Young kids, catching fish, and Fly Fishing

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Sourdoughs, Jun 27, 2005.

  1. My question is mainly for those who have gotten their young children into fishing, and preferrably fly fishing.

    I'm a father of two: a daughter who's 6 years old, and a son who is 3. They both have age-appropriate attention spans.

    The three year old wouldn't keep any interest in fly fishing, but soon I hope to take to a pay-to-fish pond and have him pull in a fish or two.

    It's my daughter I'm mainly thinking about. I've been thinking that I should get a boat and some spinning gear, get her out into one of the local lakes and do what I can to get her into a number of fish. What I don't want to do is to get out there and not catch anything and put her off from fishing.

    So, what have you parents-of-young-ones done to get your child interested in fishing, and how young did you get them into fly fishing? Did you need a smaller fly rod for him/her?


    PS: Attached is my daughter's first fish ever. :)

    Attached Files:

  2. Kids, man anyone with kids just doesnt have enough time to be a dedicated angler let alone an accomplished fly fisherman. :p

    Before you get mad I will admit that was an attempt (and a bad one at that) at humor. Didn't want to break the string of all the negative posts.

    I agree with you. You want to keep kids catchin fish when they first start out. I got three words, panfish, panfish, panfish. If you were fishing around ellensburg I could give you some names of a couple lakes where you can catch sunfish, bluegill, perch, and crappie all day long. A big red bobber and a bucket of worms will be enough to keep the both of you busy for a long time.

    As far as kids and fly rods go I dont have any experience. However, I am curious to know the age at which a youngster could safely pick up a fly rod and use it well enough to maintain interest in the sport.

    BTW, nice first fish. :thumb:
  3. In my opinion, catching fish early and often is the key. However, that said, I struck out with my two oldest girls (now 16 and 14). The oldest never showed any interest, the second was only interested until about 7 or 8. My 11-year-old son has the bug now, though. He has been fishing for the last three years, a few times each summer thena few more each winter for steelies, with some success. I started him on fly fishing this winter, got his skills up enough to flip the line out a few times without me having to deal with tangles backcasts. Since then he has been out with me every couple of weekends (and one hookey afternoon for a 'biology field trip') and has had lots of success, so he is into it. Hopefully for life.

    One thing though -- he definitely does better fishing 1-on-1. On those trips where we bring one or two of his pals, they end up messing around with whatever they find outdoors -- snakes, tadpoles, frogs, sticks, rocks, whatever. With just my son, he stays focussed and has success fishing. With the other kids, he has lots of fun -- great trips, but they rarely get into fish or fishing, and the few minutes they spend fishing seem fraught with competitive vibes between them (always checking out how the others are casting, who has their line snagged, etc). A even mix of the 1-on-1 and group outings seems just about right.
  4. I wouldn't recommend starting her out in a boat. Somewhere with good bank access would be much better. When fishing from shore, the child can run around, play, and do other things if they become bored. In a boat they have to sit still and have nowhere to go when they get fidgety. bawling:

    I'm lucky in that my folks live right on a lake that has lots of panfish. I've had children as young as four out catching fish off of their dock.
  5. Ditto the advice about boats, and an overall suggestion you go slow, patient, and easy with your kids, which you probably know.

    My personal story is that I got into fishing at about the time my son was five or six, and we'd occasionally rent a small boat at a nearby impoundment. It was a tough place to fish, and more than about a half hour's confinement was too much, which of course hardly made it worthwhile (for either of us). I made a bigger mistake when my son was about ten and took him on an afternoon's float trip on one of my favorite smaller rivers. Not only did he tire of it really quickly (and of course had to ride it out anyway) but even the suggested stops to explore weren't of any interest to him.

    The best fishing times for him were trips to a friend's local farm pond where the hybrid bluegill were of a healthy size and aggressive. He had a blast "outfishing Dad" who was usually plying for bass with a plug. And there was another larger public pond on the edge of our local National Forest that was overpopulated with bluegill. Those tiny buggers would hit any little worm you threw out there, and he could catch to his heart's content and then go off and play. The common threads were: enough fish to provide some gratification; and, the ability to stop fishing and play around.

