How to Go Fly Fishing with Your Kids

Fly fishing is a great way to spend time with your kids outside and teach them a valuable skill! Here are a few tips to make it easier and more fun for both of you!

A boy casts a fly fishing rod into a river. He is wearing waders and a hat.

All photos courtesy of Joseph Smith

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If you are as obsessed with fly-fishing as I am, it only makes sense that everyone else should be too. As a parent, teaching your children how to fly fish ranks right up there with teaching them how to ride a bike, drive, or any other important parental duty, right?

Ok, I’m clearly exaggerating to the extreme, but if you love to fly-fish and have a child, consider passing this activity along. It may not only tear them away from that video game or other screen and get them exploring the world around them, but you may also gain a lifetime fishing buddy.

Getting Started

This is not as daunting as it seems. Not everything I mention may apply to your child or situation. Having taught my children, nephews, and nieces how to fish, I realize every child is different. What might work for some will probably not work for all. Some kids may not be interested at all, but here are a few suggestions to get started.

1. Start at a level that is equal to your child’s interest and ability.

Fly-fishing may not be the best for a four-year-old, and a teenager could find some of these suggestions less than cool.

2. Keep it fun!

Seems rather obvious, but is often overlooked. Take breaks. Bring snacks they like. Do not become upset if they want to do another activity. Let them set the tempo.

3. Incorporate fishing into another activity you may do.

Something such as boating, swimming, or camping. If your child already likes these activities, it makes it much easier to set the hook, so to speak.

4. Don't over complicate it!

I had a high school coach who would start every practice with the K.I.S.S. principle–Keep It Simple Stupid. This applies here. Keep it simple! Do not overburden them with learning knots or perfecting a casting stroke. Most children, by nature, are inquisitive. When they are ready to learn these aspects, they will ask or show interest in learning. This brings me to possibly the key step.

5. Catch a fish!

Often easier said than done, but you can stack the odds in your favor. Remember, a child likely will not be fascinated with your Zen-like obsession with a drift-free float. It is perfectly fine to start with live bait and a spinning reel. Bluegill and other panfish are ubiquitous and easy to catch within one to two feet of the shore. If after one fish, they would rather throw rocks or play with the bait, that is ok. Remember it is about them and not you.

6. Take Pictures!

A girl stands on a boat and holds a fish by the mouth.

Memories fade, but pictures always spark emotions. If you have done your job, these photos will become cherished keepsakes for both of you.

And last but not least,

7. Do not forget that conservation and respect for our natural resources start from the beginning.

Make sure you incorporate stewardship into your lessons.

Initial Fly Fishing Experience

Alright, the children have enjoyed fishing so far and want to take it to the next level. Where do you go from here? Avoid the mistake of outfitting them head to toe with the latest and greatest. Start small and work up from there.

Gear

Let them use some of your older gear. If that is not an option, many fly-fishing companies make reasonably priced outfits for beginners. The Orvis Encounter Outfit comes with everything needed, including line. The TFO NXT Black Label Fly Kit is another great option to get them on the water without spending much money.

Let them help pick out the flies to use. If you tie flies, let them tie some. Nothing is more fun than catching a fish on a fly you tied on your own. Even the ugliest of Green Weenies or Mop Flies will catch fish.

Bring two rods, but only fish one. You are there to get them interested in fishing. Do not worry about catching a fish yourself and appearing oblivious to how they are doing. It ruins the experience. As they progress, your fishing time will, too.

There are other gear considerations to consider for children, such as taking precautions to avoid sunburn and having them drinking regularly from a water bottle to stay hydrated. Wearing Polarized sunglasses is another excellent idea. They help to see fish better and protect eyes from wayward hooks that fly in the air. Bring along some rubber boots if you wade, but other than that, you need little to start.

Casting

Teach them a simple cast. They do not need to double haul on the first trip. A simple three-step cast gets them accurately delivering casts out to 20 feet. This will let them catch fish.

  • Step 1: Strip some line out and have them bring the rod to the 12 o’clock position (straight up). It does not matter how they grip the rod. If they want to use two hands, that is ok for now.
  • Step 2: Now move the rod toward the target.
  • Step 3: Lower the rod toward the ground and hold it right above the water.

Start by casting to hula hoops in the yard. Try having them count 1-2-3 as they do it. Once they have established a rhythm, they should easily be able to cast 20 feet. This can easily put them in range to catch fish and give them the basis for developing a future casting stroke.

Other Resources

Two boys wearing vests stand in the grass. One holds two fish on a rope. One smiles at the camera.

You do not need to feel alone in this endeavor. Children often learn better from someone other than you. While there are many resources, here are some that my children and I have used.

  • Local fly shop classes. Many local fly shops offer free introduction to fly-fishing classes that include a casting component. Some even take you fishing. The Orvis Fly-fishing 101 class is a good way to start. And if you enjoy it, there are more advanced classes they teach, often for free.
  • Local Fishing Clubs. There are many local fishing clubs that frequently offer fishing classes. If you are fortunate enough to live in one of the eight states with an active BOJC chapter, I encourage you to seek them out. Started by the legendary Joe Brooks, J. Hammond Brown, and Frank Bentz, this organization’s creed includes teaching kids to fish. They hold annual campfires where youth are taught progressive skills until their 6th year when they fish with masters and graduate as skilled anglers. They have taught countless youth the joy of fly fishing for over 75 years.
  • State Fish and Game Agencies. State fish and game agencies have resources to teach children how to fish. Many states even offer free Take Me Fishing Days where you do not even need to purchase a license. Check with your local agency for specific laws and regulations.
  • Use a Guide. Once you have covered the basics and your child can fish for half of a day, do not be afraid to use a guide. Their job is to worry about rigging up your rods, finding fish, and doing the work. Take the time to relax and enjoy the moment with your child. Not only will they pick up some pointers from the guide, but you might as well.

Final Thoughts

A boy sits on a rock casting his fly fishing rod.

Hopefully, this article sparked some interest in spending some quality time fishing with your children. If you are lucky, you might just hear “When can we do that again?” If you have questions or need help getting geared up, contact a Fly Fishing Expert here at Curated. We love to help. In a world full of distractions, take some time to pass fishing on. You might just find it really is not about the fishing; the memories might be the catch of the day. Do not let them get away. Tight Lines!

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Written By
I am an avid fly fisherman. Luckily, I have a pond in my backyard exactly two minutes from my fly tying bench. If there is open water, I will fish just about every day. Although I grew up fishing the fabled streams of Pennsylvania, I love to travel and fly fish for diverse species both fresh and sa...

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