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So, You Want to Take a Kid Fly Fishing? 

Read Time: 9 Minutes | Published: 22nd September 2021 | Author: Sha Juniper Orton

If you ask adults whether they remember going out fishing as a kid, I bet your favorite fly they remember! Childhood fishing is unforgettable and something I feel that all kids should have a chance at. 

This discussion is solely dedicated to helping anglers best prepare to take a kid fishing. By the end of this read, I hope you feel better equipped to look at the bigger picture, so you don’t burn your kids out by overdoing things, or by forgetting about the overall experience.   

Taking a Kid Fishing Is Priceless

Society may have convinced you by now that it’s too tough or just not worth adventuring outdoors with your kids. I am here to tell you they’re wrong. Watching your kids search for bugs, seeing them light up when your line goes tight, and enjoying that sort of quality time together is priceless. Not to mention that kids get absolutely stoked over the smallest of fish; the ones that your buddies dismiss altogether in pursuit of something bigger and better. 

I am so grateful that you want to spend time with your kids in this way; my hat goes off to you! 

Summer smiling big because she out-fished her parents that day. 

The Ebb + Flow Reality 

When raising kids, most of your time is spent doing the necessities; feeding them healthy foods, standing nearby to make sure they brush their teeth, and ensuring they leave the house properly dressed for the weather conditions. It can be some routine business, so it’s no wonder you want to take them out fly-fishing! Switching up routine is not only good for your soul, but also fantastic for kids to have a chance to live in their growth zone and try new things. 

I want to be honest with you here, it’s one thing to head out on your own solo-fly fishing adventure, but it’s an entirely different experience when you bring kids. Don’t get caught up in having too high of expectations or get trapped in the comparison game of what it would be like if you were fishing alone. 

This isn’t your day to drink a ton of booze or to hunt 12 hours for the big boy. You’ll want to make sure to don’t stay out on the water for too long. This is where parents can go wrong! The reality is that your kids will probably want to fish for about 1-2 hours the first time they go… if you’re lucky. Kids have shorter attention spans, so be patient and keep the focus on them.

Make It Exciting

When you first arrive to your spot, I recommend that you make the area exciting. Maybe start by giving them a tour of area, lifting rocks where bugs might be or setting up the hangout spot. 

Let kids be kids while they’re out on the water. 

The Bigger Picture

Keep in mind that your goal changes when you take kids fly fishing. Of course, you want to get into fish, but your focus should be on the kid having fun. If a kid’s not having fun, consider switching it up. Search for bugs, play in the mud, skip rocks, grab the snacks. 

It can be so easy to forget this key point of focusing on the bigger picture, and I’m the first to admit I can get caught up in the hunt, but don’t lose sight of your overall goal here. 

Think about how the kiddos will remember that day. Leave them with a feeling of wanting to come back for more! 

Summer holds her first fish of the trip and couldn’t believe how big he was!  Taking a kid fly fishing is priceless.

The Preparation 

One of the most important aspects of fly fishing is organization and preparation. For parents wanting to bring their kids along, your preparation will make-or-break your experience. This is especially true if you are planning for an overnight. 

Before getting on the water, maybe expose kids to a fly-fishing game. My favorite is the “hula-hoop challenge” where you have kids practice casting and aiming towards a hula-hoop. I have a couple of wooden fish that I have high schoolers aim towards, and they love this. Make sure to swap your fly for a piece of yarn! 

You might be down to fish when it’s cold, but your kids might not. Keep this in mind when you’re scheduling a day to get out. Take them to a smaller area, as bigger water means more liability and potentially a lesser chance at catching fish. Consider printing out a pack-list and checking things off your list as you load them into your rig. 

Packing for Taking a Kid Fly Fishing

I recommend letting your kids choose 1-2 items they would like to bring and giving them their own bag to store their belongings in. Packing their own fun bag helps them feel like they have some control in the space. This is most true when your fishing environment might feel vulnerable or different than the everyday life.

Pack List for Parents: 

Clothing Pack List Specifically for Kids: 

Optional (recommended):

Secret Sauce:

The Pro-Tips (For the Adults)

  1. Bring your best snacks! Don’t skimp the sweet treats. 
  2. Pack proper layers!
  3. Wear sunglasses when assisting kids in casting 
  4. Always take age into consideration when planning your excursion. 
  5. Choose an accessible fishing spot + target fish that your child has a realistic shot at catching. Aim for smaller fish, like crappie, bass, trout. Don’t set yourself up to get skunked!
  6. Bring games, art supplies, and other packable activities to help break up fishing time and to avoid burnout 
  7. Make it fun! It is not all about the fishing. Music, s’mores, skipping rocks, etc. 
  8. Do not pressure your kids to fish if they do not want to. Always offer, but do not push. 
  9. Let the kid net your fish! 
  10. Consider passing your rod over when you’re hooked up on a fish, if you’re feeling generous 
When you take a kid fly fishing and catch a fish, celebrate big!

The Pro-Tips from my 9-year-old Daughter

  1. Bring their favorite snacks 
  2. Let them fish, don’t just do it for them
  3. Show them your fly box and let them pick their own fly
  4. Let them pack their own fun stuff in case they don’t feel like fishing anymore
  5. Play the game where prizes go to the person who gets the prettiest, biggest + most fish 
  6. Ask your kids what they would like to do
  7. Let them net your fish!
Let kids pack their own stuff incase they don’t feel like fishing anymore.

The Celebration 

To kids, life is a celebration! Every moment on the water creates an opportunity to connect and enjoy life together. 

When you have lunch or snacks, ask them how they are feeling. Find out what their favorite parts of the day are, and what they hope to do next. If you find cool bugs, get excited! Take it as opportunity to teach them about entomology and how the flies you use match the bugs. 

When you catch fish, celebrate big and show your enthusiasm. When they catch fish, holler, and make it the most exciting news of the day! 

Nothing beats the excitement of landing that fish!

To learn more from Sha, check out her other piece on our blog!

Photos by Sha Juniper Orton and TJ Orton.

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