Take Your Kids Fishing
There aren’t not a whole lot of mantras that I follow in my fishing pursuits, after all what makes fishing fun is always learning something new and trying out things that you think others might not have. But when it comes to getting a young kid into fishing, there are definitely some rules that you should live by so as not to spoil the fun and make fishing a chore rather than a treat. There’s also some altruistic reasons to get your kid into fishing, because if you don’t introduce them to it, who will? Plus, there’s nothing better than a little fishing partner that one day will grow up and hopefully row you around the river!
If the future generations are to be the stewards of our resources and guardians of the outdoors, what better way to get them started than to help them find activities that take them outside of the house and lend an appreciation for our rivers, lakes, streams and the critters that live in these special places. Too many of today’s youth spend too much time in front of a computer or television plugged into electronics. It’s time to start getting kids plugged into the outdoors at a younger age. Because if we don’t there won’t be any future generations that care about what happens to our recreational resources. Therefore, I’m all for immersing kids at a young age into the world of fishing and the avenue it provides to enjoying the great outdoors.
Just Getting Started
(The Infant & Toddler Years)
One of the best ways to ease infants and toddlers into fishing is to get a backpack that can accommodate them comfortably, strap them in, rub on some sunscreen, and go for a little small creek fishing expedition. This was one of my favorite activities to do with our daughter when she was one. I didn’t have to teach her anything, I just took her out for a few hours, fed her some fun snacks, let her look at the fish I was catching and watch her grin from ear to ear. An important thing to remember when introducing anybody to fishing, but especially young children, is to not overdue it. While you may like to fish for 8 hours, kids and oftentimes significant others don’t. So shorten up the trip, find a small creek or pond close to town, and pack a snack and make an afternoon out of it, instead of a full day.
Another good bit of advice from trial and error and my own experience as a kid on fishing trips is this – do whatever it takes to make fishing trips a fun experience for really young kids. If that means letting the kiddo sit on the sandbar and throw rocks for hours, then by all means, let them do it! Pack a coloring book and some crayons, bring along some books, or let them bring one of their favorite stuffed animals or toys – associate the fishing with a positive experience. There’s no quicker way to turn fishing trips into proverbial death marches than to make your kid sit and watch you fish for hours on end. I’m no psychologist, but speaking from experience with my own daughter who now loves to go fishing, making the outings enjoyable will allow you to go on more fishing trips without angering your better half and having a family mutiny on your hands.
Putting a Rod in Their Hands
Another lesson that I learned from my father was that although no age is “too young” for fly fishing, there’s definitely a need for an attention span long enough to learn the basics. So, if you’re struggling to get your 6 or 7 year old to grasp the concept of fly fishing, put a spin rod in their hands. Now I know that as a manager of a fly fishing store this sounds like heresy, but when my daughter turned 3 I bought her a Disney Princess rod instead of a fly rod. Why? Because you can throw worms and reel in fish a lot easier on a spin rod. And a fly rod just takes a little too much finesse for most young kids… If you’re looking for a consensus on when to start young kids in fly fishing, there is no golden rule as children are individuals and some will take to fly fishing at a younger age than others. But if you are looking for a general age range, the majority of what I’ve read and experienced is that from age 8 to 10 is a pretty good age to start easing kids into fly fishing.
Now when it comes down to the actual fly rod, there is a building consensus in the fly fishing community that a shorter and more flexible rod is a better tool for young kids to begin casting with. Some manufacturers even make kids fly rods. Echo and Ross probably have the two best kids rod offerings, but there’s certainly countless others out there. What you want to look for is a rod that is no longer than about 8 feet, and probably isn’t any larger than a 4 weight for really young fly fishers. Teaching kids casting, now that’s another story. But fortunately if you live in Bozeman there are countless programs around to introduce kids to casting that are taught by experts in the field. Trust us, don’t try and do it yourself if you don’t really know what you’re doing.
Things Not to Forget
In wrapping up and recapping the most important points here, never forget this – make fishing fun. One thing that I found as a youngster running around with my dad on the river was that there was a whole world to explore outside of my house. My dad showed me insects, let me skip rocks, build rock dams in the creek and just be a kid. So when you take your kids to the river don’t pull a Reverend Maclean and set up a metronome for your kids to practice casting with. Let them enjoy the fishing experience in their own way, and eventually they’ll find their way to enjoying fly fishing. Trust me, I’m a living breathing example and I’ve got a future generation that’s going to be brought up the same way.
Kris Kumlien is the General Manager at Montana Troutfitters and can be found rambling on about anything to do with fishing at www.troutfitters.com