here on Curated for free advice and recommendations.