April 5th, 2004

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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How To Hook A Child On Fly Fishing
By Toney J. Sisk

Many childhood fly fishing adventures with dad or mom end in boredom for the child, resulting in much prodding by the parent for the child to join in the next trip. Usually this is because the parent hasn't thought through some basic child fishing strategies namely, having a variety of things to do to keep the child's interest up.

A good strategy is to keep the trip short, especially for children under eight or nine-years-old. Don't make the first fly fishing adventure an epic-length car trip or lengthy trek to dad's or mom's favorite little creek. Instead, check out the local fishing docks first.

OK, the local pond may not be a perfect setting from the perspective of an adult fly fisher, but from a child's perspective, it is perfect. A lake with a dock inside a local park is ideal because you don't risk boring the child if no fish bite; there is always plenty to do in the park as a fall-back plan. Be aware of the kid's short attention spans. (Bring a kite and some Frisbees, too.) You might also think twice about fishing from a little boat. When a child is bored in a little boat, there isn't much else to do, and suddenly the boat gets smaller and smaller. Save the boat trip for a later adventure, when the child becomes older and more interested in fishing.

When you are on the dock, plant yourself and your child in a comfortable folding chair, and try to ignore all the other worm fishers on the dock. With the right attitude, a local fishing adventure can even be fun for you as well.

One of the first things I learned was selecting the right fly, not for the purpose of matching the hatch, but to match the dock situation. Forget the woolly buggers. It can be a little tricky teaching a child a strip retrieve. (Save that for your next boating trip). I have found the best fly to be a dry fly, for the simple reason that everybody gets excited about seeing a fish jump to a fly, even the other kids on the dock. The dry fly is also the easiest fly for a child to cast on a dock with other people around since you always know exactly where the fly is and what it is doing. Plus a dry fly sitting on the top of the water gives the child something to focus on, which is very important when dealing with the child's tendency to lose focus and wander off.

Now when a fish is caught, lifting it up to the dock for releasing can be a little tricky. A great trick I've discovered is to bring along a large water bucket. Put some lake water in the bucket, and when the fish is hooked, lift the fish out of the water and into the bucket. Then unhook the fish in the bucket. This is a good time to teach the child how to remove the hook safely from a fish. Another benefit is that the child can now watch the fish swim around in the bucket, as will the other kids on the dock. This is another great way to keep the child's interest.

A great game to play on the dock is when you catch a fish that is too large for the bucket. I recall the first time this happened. I held the fish up, and spoke so that other fishers could hear: "I'm sorry, Amy, this fish is too big for the bucket. We are going to have to put him back." The mumbles and grumbles on the dock after this were very satisfying to hear.

At the end of the fishing, another satisfying thing happens. The child gets to teach catch and release to all the other kids on the dock. With a large voice, I usually say "OK, Amy, time to release all the fish back into the lake." More mumbles and grumbles. Very satisfying, indeed. Have a variety of fun and interesting things to do on the dock and in the park, and your child will be back for more fishing soon. ~ TS

About Toney

Toney is a writer and fly fisher living and fishing in the northwest. He is the publisher of Wayward Flyfishing a web site devoted to furthering the sport through instructional articles, stories, book reviews, and photography.

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