Don't Retract Pack

The Art of Teaching Kids to Fly Fish

For anglers who understand and agree with the need for conservation, investing the time and patience needed to teach children to fly fish is returned tenfold when children discover, and take to, the beauty, grace, and challenges of the sport by becoming lifelong fly fishermen. So, even though having more fly fishermen in the world is kind of a “catch 22” since more fly fishermen means more fishing pressure, it also means more conservationists and, the more conservationists we have, the more likely we are to be able to keep our local trout streams pristine and accessible to the public. However, teaching children to fly fish is not an easy task even for an experienced fly fishing instructor but, there are certain things that are helpful to both know and practice when teaching children to fly fish that will undoubtedly make your efforts more successful.

10 Helpful Tips for Teaching Kids to Fly Fish 

1. Have the patience of Job 

For those of you who are not familiar with the story, Job was a character in the Christian Bible who endured a seemingly endless series of trials administered by God but, because Job remained loyal through it all, he was handsomely rewarded in the end. So, when teaching kids to fly fish, the first requirement is to have the patience of Job! The reason for this is that kids are either intensely interested in fly fishing or they are not and, if they are, then they will want to learn from you but, if they are not, then nothing you can do will engage their attention.

2. Make it fun for them

This tip is almost as important at the tip mentioned above! Even if the kid or kids you are teaching are interested in learning, you still need to make it fun for them. So, because kids like both games and challenges, one of the best ways to make fly fishing fun for them is to make a game out of it. For instance, a game to see who has the best cast or, who can cast their fly the most accurately or, anything else you can dream up that is both teaches them a particular aspect of fly fishing and is also fun for them. That way, they will have a memorable day even if they don’t catch any fish.

3. Show them as well as tell them 

Some kids learn well by listening to the lectures their teachers give them during their classes and thus, they also learn well by having you explain a particular fly fishing technique to them. However, some kids are visual learners and thus, they learn much better when they see a person demonstrate a particular technique for them. So, it is a wise idea to always carry a rod of your own along when teaching kids to fly fish so that you can show them as well as explain to them what you want to teach them.

4. Don’t hover over their shoulder 

On the other hand, kids hate having an adult hanging over their shoulder scrutinizing and correcting their every move and thus, it is very important to respect not only their personal space but their need to explore as they learn. So, rather than hover behind them like an overprotective parent, approach them to tell them or show them what you need to and then, back off and let them practice a bit while you provide a bit of friendly coaching from the sidelines.

5. Praise their successes and have patience with their mistakes

Children are genetically preprogrammed to seek approval from both their peers and from adults who they either like or admire. Thus, by having patience with them, making fly fishing fun for them and, not hovering over their shoulder, while also praising their successes and pointing out but, not chastising, their mistakes, kids will appreciate you and thus, they will be far more inclined to listen to you and do as you instruct.

6. Remember that you are taller and stronger than they are

This is a big one! Adults tend to forget that they are both taller and stronger than kids are and thus, terrain that is relatively simple for an experienced adult to traverse can sometimes be extra challenging to a kid. So, when teaching kids to fly fish, it is important to remember that they are shorter, weaker, and lighter than you are and thus, it is important that you choose your path along the stream, as well as your stream crossings, with a kid’s smaller stature in mind.

7. Provide them with an outfit appropriate to their stature

Despite the fact that kids most certainly can cast effectively and accurately with a 9 foot fly rod, if you will stop and think about it for a moment, to a kid who is only three and a half or four feet tall, a 9 foot fly rod looks like a 14 foot spey rod does to an average adult! So, it’s really helpful to kids to purchase a rod for them that has both an action and a length that is appropriate to their stature.

8. Have fun yourself or they will know

It might not seem like it at times, but kids are very sensitive to the moods of the adults that they interact with and thus, if you are not having fun teaching them to fly fish, then they will definitely know it. So, even if they are having enough fun on their own to ignore your sour mood, they will still know you are not happy about being there and it will adversely affect their fly fishing experience. So, if you don’t like spending time with, or teaching, kids, then find and hire a dedicated fly fishing instructor who thoroughly enjoys teaching and have them teach your children for you. Then, you can fly fish together once their instructor has taught them how.

See more tips on taking kids on their first fishing trip…

About author: Bill Bernhardt is a professional fly fishing guide and instructor with over fifteen years of experience. Also, he is a professional editor and outdoor author who has published eight books and written more than 1,500 articles and, he has contributed to both American Outdoor Magazine and Southern Trout e-zine.

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