Kids Can Tackle Fly Fishing with a Little Help
By Gary Lewis
Fly fishing, for most of us, was something we watched others do first or read about in books. For some, it was the next level in a progression of becoming proficient in the disciplines of fishing. For others, it was a way to fish waters closed to other methods. For most of us it was a progression along a path.
Maybe this is why when we teach our children to fish that we feel we must make them climb the same ladder to fishing proficiency that we are climbing.
A certain mystique exists in the sport. There can be poetry in the fluidity of a cast. Grace in the gentle touch of a dry fly resting on hackle and tail. Satisfaction in the tightening of the fly line under the weight of a good fish. And music in the whir of a well-balanced reel as a heavy rainbow takes out the backing.
But why should we wait to introduce our youngsters to the sport that many of us are so passionate about? One reason to wait is the child himself. A boy or girl who expresses no interest in fishing when first exposed to it is probably not a good match. At least not yet. Many parents make the mistake of forcing their favorite sport on their kids. It doesn't matter what the pastime, if the child isn't ready they will resent their parent's efforts.
What does a child want from fishing? To most kids under the age of ten, a fish exists for only one reason. The fish exists for their gratification. Fish exist to be caught, to provide enjoyment in the catching, pride in the keeping, food in the eating and a story for the telling afterward.
What this should mean to the parent is that in order for the child to maintain an interest in the proceedings that fish should be hooked and landed with some regularity. This is why bluegill and hatchery trout are important in the life of the young fisherman.
There is one simple rule to remember. Young people must catch fish. And catching, they must keep a few of them as tangible proof that the event occurred. If keeping the fish is inappropriate or illegal than a photo should be taken to commemorate the event.
Two of my daughters, ages six and four, are learning the way of the floating line and the feathered hook. Teaching catch and release is a more difficult concept than I thought it was going to be. I've explained that we don't need to keep every fish we catch and they've said that's just fine for me but it doesn't work as well for them.
Lately, I've gathered a lot of advice about starting a child fly fishing. Many suggest starting them out as young as possible. Casting, for the youngest, can start inside with a fly rod tip section and a length of thick yarn. The rod is brought from two o'clock to ten o'clock and the yarn has the weight and bulk to simulate fly line action. Once the yarn presentation is mastered, the child has the basics of fly casting licked. Graduate to a real rod in the backyard loaded with a reel, backing, line, leader and hookless fly, casting to objects on the lawn.
I took a look at a rod combo package designed especially for the youngest fly fisherman. Reddington's “Kid Start” kit is based on an 8' graphite rod, a reel and 6 weight line. The kit has everything a person needs to go fishing except a fly. A well illustrated instruction manual is enclosed along with some teaching aids The line is perfectly balanced for the rod and anybody can, with a little bit of practice, get plenty of line working right away. At eight feet long, it's a fly rod that a person need never outgrow.
Whether you buy one of the excellent combos available or start the beginning fly fisher on ‘hand-me-down' tackle, make sure that the rod, reel and line are matched to the type of fishing and the fisherman. A 6 weight rod is a good place to start for two reasons. It is heavy enough to cast well and appropriate for most freshwater fishing situations that a beginner is likely to encounter.
We fished a spot where the fish were willing and their minds weak. I pointed out the rainbows in their feeding stations and explained to the girls how to spot them in the water and how to stay out of their line of sight while casting to them. We shared one rod between us and caught a few more trout than we probably should have. We kept two to cook fresh and I told the girls that next time they get to clean them. I think they will be embracing the catch and release concept soon.