Fly fishing is an art, and learning to fly fish and the skills needed to be successful make it a rewarding pursuit for both young and old. To many people, the point of fishing is simply to catch fish. However, fly fishermen derive their pleasure from following in the tradition of the sport and the beauty of the streams, lakes and shorelines where they find themselves.
By taking the time to prepare your child’s introduction and letting them find joy in their successes, you will be rewarded with a fishing companion for life. A good way to develop their interest from a young age is by sharing your enthusiasm for fishing. Walk with them along a river, point out where the fish will lie and why, take a dip net along and catch and identify the insects and explain their life cycles. At home show them your or your father’s fly rod, reel and fly collection, teach them to tie a fly, explain the history of fly fishing, when you started, who taught you and where it has taken you.
"Hi my name is Dale Lattanzio,
I am a fifteen year old boy who goes to boarding school in the United States however I am based from the UK. I have a strong passion for fly fishing. I am a fly tying fanatic and can tie just about every saltwater fly like a professional. When I was 13 I went fishing with Chris on the river test. I was fishing from the banks at the upper most part of the beat with a peeping caddis fly. I infact hooked into 4 nice big wild trout which ended up breaking the tippet every time.
Eventually I got one to the bank it was a nice 2.5 to 3lb wild brown trout. I will never forget it.
Fly fishing requires a degree of coordination, physical ability and mental discipline. I have successfully taught children younger than 10 to cast a fly rod, however to avoid your frustration and risk losing their interest entirely, it is important that you first evaluate their readiness to learn. When you think your child is ready, you should decide who will teach them. If you as a parent do not feel that you have the confidence to teach, then consider hiring a guide, they will usually provide lessons and equipment and be able to advise you on a choice of flies and a local fishing venue. By participating in the lessons you will learn and bond together.
To prepare for your first trip, practise casting in your garden or a park without a hook on the line. Instead tie a small piece of wool to the end of the leader so that they can practise their presentation. Begin by demonstrating the pick up/put down of the basic over head cast. Show them how it is done then let them try it, observe and give some general feedback. Remember that constant feedback and compliments are very important in building their confidence. Most children will pick this up very quickly. You can then progress on to false casting, letting out line and how to retrieve a fly. Try to give them as much information as you can as long as they remain focussed, if you notice that your child is becoming restless or is no longer paying attention consider stopping for the day. Once they are able to cast 10 yards and land a fly within a hula hoop sized ring then you are ready to go out on the water.
The first trip out should be somewhere they are certain to catch fish or at a venue and a time of year when their chances are improved. I would recommend that it is a still water or slow moving river, fast moving streams require mending of the line which is a dynamic which should only be considered after a few trips out. When on the water fish together and should you catch a fish first let them fight and land it. It is important to teach children respect for their quarry and depending on the fishery rules and the size of the fish caught they can decide whether to keep or release their first catch. If deciding to release the fish then teach them to wet their hands before handling the fish, remove the hook with forceps for them, take a picture quickly before holding the fish in the water gently by its tail to recuperate before letting it go. If keeping the fish then despatch it quickly and humanely using a priest before taking a picture. Be careful of sharp spines along the dorsal fin when handling perch and other spiny fish.
Children are keen to try new experiences and they will never forget that first fish and the one who introduced them to the art of fly fishing.
RECOMMENDED BEGINNERS KIT
Fly Rod: Either an 8’ 4 weight or 8’6” 5 weight rod Fly Reel: A matching weight reel Fly Line: A floating double taper or weight forward fly line. Leader: A 7 1/2’ 1x or 2x leader Fly Selection: I would ask you local fishing shop or fishery manager
The 8’6” rod offers the beginner greater versatility and is suitable for both rivers and medium sized still waters. When purchasing a beginner rod I would advise a rod with a soft action which will allow the beginner to feel the cast and will be more forgiving. A shorter stronger leader will be easier to control and strong enough to land a fish even with a few inevitable wind knots in it.
In addition I would I would also highly recommend a pair of sun glasses (preferably polarized) for protection from glare and flies, sunscreen, insect repellent, forceps, a hat and a shirt with a collar, rain jacket and wellingtons.