    Sadly, that last float trip made the most lasting impression on my son. He's grown up to be an avid hiker and camper, but still doesn't fish. He was out here early in the month and took a great float trip with me (without any fishing). It was his first time in a canoe since that last one, and he's twenty-four.
  6. IMO there's a couple of crucial things to keep in mind when taking kids flyfishing. These are not in any order of importance.

    First is that kids are not created equal. My oldest daughter (now 11) landed her first fly caught fish at 18 months of age. She was tossing a 9' stick by herself before her third birthday.


    At the same age (three) her younger brother (2 years her junior) was only interested in how hard he could pound the ground with a rod, yet now he has surpassed her casting abilities mainly due to his greater physical strength. The point being that your child may be ready sooner or later than someone else's or even another one of your own.

    Step out in the backyard with your kid(s) and stick a rod in their hand and let them just wave it around a bit. You'll soon know if your child is anywhere close to using a fly rod from both the interest and the physical perspective.

    As soon as your child exhibits some interest in what's going on and seems like they want to hold on to the rod for more than 5 seconds you're ready to start guiding them.

    I use the term guiding deliberately. DON'T plan on doing any fishing of your own, unless it is to cast your outfit but be prepared to immediately hand it off for them to control. Even though my older two are perfectly competent to cast their own outfits I still do this on occassion with them, especially if we are tossing heavy outfits for really big trout or steelhead.

    Here's a result of immediately handing off an outfit I had cast



    Second, you must keep it fun for them. At that age the actual fishing is only one small part of 'going fishing'. You need to be ready to put the rod down and play in the sand or throw rocks in the water or float sticks down the river or chase tadpoles or trap waterskippers or whatever catches their fancy. (By the way after handling waterskippers expect your fishing to go straight into the crapper. Ever wonder why waterskippers don't get eaten, they excrete a foul tasting oil, so I'm told, that fish don't like. Get it on your hands and than on your flies, well nuff said)

    Third, when they are done for the day you are done for the day. There's is absolutely NOTHING you can do to sour your kids on fishing faster than forcing them to stay once they are done for the day.

    Fourth, take along lots of snacks and drinks. Let them help pick them out at the store. Make up a little backpack and let them carry "their" snacks (or at least a portion of them). Snack time is when THEY say it's snack time.

    Fifth, get them a pfd and have them wear it ALL the time they are around the water. Let them help pick one out so they have some ownership it. I see kids fighting with their parents all the time about wearing pfd's. Most of the time I don't even have to say anything to my kids and they want to know where their vest is before we get on the water.

    Last, get them kids sized gear. In the first pic above Lucy is tossing a 490LL. Looking back it was way too long for her, it looks like she was handling a spey rod. She did much better once I got her a 7' 3wt. Actually all four of my kids 4~11 have their own 3wts.

    hopefully the pics show
  7. Great info. Keep it comming. I have the same questions.
  8. Great advise, guys. Having fished for trout all my life, I forgot how much fun nabbing panfish could be for kids. I'll have to try that. And the advise about letting them run around shore is great.

    Wes, great advise and pics. Looks like she's having a great time - my kids time will come (eventually).
  9. I'll add a few cents:

    If you really want them to fly fish, I would get them a little experience lawn casting for targets (make it a game of some sort) using hookless flys or strike indicators just to get them the feel for it prior to launching flies into trees stream side.

    2nd opinion above - plan on being their guide and not walking 100' away and fishing yourself. Fishing with them and helping with the casting but letting them do the landing will help set the hook so to speak. My 11 year old needs to be weaned off this as he thinks he always gets to land the fish I hook.

    Obviously if you can place them where the fishing are being caught they will have more fun and want to go again. I keep my eye out for places where they can walk stream side without getting too wet. A little kid has pretty limited ability to wade fish especially when you likely don't have waders for them. If you target trout, hit the evening catch-a-thon on our rivers. The Cedar River under the Jones Rd. bridge (I think that is right) meets this description. I plan on taking my kid there some weekend evening.

    One thing I am going to be doing is buying some felt and gluing to some old shoes or sandals to give them some slip resistance. A lot cheaper than buying wading boots that they'll grow out of in a week.

