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> > Advice for Taking Little Kids Flyfishing

Shawnny3May 8th, 2007, 6:26 pm
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
I just took my 4-year-old son fishing for the first time a few days ago. Long story short - no fish. Louis was kind enough to give me some good advice in another (unrelated) thread, but I thought I would open this discussion in a new thread.

My son was given a cheap little spinning rod for his 4th birthday, and he really wants to use it. The idea of plunking worms is not that appealing to me, but I'll resort to it if it means he can catch fish on his own rod. Is it possible to nymph with a cheap little spinning rod if there's enough weight on there, or is that just idiocy? Are bobbers a necessity for either worm- or fly-fishing with a spinning rod? Also, I don't want to pollute my son's mind too much with bait-fishing (he has his grandfather for that). So at what age have you fathers out there found your children ready for a flyrod? And, of course, do you have any other wisdom to share that might enhance our experience?

Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
TroutnutMay 8th, 2007, 7:08 pm
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2737
I have no experience taking little kids fishing, but I'm sure he could fish a nymph just fine with a bobber and split shot. Just be pretty light about it; don't use a big red-and-white Wal Mart bobber. A small, thin balsa float with a bright painted top would be better, and the split shot should be just large enough to allow the rig to be cast OK.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
MartinlfMay 9th, 2007, 5:15 am
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3233
Jason's idea sounds viable, and it might work for panfish as well, which can be much more cooperative than trout. Small wooly buggers also might tempt a rock bass, or a bluegill. I'd bring some worms for backup, though, if you really want to catch something. Ask him how important catching fish is to him, and how much he likes the idea of trying some different things. If he feels included in the decisions, and interested in the experiment, he may not care as much about catching fish. Then again, he may, if he's like most of us.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
Shawnny3May 12th, 2007, 5:39 pm
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
Thanks, guys. I'm going to give your suggestions a shot.

Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
JonnelsMay 14th, 2007, 9:55 am
Posts: 1I seem to remember an article in Outdoor Life magazine that addressed this subject. Unfortunately I can't remember the month/year.

What I remember taking away from the article was:
1. Keep the trip short(30min).
2. Don't expect to fish much (keep your focus on them).
3. Bring lots of snacks.

I remember fishing with my Grandfather and Father as a young child. They were some of the best experiences of my life. My 3 and 4 year old love to fish and they use spinning gear. I think as long as you focus on his enjoyment you'll have a future fly fishing buddy.
GONZOMay 14th, 2007, 1:03 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681

We're all rooting for your little guys to become avid fly fishers, and the advice is all good. I don't have children, but I've taken many kids fishing for the first time. I don't think that tackle or lures/bait/flies matter that much as long as they aren't frustrating to use. There'll be plenty of time to win them over to the dark side (fly-fishing), but looking forward to spending some time on a stream or pond with you is the main thing.

It's often said that kids have more fun when they are actually catching fish (and don't we all?), but sometimes that's because we force them to keep fishing even when the action slows. Before they have a chance to get bored or frustrated, do something else. Turn over rocks and look at bugs; look for frogs, turtles, salamanders, and scary watersnakes; take your shoes and socks off and go wading in a safe place. After all, these things are all important and interesting aspects of fishing. They are every bit as essential as the fishing itself. (And I think this is true for adults as well as children, though we sometimes lose sight of that.)

With regard to fly-fishing, the complications of casting can mostly be eliminated at the start if you think of the fly rod as a fancy cane pole. Visit a good little bluegill or sunfish pond when they are defending their redds tight against the shoreline. Shorten the leader so that enough line remains outside the tip top to keep the line from sliding back inside the guides, and let them dap a dry or jig a nymph around the redds. (You might add a small shot somewhere up the leader just to keep the line taut and aid control, especially if there's a breeze.) The action is surefire, and the technique is easier than spinning or spin-casting. When you've caught all the little sunfish in easy reach, you can make a few short casts to reach the untouched fish and hand the rod back or hook the fish and let the child land them. The interest in casting will grow naturally as a desire to reach more fish.
MastersflyMay 14th, 2007, 1:59 pm

