Teaching Kids to Fly Fish – Tips and Useful Strategies (Complete Guide)

If you’re obsessed with fly fishing and you want to share your passion for the sport with the next generation. Whether it’s your kids, your nieces, nephews, or through a volunteer organization, teaching kids to fly fish is one of the most rewarding things you can do.

This is not only in the realm of fly fishing but in life in general.

Just because you know most of the ins and outs of fly casting, fly selection, and presentation. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have what it takes to teach kids how to fly fish. To be a successful teacher will require an entirely different skill set.

That’s why I’m going to share with you some tips and useful strategies. I’ve found this useful when showing younger people how to fly fish.

Although fly fishing is very challenging to master, with these tips you’ll keep the learning process fun, engaging, and help instill a strong conservation ethic in the young anglers-to-be in your life.

Start Out Right with Help From a Class or Instructor

Trying to teach a new skill to anyone, no matter their age can be a difficult undertaking. Getting some help from a competent fly fishing instructor or signing up for a class is great.

This is a way to lift the burden off your shoulders and help set your child up for success. Take your kids and join them in the class or lessons and you can enjoy learning right alongside them.

father and son fly fishing together on early morning

Keep it Simple in the Beginning

You will probably be tempted to run out and get your child the latest fly fishing gear but don’t. Let them use your rod for the first few trips, give them a hat and a pair of sunglasses and your set.

To make this a special occasion, go to your local fly shop before your first outing. Let them pick out several different flies of their own this will give them a sense of ownership. When they look over their selections they will look forward to using them on the water.

Check out: TOP 5 Best Kids Fly Rods and Reels 2024

Rigging for Your Child

You need to play the role of a fishing guide and do all the rigging, detangling, and re-rigging for your child.

Let them focus on casting and catching fish. Learning how to tie blood knots and nymph rigs will come later.

Teach them Basic Fly Casting Techniques

This is where if they work with a casting instructor it can really speed up the process. Don’t worry about teaching your child how to double haul or shoot line.

Try to get them making 20-foot casts consistently on their own and they’ll be within fish-catching range.

Go to a Proven Spot

Head to a pond heavily populated with bluegills and bass or take your youngster to a lake freshly stocked with trout.

Remember if they don’t catch a fish, they won’t see the point in all the setup and casting. You want to get them hooked right from the beginning, so make sure that they get to feel the tug!

Setting the hook, fighting the fish, and taking that once-in-a-lifetime hero photo!

With a fish on the line, walk them through the process and help them reel it in if needed. Once you scoop up their catch in the net, it’s time to celebrate their accomplishment with lots of praise and photos.

Capture the moment with a great grip-and-grin photo they’ll have as a keepsake for the rest of their lives.

You Need to Instill a Conservation Ethic from Day One

When you’re fishing with your kids, take some time to pick up some trash and clean up the stream. Explain why it’s important to take care of the environment so we all can continue fishing for years to come!

man fly fishing in river

Why You Should Signup For a Fly Fishing Class with Your Child

Let’s face it: fly fishing is extremely difficult that’s why we love it so much. It’s a challenge, something that takes a long time to get good at.

But when we’re trying to get our kids started in fly fishing, they probably could care less about the challenge of it. Kids want to do fun stuff!

After all, there’s a list of fun activities that are vying for their attention. Things like video games, sleepovers, laser tag are you getting the picture now.

My friend said he read an article and when he told me, I thought this is something to remember.

Parents should remember you’re competing with some activities that have immediate gratification for your child. So make the fly fishing outing immediately gratifying for the child. If that means going to a trout pond, do it. If that means starting with spinning gear, do it.

To sell them on fly fishing, you should make the act of learning the foundational skills as fun as possible. That’s where bringing in a professional can help big time and save both you and your child from lots of frustration.

Finding a qualified fly fishing instructor in your area shouldn’t be too difficult if you know where to look. One of the first places to check is at your local fly shop.

If your shop doesn’t offer classes for beginners themselves, they should be able to refer you to a local instructor.

