My five-year-old loves fly fishing. How do I know? Yesterday, we’re driving in the car and he says, “Dad, I love fly fishing.”
So there you go.
How did this happen? How did I hit the jackpot with a kid that wants to go fishing with me, wants to hear about my fishing trips, and wants his own fly fishing gear? Admittedly, there are some personality-based predispositions at work. My two-year-old would just as soon find a way to turn fly line into a rope swing so as to propel himself into the creek.
At the same time, there have been some deliberate steps I’ve taken with my three boys. They all know that their daddy likes to go fishing, and we all talk about it regularly. My desire isn’t to force them to become fly fishermen one day, but I do want to share this important part of my life with them.
Here are the first three of six things I’ve done that have contributed to my boys’ interest in fly fishing:
Don’t just talk to them about fishing, talk with them about fishing.
As long as I’ve read my boys bedtime stories, I’ve incorporated fly fishing. This doesn’t mean that I’ve changed the narrative of One Fish, Two Fish… so that the best patterns to catch said species became part of the rhyme. It means that I’ve told them stories about my fishing exploits. I’ve also made up stories of our future fishing expeditions: his first brook trout; catching a shark on the beach; pulling out a catfish so large it makes his mom scream.
It takes some creativity (which, thankfully, I have an ample measure of), but it makes naps and bedtime pretty fun. I’ll even supplement my storytelling using a book with a lot of pictures, like Barry and Cathy Beck’s Fly Fishing the Flats or a state guidebook; adding to the intrigue and excitement.
Make it an adventure. Not just the fish: the waking up early, the music in the car, the donuts on the drive – the whole thing. They’ll love it, mostly because they’ll be looking forward to doing it with you.
Get them catching fish; any fish that will bite.
You’re not doing anyone a favor by taking your toddler out to the trico hatch. Similarly, the $600 you drop on a guide to fish the Madison won’t impress your six-year-old in the slightest. Sunfish are the name of the game. They’ll eat anything that is clumsily cast in front of them, and sometimes act more aggressively if the fly lands in a haphazard manner. Plus, for most of us bluegill and pumpkinseed aren’t too far away. This makes life easy for those of all ages with short attention / patience spans.
Now, I realize that you might live on the banks of a trout stream. Have at it. Find a fish that is feeding with reckless abandon during the summer, and guide your child’s hopper somewhere near the fish. But the bottom line is that he or she will be just as excited to start on rock bass as wild browns. The connection to the fish, both literal and metaphorical, is what will catch their interest.
Give them ownership of their own fly box.
Fly fishers like cool stuff. Kids like cool stuff. Show your kid how cool fly fishing stuff is, and they’ll be psyched to hold a rod or stare at a fly box.
Something that I started doing with my boys a while ago was to let them each pick out a few flies anytime we went to a fly shop or big box outdoor store. The patterns they pick are random and hilarious. A squirmy wormy, a tiny quill gordon, a hot pink clouser minnow, and a size 6 prince nymph. You know what? I have them use all of them for bass and sunfish, and they do great. It does allow for good conversation: “Well, that conehead zonker will be hard to cast on your 4-weight.” “I don’t think that you’re going to feel them bite a zebra midge, buddy.” Once they know which flies float and which sink and why some seem to work better than others, a whole world of discussions about tactics come into play.
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