Posts: 1
I have 3 daughters age 12 to 6 and all fly fish with me. The best tips I have are these. If they want to actually fly fish take a few minutes in your yard with a fly rod and yarn tied where you would tie a fly and just have them try to get the line to straighten out, both on the back cast and forward. Let them, by their actions tell you if 10 min. or 30 min. is long enough practice. You can use hula hoops down to baseball hats to use for targets if they are in to it.
When on the water I would suggest using a standard caddis pattern like the elk hair caddis. It's very visible, floats like cork even when pulled under and works well even if they drag it in the water behind them. My girls called this "trolling for trout". All of my girls caught their first trout on an elk hair or X-caddis, and all of them where when they let the fly drift back at the end of the swing, like many of us would call doing the Leisiring lift.
As others said, take snacks and drinks, don't worry about your fishing and stop to throw rocks if thats what they want. You'd be amazed at how much kids want to spend time with you and do things with you, especially if you talk about fishing all the time. Two of my kids fished all day and wanted to do everything for themselves, one of them just wanted to be with me doing what I loved and we spent more time looking around than fishing. Just don't forget the camera if they catch one, like I did, or you'll never hear the end of it if you remembered for the other kid!
Shawnny3May 14th, 2007, 6:35 pm
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
Wow! Awesome advice, guys! I wish I'd had some of it before we went out yesterday for Excursion #2. Because of other ongoing family events, we end up having to go right in the middle of a bright, clear day to a pretty lousy spot. Fifteen minutes into it, he's already complaining he's thirsty (of course, I have no drinks or snacks on hand). Soon enough, he wants to start tossing stones in the water and I quickly scold him. Then it's sticks in the water - No. Then he wants to go home - No. And on and on, he playing the 4-year-old and I playing the bad father. When I finally come to my senses, I realize I'm standing in the beating sun whipping bad water with a 3-foot-long Snoopy rod rigged with half a worm and a split-shot the size of a shot-put while my fun-deprived son stands behind me complaining that he has to go to the bathroom, wants his Mommy... and is still thirsty. Wow.

Also, I had forgotten what a filthy mess bait-fishing is. How people do it on a regular basis, I simply cannot fathom. Every two or three casts it was again with another vile worm, most of them doomed to violent maimings as their own inertia pulled their bodies in half when my son didn't let up on the button soon enough. A cruel master is a 4-year-old to an earthworm. Then there were the casts that nearly imbedded barbed and wormed hooks in his father's arm and neck. Did I mention it was a filthy mess?

What? A fishing story without any mention of fish? Exactly.

I PROMISE next time will be better for both of us. Thanks for the wisdom, guys.

Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
CaseyPMay 14th, 2007, 7:06 pm
Arlington, VA/ Mercersburg, PA

Posts: 653
yep, sounds like a four-year-old and a dad who loves him--and fishing. one hint i got just in time from a professional (pre-school, not fishing): a four-year-old will behave like either a six-year-old or a two-year-old, and there is no telling which you'll get at any given time. all the other dad-type advice you've gotten here is right on the money. go for it, Pop!
"You can observe a lot by watching." Yogi Berra
GONZOMay 15th, 2007, 8:35 am
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Very funny story, Shawn! Like Casey, I was laughing in recognition and sympathy. There will always be trials and tribulations associated with teaching youngsters to fish, and even the best advice and best intentions can't eliminate all of them. Maybe that's a good thing. I hate to admit this, but your account of your last outing was so classic and entertaining that I'm almost glad that things didn't go so well. Please keep us posted on your progress--everyone who posted here is now invested in your little guy's success.

Shawnny3May 15th, 2007, 5:37 pm
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
Happy to amuse you guys. The sordid humor of it all was not lost on me completely at the time, although I can assure you that it is funnier now that my sunburn is fading. I'll keep you guys posted on our progress.

Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
TroutnutMay 15th, 2007, 8:56 pm
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2737
Also, I had forgotten what a filthy mess bait-fishing is. How people do it on a regular basis, I simply cannot fathom. Every two or three casts it was again with another vile worm, most of them doomed to violent maimings as their own inertia pulled their bodies in half when my son didn't let up on the button soon enough.

Ah, I remember that well... I got very serious about my worm fishing before I took the plunge into fly fishing. The worst part was what happened to a container of worms after a long summer day in the pocket of a sun-beaten vest. I used to wade a 3-mile remote stretch of the Brule from early morning til dark with about 4 containers of leaf worms. The majority were pretty nasty by the end of the day.

I can't complain about the size and numbers of fish I caught that way, but it sure is nice not to have to re-bait the hook every time a 6-incher grabs it.

A cruel master is a 4-year-old to an earthworm.

That belongs on a bumper sticker or a billboard or something.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
TheFlyMasteMay 17th, 2007, 7:07 am
Duluth, MN

Posts: 3
Great topic. First I will say that fly fishing is not meant to replace other forms of angling.

I have a 5 year old son and have taken him out a couple times this year to get a little taste of fly fishing. I remembered back when I was younger and my pops bought me a cheap fly rod. He bought me a couple of flies and let me have it. Went to the nearest pond and caught bluegills and sunfish. He never stood by me like an instructor showing me all the proper correct techniques, basically do whatever you think it takes to get that fly in front of the fish, at first I didn't even hardly cast, just dragged a fly near the rocks :). Ever since then i've been addicted to fly fishing for all species.

I've taken my son to local lakes that have lots of bluegills up in small shallow bays, but I only go when they are thick in the shallows. I let him use my old 4wt with a small balsa popper (the kind with the bright feathers and rubber legs). He thinks it's a blast to land that popper right in the middle of a school of gills and they all get scared and blow up on the water. He really like when they come back to take a look at his fly, with all the small ones trying to smack the popper. I think he's trying to see how close the fish get to his fly, before moving it away. Basically he's messing around them, don't catch to many fish, but he's "playing" around. And I don't tell him anything about why fly fishing is better then bait, plastics, etc, i'll use them all to get kids hooked on fishing. Fishing is fishing, each person does it different.