This is Important to Remember

If your child is uncomfortable in group settings, then one-on-one instruction is a good option. Remember everyone learns fly fishing at very different paces. But one or two hour-long sessions should be enough to help get any kiddo started.

Depending on where you go for classes or lessons, plan on spending anywhere from $50 to several hundred dollars.

Sometimes this might seem like quite a lot of money but it will get them started on the right foot. Making this investment could make a difference rather they stick with it or ditch the fly rod altogether.

You need to go to classes or lessons with your child. This is supposed to be an exciting activity for you to do together, so make time your busy schedule to attend.

When you go, remember to leave your ego at the door and try to keep an open mind. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are with a fly rod. You will likely learn something at the class that will help you on the stream, too!

Go with a Guide for Your Kids First Fly Fishing Trip

Getting everything together for a successful first fly fishing trip with your child can be stressful. So remember to do yourself a favor and book a guide for the day.

They’ll take care of everything so you and your kid can focus on having fun, bonding, and most importantly, catching fish!

When you go with a guide, they provide all the tackle, instruction, and local knowledge of the fish, insects, and water for a successful day.

It’s a guide’s job to put their clients on fish and since it’s so incredibly important that your kids get that first taste of a trout on the line, you don’t want to leave anything up to chance.

Before you book a guide, be sure to choose a guide that is experienced in helping kids learn to fish. Most reputable guides will be thrilled to show your child the ropes.

Do your homework to be sure that he doesn’t have a short temper or they aren’t foul-mouthed. We’re looking for a very kind, and patient guide who is a good role model.

fly fisherman fishing in river

Bring Two Rods But Don’t You Fish

When you’re fishing with your child, all the attention and focus needs to stay on their needs. In other words, remember that you won’t do any fishing yourself because this is their time.

You need to be ready to help your child with everything and I mean everything. You should try your very best to remain patient and calm.

On top of that, try to move around so they can fish at their own pace. Don’t put any pressure on them to perform. Try to be one step ahead of them and anticipate their needs. Don’t rush the process and just simply be there for them.

When they do start to get the hang of it, slowly give them more independence. How will you know it’s time? When the phrase, “Dad! I can do it myself!” gets shouted at you, you’ll know they’re ready to handle things on their own.

And when they are confidently fishing on their own. Then go ahead and pick up your rod to do a little fishing of your own.

Don’t get stressed out if your child doesn’t happen to love fishing quite as much as you do. You don’t want to put pressure on them to like it. Don’t force it, but don’t give up on it either.

After fishing with my son for years, one day he came to me and said, “Dad I’m really not into this fishing thing.” We talked about it for quite a while and figured out something else that we can do together.

So remember each and every kid is different, but no matter what, give them your attention. If you’re on the water try everything you can to give them your undivided attention to make them feel special.

Focus on Basic Fly Casting Mechanics

Teaching your kid to fly cast will be one of the biggest challenges to overcome. As I mentioned before, this is where taking a class or lessons will shorten the learning curve. This will also help them develop good casting habits from the beginning.

If you do plan to teach them yourself, try to simplify the casting process to the bare-bones basics.

The lawn or the backyard is a great place to learn. You should have the rod rigged up with a standard 9-foot nylon leader. At the end of the leader, tie some yarn or a fly with the sharp hook point cut off.

Teaching a Simple 3 Stage Fly Cast

Basically, in the beginning, you want to focus only on the forward cast by breaking down the movements into three stages or positions.

  • Step 1: Have a small amount of line stripped off the reel, have your child bring the fly rod directly overhead to 12 o’clock.
  • Step 2: Next is the primary movement of a basic forward cast. Have your child move the rod directly forward toward the target. The line will shoot forward and layout on the ground.
  • Step 3: Get them to lower the rod toward the ground but hold the tip just above the ground. This will complete the cast and puts the fly on the water in fishes range with the rod in position to strip in the line.

