Fly fishing with kids
Updated: Nov 5, 2021
"You can't force a passion, you can just share it." ~ Kastine Coleman
I remind myself of this every time I bring my kids to the river.
Rod in hand we walk down the path towards the water. Everyone has a little backpack on with a change of clothes in it, a snack and a mug for hot chocolate. My youngest always carries a bucket in case she finds frogs, tadpoles or pinfish. The other two have their pocket knives as they enjoy carving sticks. And me? I have a mix of everything...emergency snacks, drinking water, matches, etc. Much more than I would normally carry for a few hours on the water, but then again, this is much more than fishing. This is sharing my passion, and I make sure I give them my best, every single time.
Kids gravitate towards happy people. Fishing makes me happy, and come to think of it, I've never had a bad day on the water. It could be raining, snowing, sunny or windy. I could have lost fish, released fish, or wondered if there were even fish within 5 miles from where I was standing... but to me, it's always a good day when I'm fishing. When I bring my kids, things get a little more complicated, but it's still fun. When you are relaxed and having fun, your kids are going to be relaxed and open to the adventure. But remember, you can't force a passion, you can just share it. I'm repeating this because it's important. Sometimes when you love something, you try to make the people around you feel the same way. Life doesn't always happen that way, especially when you're dealing with kids. The most beautiful wool sweater that looks identical to the one loved as a kid but they refuse to put it on? Yes, just like that. Coming with you to fish a tidal run and expecting them to sit patiently on the shore and watch? Same thing. Relax. Enjoy the moment while letting the love shine through. They won't be young forever, and sadly they won't accompany you on every trip. So every moment you get to spend with your kids on the river? Make them count. Pass the rod over, take the photos and watch them play. Smile when they hook a branch, laugh when they mess up a cast. Show them that it's a fun sport!
Let their interest guide your teaching. If they want to fish, let them cast. Sometimes they enjoy instruction, sometimes they just want to do their own thing. Honesty it makes sense if you think about it. Are you open for a casting lesson every time you step on the water? Or somedays would you rather fish in the peace and quiet, watching the fly and listening to the water?
If you want, bring a lightweight rod for your young fisher. Another option is to use a stick with a piece of leader tied to the top. They will throw that around more than you expect, and they will be proud of the rod they made. Always double check that the barb on the fly is pinched, even if its not required . Its less traumatic to lose a fish than it is to have a hook stuck in your little munchkin! If you tie flies, let your child/grandchild try. I usually save my partially used feathers and tinsel so that the kids can create something. If they tie one, promise me you'll tie it on for them when you get to the water. Be confident in their creation so that they can have confidence in themselves. That's a life lesson.
Location: this is key. Go somewhere where there is a shoreline for them to explore. Their attention span for fishing will grow over time. In the meantime, make sure they can walk around, stay safe and dry while you attempt to throw a few flies.
When they want your attention? Give it to them. Put the rod down and tend to their needs. Make a fire, pour up some hot chocolate or share a snack. These are the things that they will remember when you ask them to go next time.
Here are a few casting tips for fishing with kids.
Get them interested by hitting targets (while not on the river):
Set up some hoops around the yard and see if they can hit them. This is my daughter at age 7, she would come over for a try every time I set up to practice!
Teach them to use 2 hands on the rod for extra strength.
Use 2 hands for a roll cast and a basic 4-part cast (Pick-up, Lay-down cast).
Be a fish!
Make it exciting for them and coach them through playing a fish while you are holding the line. Rod tip up, reel to bring you closer, let go of the reel when you(the fish) runs.
This next tip is for your own casting... learn the roll cast. If you have someone running around on shore behind you, its best to cut out the casts that bring the fly behind you if possible.
A roll cast is also quite useful in fishing situations where there are rocks and trees behind you. Sometimes this puts the fly in a position where its tough to make the next cast.
When you follow the line with your rod tip which will bring the line in one of 2 places:
The fly is downriver on the same side as your casting arm: simply pull the line into a D-loop and make the roll cast out into the water.
The fly is downriver on the opposite side of your casting arm: make a snap T or circle C to position the fly on the opposite side of you. Pull the line into a D-loop and make the roll cast before the fly passes in front of the body (as seen in the following video).
Every angler will have to release a fish at some point. This is especially true when fishing with kids as they seem to hook into every tiny trout and par around! To ensure every released fish has the best chance of survival, I teach my children to follow the guidelines of Keep Fish Wet. If you haven't taken the time to look at their website, you should (link below). I love how the principles and tips are based on science. Every time I bring a fish to the net now, the kids will start going through the list out loud... Wet your hands, keep the fish in the water, handle gently, face it upstream, and let it go when ready! This is my daughter releasing the first Atlantic Salmon that she hooked and played all on her own. I was more excited than she was... I even counted the 107 casts that it took for the salmon to grab her dry fly.
As promised, here is the website for Keep Fish Wet: www.KeepFishWet.org
I look forward to hearing about your fishing adventures with your kids or grandchildren. Take them and bring an extra box of patience with you. I hope that you have a great time, and that they remember your adventures forever.
Much love, Kastine xx