Kids just need to be kids and have fun. As one person posted about the amount of time, each kid is different, but most of the time it's short. I usually take my son in a boat, so when he's bored of fishing, we might hit a shore and swim, throw rocks or whatever, maybe just drive around.

Sorry, a little long.

Tight lines!
Ouitdee Carson
Arrowhead Fly Angler
MacgruberMay 23rd, 2007, 2:04 pm

Posts: 7
i still remember learning to fly fish with my dad..... i was started on a spinning rod, and i still spin fish..... but once you put your kid on a trout with a fly, they'll never want to fish for 'em any other way...... now whenever possible, i pull out the fly-rod for litterally all species.....

oh yeah, and when they are ready, take 'em to montana-- that'll seal the deal.....

one more thing: the advice for teaching four-year-olds to fly fish is pretty much the same for any age...... i've taught high schoolers and every one of those suggestions applies-- food, water, rock-throwing, wading through the stream, showing them insects under rocks...... just let 'em have fun, and if they lose interest, don't force it......
ObtuseangleMay 25th, 2007, 1:28 pm
Posts: 6Shawnny,

If little kids aren't getting any action from the fish they will make some of their own. I first took my son fly fishing when he was about 12. Even so, it required a lot of patience on my part. Expect him to bring you a tangled tippet or want a new fly tied on every ten minutes or so. I wouldn't even consider it with a four year old, especially in swift water.

Consider waiting a while to take your son fly fishing. Also, if you take your son fly fishing don't really expect to do any serious fishing of your own. Last year I was in a cabin on Henry's Fork Lake for a week with my family. My family had their own expectations for the week. I managed to spend only 30 minutes on the river without interruption. Swore I wouldn't bother to pack fishing gear for a family trip again. You'll get your life back in, oh, fourteen years or so.

When you take your son, in about six years, Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park, Colorado is a great place to learn.
Shawnny3May 26th, 2007, 7:29 pm
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
Thank you, guys, for your sage advice. I will definitely follow it as much as my patience will allow.

Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
Shawnny3June 19th, 2007, 6:56 am
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
We took my son to a bass pond on the advice of many from this forum. His Gramps, the family meat-fisherman, supervised the technical aspects of worm preparation, and Joshua did the casting, hook-setting, reeling, landing, and releasing completely on his own. He caught a 7-inch bass on his first cast, and then another one on his second cast - he landed 5 small bass in all. After landing his first fish, Gramps took it off the hook, handed it to my son, and said, "Do you want to throw it back in?" My son responded, "I want to eat it." It took a few minutes to convince him of the virtue of catch-and-release, and I'm not sure he completely bought it in the end (or perhaps he just knew that the pond could have stood having some fish taken out of it). But he threw the fish back in and kept fishing. After an hour, having caught more fish than everyone else combined, he really didn't want to leave. I guess that's the best possible outcome.

As a funny aside, later that evening he accompanied us to a trout stream to see his daddy and uncle flog the water without much success. After watching us for awhile, his Gramps asked him if he was having fun. My son said, "I hate fishing - I thought we were going to a lake." So he still doesn't quite appreciate the subtlety of trout fishing, especially when all he's doing is watching. He'll probably realize why we bother with trout around the same time he learns why a filet mignon is better than McDonalds. All in due time.

A hearty thanks to everyone on this board who's given me such good advice. We had a really fun time, and I'm sure we'll have many more. He wants to go back out today.

I posted a few pics here:

Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
DitchJuly 24th, 2010, 1:03 pm
Fuquay-Varina NC

Posts: 36
Yes I know that this is a Fly Fishing discussion but anyone with a kid might be interested in this old trick of my Grandpa

take an old electric plug not grounded strip off the neg tape it off ie no contact (you must make sure only the positive wire contact the rod or you will blow a fuse)

take a piece of steel aprox, 12 to 18 inches and bend one end forming a handle tape the positive only to the rod cover with old piece of garden hose and tape off both ends so they don't slip leaving about 6 inches to push into the ground.

On a day after it has rained (or this summer you watered place exposed portion of rod into ground then plug in the kids LOVE watching the wormies come out of the ground to put into the "hills Brother's the Red Can" Make sure the kids have shoes on because the current will carry to their feet as well also don't do if the ground is to wet.

Free Fishing worms for the kids but forget about getting fishing done for yourself.

I don't think that my grandfather EVER bought worms after he started making these and he had 4 grand kids and TONS of family.

again please excuse the Non fly related thread here but parents gotta stick together.


Tight Lines...
There are no bad fishing days.
MotroutJuly 24th, 2010, 6:28 pm
Posts: 319
I'd suggest you just let him use worms for a while... Just right at first, let him have fun and catch a lot of fish. Then no doubt you can slowly introduce him to fly fishing, but I'd let him get a few fish under his belt first.

Take him to a small lake or stream that has lots of sunfish, rig a garden worm or a small piece of a night crawler on a small hook a couple feet below a bobber, and you're pretty much in business.
"I don't know what fly fishing teaches us, but I think it's something we need to know."-John Gierach

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