Introducing Kids to the Sport of Fly Fishing
Fly fishing can be an enjoyable outdoor activity for kids once they reach the right age. It is a great way to get them outdoors, away from screens, and into the wonders of nature. Fly fishing also teaches kids skills such as patience, problem solving, coordination, and perseverance.
Getting kids into fly fishing can be an adventure for both parent and child. It is important to remember that each kid is different, and can enjoy different aspects of fly fishing. From learning how to tie knots, identify insects in the water, or tie flies, fly fishing can be a great way for kids to learn about the natural environment around them. The trick is to make sure that you are appealing to the part that each individual enjoys. My daughter, for example, enjoys the woods, the bugs, and tying flies, but doesn't necessarily care about catching fish. My son, on the other hand, wants to catch fish and cast just well enough to catch a lot of fish. I am just happy to have them there and I understand that at that time my fishing isn't primary.
The biggest mistake I see is that a lot of parents tend to put the pressure on performance. Getting ready to just cast can be a test in patience as we expect our kids to immediately focus, instead of getting lost in the surroundings. Like we were never distracted when we first hit a beautiful stream. Instead, don't even get the fishing stuff ready yet. Go to the stream and turn some rocks over, look for bugs, and explain hatches. Maybe that kid will pick out a stonefly nymph and want to pick their own fly based on that. Then they are excited to rig up a rod and learn the right knot because they want to use "their fly". Maybe they catch a fish with that fly and then they want to learn what it's made of. Then they want to tie it. The bigger idea is to indulge the kid. Let their curiosity lead the way, not the win/lose of how many fish there is that day.
My second biggest piece of advice is to make sure they can and do catch fish, and fairly quickly, Their first experience doesn't have to be at a pay pond so you are out $50 in 5 minutes for trout, but catching, at first, is important. Boredom is your enemy, especially with kids, and let's be honest, fly fishing can be boring sometimes. Instead of committing to a full day trip on a fabled technical trout stream I suggest a park pond with some bluegill and bass. A little casting practice and a couple dry flies will catch you a bluegill or two fairly easily as they are curious fish. If they can get a cast down a little bit a wooly bugger will likely net you a little largemouth bass. You can likely get them to accomplish this in 30 minutes or so then let them hit the swings. They had a positive experience and get to be a kid and go play. Keep it light and if they show a propensity for it then keep it up. As they get older and more experienced you can make your trips more adventurous. Also, as a father my kids think I know nothing regardless of my resume so having them learn from others like local Trout Unlimited Groups or like-minded organizations will expose them to more opportunities and information, not just Dadtalk.
Lastly, just a note that fly fishing does require a fair amount of coordination. I have taught some very capable 6 and 7 years old kids and some 8 or 9 year old kids that weren't quite ready. Rods are 8'-9' long and not necessarily suited for 4' munchkins so be reasonable as to when and whether they are at a good stage to start. Setting them up for having a good time outside in water is what will make fly fishing ultimately stick. Also, as a guide and father, pinch those barbs for everyone's safety! They'll put an eye out!