    I think an 7' or 8' 3 or 4 wt. is the best kid rod.

    Patience. Don't force them to stay longer than they want to. Bribes work. Good luck.

    Jim F.
  10. Someone asked so I guess I should point out that my above post includes pics of both my daughters. The single pic at the top is of my oldest, now 11, before she was three.

    The bottom two pics are of my younger daugther, now 6, who was 5 when the pics were taken.

  11. This isn't based on personal experience, but I'd think that one good way to start even a young, uncoordinated child off successfully is to fish from a boat in a lake where the panfish are always cooperative, and to slowly troll flies. Put up several rods, if the law allows, and let Junior grab whatever rod is bouncing.
  12. I will add one more thing that worked for me...My oldest son, now 8, would tag along with me when I would go flinging flies, but he wasn't interested in flyfishing. What I introduced him to was the abundant insect life around and in the waters. I got him looking under rocks, along grass lines along the shores and the adults in the air. Eventually it got to the point that he thoroughly doing this with Dad and would help me figure out what I wanted to tie on and fish with. Pretty soon he was helping me pick out what fly to use. Now it's like haveing a caddy. Now he wants to learn to cast the rods.

    I already had him loving fishing. Did that by taking him "gill'n". When we would find a nice populated hole in a local lake there was never enough time for him to get bored. He just couldn't get enough of it.

    I agree with the above recomendations on rod size and weight. I let my boy cast my 9' 5wt and it is just to long of a stick. I'm going to build him one around 8' long.

    Lastly enjoy it!!!!! They only learn once.

  13. Marc, extremely good question and a lot of very good advice here, by those that obviously have been through it. My 3 kids are now in high school, and I just returned from a fly fishing trip with all of them and their mother, and all had a very good time. They can't wait to go camping to the St Joe in 2 weeks. The items that stand out to me, and bear repeating:
    1- Lots of fish; little kids don't care how big, just lots of action. Lakes with lots of planters is ideal, or pools in slow, shallow streams.
    2- No boats, their little bodies crave movement and need room to run around. You call them over when they have a bite.
    3- lot of Snacks as treats for the waiting between bites.

    Things I would add: select an area with minimal biting insects, that’s safe (swimming lessons and life vests!!), with lots of stupid 6" trout or pan fish; use durable closed reel spinning outfits (but good enough that they don’t screw up with every other cast), with worms, marshmallows, etc. Make it more like a picnic. Progress eventually to casting small lures.

    Don’t expect to fish yourself; you will be frustrated by not being able to fish as your help will constantly be needed just as you get into position to cast. Instead, understand that you are there solely to help them. Relax, joke around, play games, tell stories, and be prepared to sit back and laugh your butt off, as it is some of the most fun fishing you will ever do; sit back and watch the action, especially as excited kids try to help each other out with landing fish and releasing them. Take lots of pictures, ‘cause they grow up fast. From time to time tell your wife you need to scout out new areas with your fishing buddies to find good places to take the kids fishing. She will buy your "research" excuse, with a half smirk, as long as you produce from time to time.

    You oldest may soon be ready to use a fly rod if she has had the initial experience just catching fish, then casting spinning gear. I think I started mine about nine yoa or so. today, 2 of the kids fish because its something fun to do with the whole family and/or their friends and me. One of my boys is wholly impassioned by fly fishing, and last year at age 14 caught his first steelhead on a dry, and is throwing 50+ foot casts. For all, and you, lasting memories of good times
  14. I posted this last week on another thread were the same discussion had taken place. I have edited the post some and added a picture of when we went to the stocked pond. She turned three in January.

    My Daughter and I have been fishing 3 times this spring. I started her out by buying her a closed face spin rod. We practiced with that when ever we could in the winter in the back yard. I then took her to a stocked pay to fish pond in April. She had a blast and I have some great pics. I also have a 7 1/2 ft. 4wt that we have been practicing in the back yard with this spring. She actually knows the difference, I think. Practice is usually cast and then pretend there is a fish on, and then throw it back. It is great to be three again. The rod is still to big for her cast correctly by herself. She is getting pretty good at reeling it in.

