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Parent's Guide: Introducing Your Kids to Fly Fishing

Posted by Carter Lyles on May 30, 2017 2:20:55 PM

Teaching Your Children to Fly Fish

Do you want to have an activity that you and your kids can do together?

Maybe you simply just want your son or daughter to get outdoors, or you're planning a family trip? We've had many families plan fly fishing vacations with their children in the past, including this family whose son scored a grand slam!

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Ready to get started? Let's go!

Ingredients to a Successful First Introduction

Although fly fishing is a sport that welcomes anglers of all ages, it can be tough teaching a four-year-old. They just don't have the attention spans or patience yet to enjoy it the first time. 

While it may not be true for some, usually the earliest age to have kids enjoy fly fishing fall between eight and ten-years-old. 

Take some time out of your busy schedule to take them fishing on a local pond where they can hook into some bream, sunfish or small bass. Make sure that you are focusing on your children and showing them a good time.

In fact, it shouldn't just be about the fishing! 

The day should include checking out cool looking bugs on the ground, eating a picnic on the bank, and spending quality time with YOU!

Only a parent knows the right time to introduce their child to fly fishing. If you're thinking now is the time, then here are some tips to make the most out of the first learning experience:

  • Do not take your child to the beach or a big lake/river for their first lesson. For their first time, it can be very overwhelming! Instead, bring them to a local pond that is stocked with panfish or maybe even trout. Many areas around the country have local "kids only" ponds. If you don't know where to go, try giving your local fly shop, fishing store, or the DNR a call.

  • Bring both a fly rod and a spinning rod with you. Make a few casts in front of them, then ask them if they'd like to learn. Children are naturally curious.

  • Start the day off just teaching them how to roll cast without any flies attached to the leader. Make it as simple as possible.

  • If you can get thirty minutes with them holding a fly rod and just getting used to how it feels compared to a spinning rod, you've done well!

  • Be very patient and verbally reward them. Kids love to receive positive approval from adults, espescially if it's their parents.

  • Show them your fly box! Explain all the different bugs they resemble out on the pond. It's a big plus if you can show them the real life insects your flies resemble in the air or on the water as well.

A 3 Step Plan For Teaching Your Child How to Cast

So your first outing with the fly rod was a success! Maybe you've peaked their curiosity, and they want to learn more. That's great!

Now it's all about following up and keeping them interested. Don't put your fly rod back away and let the tube collect dust. 

Take some time after work or on the weekend to take them back out to the pond or utilize your yard or pool to teach them how to cast.

The very first thing a child should learn about fly casting is the roll cast! It is the easiest cast in fly fishing and a wonderful introduction to get the fundamentals down.

Part 1: Teaching the Roll Cast

You've probably heard sometime in your fly fishing journey that for a fly cast to work, you need to stop the tip of the rod up high. 

Stopping the rod up high on the forward cast is what delivers tight loops and allows the line to shoot accurately.

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An excellent way to learn how to do this is by utilizing the roll cast. For a roll cast to properly work, the tip of the rod has to stop up high!

This is the first installment of teaching your kids how to fly cast.

  • Use your yard, pool, or the local pond to show the roll cast. 

  • Attach a leader that is no longer than 7.5 feet with a tippet size of at least 3x. Kids will have trouble fully unrolling a leader of nine-plus feet or very light tippet. 

  • On the end of the leader, tie a clinch knot to a piece of yard that you double over.

  • Utilize something like a hula-hoop or a placement marker that your child can target with their casts.

  • One of the quickest ways to learn fly casting is by feeling someone else make the cast while you're holding the rod. Your child should be holding the fly rod like a hammer and gripping the rod like they're squeezing a full tube of toothpaste. With your child holding the fly rod, place your hand on the rod and make the cast for them.

  • Make it a friendly and fun competition to see how many times they can get the yarn indicator to the marker. Make sure you don't place it too far away and reward them verbally.

The reason I love to first teach the roll cast to new fly anglers is that: 

  1. They discover what it feels like to deliver a strong forward cast and punch with their thumb. 

  2. For the cast to work effeciently, you have to keep your wrist locked and your elbow moving on a flat surface.

  3. The beginner doesn't have to worry about the front and back cast at the same time.

Part 2: Applying the Start of the Back Cast

Ninety percent of the time, it is the back cast that causes new fly anglers the most trouble.

They want to creep the tip of their fly rod back just a little too far. 

Only move forward with Part 2 when your child is comfortable with making roll casts!

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We aren't jumping straight into the full casting motion quite yet. This second installment teaches your child to lay the line behind them, then roll cast the line forward. 

So to explain this second installment, you'll need to know these three, simple things:

  • Once your child unrolls their roll cast, now have them slowly lift the rod, gradually picking up speed, and stop the rod at 2 o'clock. Let the fly line fall to the ground.

