Spare the Rod - Spoil the Child

Don’t be afraid to take kids fly fishing

 We have all had that familiar feeling, a set of sad eyes looking up at you pleadingly as you start to walk out the door all geared up for a day on your favorite trout stream. Usually we just toss fido a fresh dog biscuit, pat him on the head, and out the door we go. Sometimes though, the sad eyes gazing at you are ones that belong to a son or daughter. 

The folks at Social Services might have a thing or two to say if you took the same approach with the kiddies that you do with fido and Mom might actually appreciate a few hours of alone time. If you want to be a real hit with both of them consider taking your child fishing. Going on fishing trips with kids, especially fly fishing trips, requires a unique approach.  Here are some tips that just might help you have a day that your child will remember for ever.

The first thing to remember is that the day will be memorable no matter what happens.  I can honestly say that I remember every fishing trip I have ever gone on with my Dad. Kids see Dads with fly rods practicing casting in the yard and naturally want to try it to be like Dad. This is very good for a Dad’s ego. However, being the steward of a child’s life long memories and ideas about the outdoors is serious stuff so relax and make a plan!

Secondly, Plan on this being a trip for the kid not for the Dad. I asked my son, now thirteen and a fly fisherman for at least five years, what advice he would give Dads who were going to take young children fly fishing. He said, “tell them to let the kids hold the rod some”.  Perhaps sometimes I failed to do that on a few of our trips. I am a notorious teacher who sometimes would take the rod back and show him how to make the fish bite rather than letting him do it on his own. Pick a place to go that is as uncrowded as possible and where a kid can have a good shot at catching fish. Pan fish in a farm pond can fit this bill perfectly. Kids have short attention spans and if the fishing is slow and water is near they will try to take a dip. Don’t try to wade your favorite spring creek for wary trout and keep up with a ten year old. It will not go well for either of you. Especially if Mom gets wind of it.

Third, Forget back casts and false casting. You can get to those later.  Kids younger than ten just don’t get the mechanics of a good double haul.  Pick water where they can give a short flip or roll cast. Again, your local farm pond teeming with pan fish is ideal for this.

Fourth, Set a good example.  Kids will remember what you do and probably tell the neighbors too. Make a big show of asking permission to fish if your local pond is on private property.  Have the correct licenses and explain the importance of them to your child.  Explain how you always take out more trash than you take in. Talk about conservation as you let your child release your catch or discuss not wasting what you take if you decide to take the fish home for dinner. This is the sort of thing we all read about in books but it really does make a difference and will shape the child’s ideas about nature and our responsibilities as outdoors men and women. 

Finally, Don’t plan to stay all day. Do bring snacks and take pictures. Be prepared to untangle line, get wet, and have rocks thrown into the water. Fish will be scared away and you will have frustrating moments.  You will also have wonderful moments. One of the best moments I can remember is when my son looked up at me and said “Thanks for taking me fishing today Dad”.

Resources:

Need help finding a place to fish with your son or daughter? In North Carolina you can get a publication from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission titled “Public Fishing Access Areas and Community Fishing Sites in North Carolina” It lists ponds and lakes in several counties that offer suitable places. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency web site has lots of information for kids and a section on family fishing lakes.

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