    We have a friend who lives on the Cedar so we have been out their twice. The experience was great. It went something like this; "Daddy I want to fish." We cast together for 45 seconds to a minute, then, "Daddy I want you to fish so I can throw rocks and sticks." Then it is, "daddy catch a fish, why can't you catch a fish?" Is it the rocks and sticks? Most likely not and it doesn't matter. 10 minutes later it is usually, "Daddy can I have another piece of licorice?" More rocks and sticks. Then, "Daddy come sit down and watch the river." More rocks and sticks. More licorice. 20 minutes later, "Daddy I want to fish now." And the whole process starts over. We did actually catch one the last time out. We don't last much more than an hour, but it is a really special hour.

    The rule on wading the Cedar is no deeper than your ankles and always in a slack spot. A life jacket might not be a bad idea especially in bigger water and/or you plan on keeping them on the bank. Get one with a handle on the head support so you can grab them if they go in.

    Just my two cents twice,

  15. What you guys are missing is that daughters in particular present excellent opportunities to justify buying gear :thumb: It matters not that the kid would be just as happy with a 5 foot bait caster and Snoopy reel. What matters is that a 7 1/2 slow action 4 weight "training rod" would also be a perfect brushy creek rod that could be borrowed if necessary. And any fisherman in the Puget Sound area that would pass up an opportunity to buy a boat "for the kids" needs counseling :)

    On a more serious note, I found that trolling works great for young kids. Make a rule that they have to keep the hooks in the water at all times for safety purposes. Only fish prime times to keep the action fast. And realize that as soon as the snacks run out the fishing part of the trip is over and bring LOTS of snacks :) :)
  16. To all the guys putting photos of their kids out fishing, keep them coming. It shows the pure joy of just being out there which is something more of us should remember. Its not all about numbers and size all the time. As a kid I was happy to catch shinners and dog fish just as much as I was Salmon. I kind of miss those days sometimes. Been fishing myself since I was 3 in fresh water lakes and 7 in the salt. Just wish I would have picked up a fly rod sooner since I was over 30 when I took it up on my own. I plan to one day take my own out fishing and the photos all make me look forward to that day a little more.
  17. Hikepat, you asked for it: the 14 year old last fall on the Methow, wearing oversized sunglasses, waders and ear to ear smile.
  18. Just a quick note to say thanks for the recent input. Great stuff, guys! :thumb:
  19. All I can say is you all have more guts than I do. I tried the fishing with kids thing and almost ended up pulling my hair out. Went with a buddy up on the S/F Stilly one year with him and his two kids. All I heard was is too hot in the sun,the bugs are biting me,I can't cast,my line is tangled,why can't I catch anything. But of course they really weren't dressed for the foray to the river. Shorts and no shirts with just rubber boots.

    I found out that I don't have any patience with kids anymore.

  20. Jim, there is a difference between "fishing with kids" and "taking kids fishing". :ray1:

    The latter entails you watching (not fishing) and actively involved with the kids fishing, and when they want to do it themselves, you find a comfortable place to sit and watch them (out of harm’s way).

    The former, I tried, and abandoned as you are right, it does not work; every time you get ready to get into your own fishing, the kids will need attention, and can be exasperating. :beathead:

    So my conclusion was to not fight it, stop fishing and just spend the time with the kids and their fishing. You will likely find that the kids won't be as whiney either, if they have Dad's full attention. For myself, when I stopped fighting it and didn't have any expectation of trying to fish for myself, I didn’t get frustrated, and could keep my sense of humor and that allowed me to see just how funny the whole process was in what the kids were doing, thinking and saying.

    Its a kick to watch the discovery process going on. I still laugh today when I think back about the times when one of the kids would hookup with a 8” trout they would all be so excited and run over to the lucky fisherman all talking at once, all offering to help and all giving advice and wise cracks at the same time, splashing and falling in the water, the boys chasing the little fish around boulders with a hemostat, and their sister, standing on the boulder with rod in hand, yelling at them to not hurt her little fishy, as they all went round and round the rock. But then again, I also enjoy slap-stick humor, the 3 Stooges and Charlie Chaplin, so I’m may be predisposed to find humor in taking kids fishing.

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