  • Now set a place marker (hula-hoop) behind your child and tell them they have to land the piece of yarn in front and behind them. The reason for this is that most kids won't look at their backcast and it turns out being sloppy. Having a place marker behind them will habitually have them checking their backcast.

  • Once the line has fully unrolled on the backcast and is on the ground, have them proceed with the roll cast. 

The reason for this step is to, again, break up the casting motion into small parts. I highly recommend you place your hand over theirs and execute this cast yourself several times, so they know how it feels. 

This is essentially a backward roll cast and all the same rules apply to the forward roll cast as described above. 

Part 3: Bringing It All Together

So now your child is beginning to be efficient in both their forward and back roll cast.

Great job! 

Now it's time to bring the entire cast together. Tell your child that now, instead of laying the fly line on the ground in front and behind them, to keep it in the air. This is a bit more complicated than it sounds!

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By now your child should be stopping the rod up high on their forward cast and not creeping too far back on their back-roll cast. Explain to them that once the fly line entirely unrolls in the air to bring the fly line back on their backcast.

Your child should also be looking at their backcast to make sure that it fully unrolls. 

Here's how to put all the pieces together:

  1. As described in Part 1 and 2, have your child grip the fly rod in their hand and place your hand over theirs on the rod.

  2. Go back to Part 1 and 2 first and execute those casts with your hand on the fly rod. Then slowly pick up speed with the forward roll cast and the back roll cast until you lift the line up in the air and make the full casting motion.

Verbally reward them, or maybe reward them with a fly rod and reel combo of their own! 

Outfitting Your Child With The Right Gear

So maybe now it's time for them to stop using mom or dad's fly rod and get some gear for their use.

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Here at Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures, we are big fans of Hatch Reels and Thomas & Thomas fly rods, but that's going to be a little overkill for their first set up. I can assure you though; it won't be long before they start asking!

I recommend looking at these two outfits for their first fly rod and reel combo:

  1. Redington Crosswater Combo Kit - This combo kit from Redington comes complete with a four piece fly rod, a fly rod tube, a reel, line and backing.

  2. The Orvis Encounter Combo Kit - This combo kit from Orvis is their introductory kit for beginning anglers. I

I highly recommend getting your child a nine foot, five weight fly rod to begin with. This is the most versatile fly rod outfit, in my opinion, anywhere for children. With a five weight fly rod, you can fish for bass, trout, bream, sunfish, and even smaller saltwater fish like little snappers.


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If you want to give your child some extra practice (including yourself!), then take a look at this practice caster: Practicaster Fly Rod

Another one of my favorite indoor-friendly practice rods is the ECHO Micro Practice Rod

A Quick Look at Waders and Boots

Maybe you're not ready to pull the trigger on a pair of waders for your child. If you are, then take a look at the Simms Kid's GORE-TEX Stockingfoots. These are GORE-TEX waders, so they're going to be very durable and should last your child until they hit those growth spurts! 

For wading boots, Redington makes a Crosswater Youth Boot

What about flies, leaders, and boxes?

There are a lot of nice fly boxes out there, but a foam fly box would probably be the smartest thing to get for a child. If they drop it in the water, it will be easy to see, and it will float. 

Start your child out with:

  • Woolly buggers (size 8 and 10) in olive, black and white. Woolly buggers will catch just about anything that swims. 

  • San Juan worms in red and pink

  • Larger (size 12 and 14) flashback pheasant tails if you plan on trout fishing. 

For leaders, make sure you go on the heavier and shorter side to begin with so they a) don't break off fish and b) have fewer problems casting. 

I recommend 7.5-foot leaders with a tippet size between 2 and 4x. 

If you have a local fly shop close by, please support it! They'll make sure that your child is set up and ready to go. 

Giving Your Child The Experience of a Lifetime

I still remember when my parents first took my twin sister and me at a very young age out west to 63 Ranch in Livingston, Montana. It was there that I first picked up a fly rod.

I recall a little pond on the ranch that you had to hike down an incredibly steep hill to get to.

My dad and a burly man with a gnarly handlebar mustache, who worked on the ranch, took the time one afternoon to teach me the fundamentals of fly casting on the banks of the pond. 

I could see the trout swimming around in the water and every so often, one of them would pluck something off the surface.

The kind folks at 63 Ranch informed the parents that no children were allowed to walk down the hill to go to the pond without being accompanied by an adult.

After my first fly casting lesson and watching the trout swim around in the pond for what seemed like hours, I was the exception to that rule. Or at least I thought!

To this day, it is still one of the most memorable trips I have ever taken with my family.

If you want to give your child the same experience, Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures has several family trips we book and recommend. Here are a few blog articles for you to check out and help you brainstorm:

We look forward to hearing from you and take a kid fishing!

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