As a guide, I get this question a lot; “How old do my kids need to be to fly fish?”
Answer: I don’t think there is a magic age. It really depends on the kid.
With that said, I have guided kids as young as 6 who love it and can stay focused for a few hrs. But I have also guided adults with little patience, and after 30-45 minutes they are board. So often times, I think it has more to do with patience than age.
Bottom line: If you think you can have some fun outside, AND fish at the same time, then the time is now!
Here are a few tips I use to win kids over both in the outdoors and in the sport of fly fishing.
1. Set expectations! Kids that know what they are getting into, have less anxiety about all of the new strange things we are asking of them. They will be putting on waders, driving in the car, walking in the woods, peeing in the woods, walking in the water. This will build excitement and help ease anxiety for the big event!
2. Make it fun! The most important thing you can do to get your child excited about fly fishing is to make it fun. Often times with kids, it’s their first-time wearing waders, so something as simple as walking in water is new and fun for them. With that said, always use a wading belt and hold their hand when in the river or creek. Also, use lots of encouragement. “Nice Step!” or “You’re really walking well in your boots!” are two that I say all the time.
3. Keep it simple!! Start with a roll cast and eventually work your way up to a more traditional 10-2 cast. Be excited about the day and have them help pick a fly (even if I doesn’t make it on the line they will feel included). Or pull out a few flies that you like and have them pick one.
4. Take breaks! Kids are not going to fish all day. Keep it short, fish for a few hrs. or until they loose interest. Take a break from fishing and do something different. Throw some rocks, teach them to skip rocks, look for wildlife or tracks by the river. Go explore the area around the creek or river. Look for flowers or wild berries. Then try to fish again if they want to. Remember, there is so much more to appreciate about fly fishing than JUST the act of fishing! Kids like to wander and dive into some of these finer points, let them!
5. For the love of god, BRING SNACKS! Kids get hungry; always have some snacks available for them. I prefer to choose a treat they usually would not get, to make fishing special. I remember fishing with my dad when I was a kid, and he always had bite size Snickers. Often times, I was more excited about the Snickers, than catching a fish. Don’t forget drinks, water, Gatorade, maybe a root beer to end the trip with.
6. Be patient. This one is very important. If you get frustrated/mad your child will most likely not want to go again. Kids make mistakes, but so do we all, and that is part of learning. The younger your child is, the less fishing you will be doing. However, watching how excited they get when they catch a fish will make up for you not fishing. Slowly, over the course of many fishing outings, you can teach them how to tie on their own fly, read the water, untangle their line, and select the right fly. Before you know it you will have a fishing buddy for life.
7. Get a guide. If you want to fish, and you want your child to learn and have fun, a guide can be a game changer. Make sure you talk to the shop prior to booking the trip and explain that you have a child and their age. Some guides are great with kids, others not so much. This way the shop can get you with a guide that will have fun and teach your child about fly fishing. Personally, I love taking kids out. Some of my favorite clients over the years have been kids. They have good energy and are usually so excited to go. If you have a guide they can get you started, select some flies for you, then work with your child. This way you can fish and your child can learn.
8. Take pictures! Kids will forget so much of their youth. But you can bet that if you whip out a picture of them holding a fish and talk about how huge it was, how awesome of a fly caster they were, how patient they were on the water, or how brave they were walking into the river by themselves- this will lift them up in a way only the outdoors can do. And who would miss an opportunity to brag about a little outdoors person doing SUCH GREAT THINGS!
If you are reading this and taking a kid outside, you are already doing great! I hope this helps you think of a few ways to get ready for your next adventure!
- Katie & Cooper Anderson
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