To make another cast, have your child repeat steps one through three. That’s it! No complicated backcast, no double hauling, no line shooting. With practice, your child should be able to make consistent twenty-foot casts.

When they’re just getting started, don’t worry about grip or stance or stripping line. Let them hold the rod any way they like. They can use two hands if that helps.

A fun way to help your child get comfortable with the casting process and start developing accuracy is to place several hula hoops in the yard as targets.

Try to turn it into a game and use positive-reinforcement in the form of candy, ice cream, or other treats. These rewards will help to help them “get it” and they will want to keep practicing.

Plant Some Seeds for an Outing

Your number one priority as a parent should be to make every fly fishing experience as fun and as possible.

This should start by picking a place to fish of that you know has lots of fish that are willing to bite. I can’t stress enough how very important this is it could make a big difference in how they view the experience. You don’t want to check spot after spot only to turn up empty-handed.

Bluegills or other species of panfish are great fish to get youngsters started. If you don’t have any bluegills in your area, try to find a trout pond that is freshly stocked.

Look on your state’s fish and game website to find the stocking schedule. Plan your outing soon after the most recent stocking for the best chance at lots of bites.

In other words, you should go for quantity over quality for the first few trips.

Beyond the fishing action, make the fishing excursion exciting by bringing lots of tasty snacks, drinks, and food.

Think of those first few fishing trips as very special occasions. Then reward your child with stuff they love but don’t get everyday things like beef jerky, candy, pop, chips.

two man kayak fishing in summer

Fishing Trips Should be Something to Look Forward to

Another way to make your child’s first fishing trip extra special is to take them to the fly shop. Then let them pick some of their own selection of flies to fish with.

Guide them to the flies you think will work on the water you’ll be fishing. You should feel free to let them go wild and choose whatever catches their eye and gets them excited.

Better still, if you’re able to tie flies, set aside some time to help them tie up some of their own. Show them the basics of how to wrap the thread around the hook and secure materials then set them loose!

With their little fingers, kids pick up fly tying pretty quickly. Even if their creations don’t follow any specific patterns, there’s a good chance they’ll still appeal to fish.

Rember to Take a lot of Pictures

So you should remember to bring your favorite camera with you. You’re going to want some photos to remember your first fishing trip with your new fishing buddy. These are some keepsakes that you’ll both treasure and remember for a long time to come.

You don’t have to be that particularly skilled with a camera for you to capture those special moments. Just try and make sure you have lots of space on your memory card and snap away.

When you’re about ready to take that first shot of their first fish. You should take the opportunity to teach them how to safely handle the fish.

Tell them to get their hands wet and keep the fish in the water until just before you take the photo. To help keep the fish from getting away, keep it in the net while you set up the shot.

Once you’re in place, have them lift up the fish out of the water for a few seconds and give you a great big smile.

This is the kind of stuff memories are made of.

Show Them to Care for the Surroundings

Teaching kids to fly fish is hard work. Through fly fishing, a child’s mind and body are fully engaged. By learning and mastering a challenging skill, they can gain a huge boost of confidence. This confidence will probably cross over into many other aspects of their life.

But what’s more important than simply showing your child how to catch a fish. Try to teach them how they can do it responsibly and in a way that will preserve the resources. That way they’ll be able to eventually pass on the tradition to their children.

You’re literally adding another angler to the world and it’s your job to instill a strong ethic of conservation and stewardship over the resources.

And you do this by being a good role model and leading by example. You don’t have to lecture kids they are smart and taking care of mother nature is something that makes sense.

It’s a matter of “showing” rather than “telling.”

Go out of your way to pick up trash and try to encourage your kids to do the same. You can turn it into a game if you pick up five pieces of trash and you can get an extra cookie.”

Remember the phrase, “if you can pack it in, you can pack it out.” This has a very nice ring to it and it makes it very easy to remember.

Kids soak up what they see and have a tendency to repeat those actions. So you need to lead by example, if you can turn cleaning up the stream into a game, even better.

This means you’re going to have to be on your best behavior. Likely better behavior than when it’s you and some of your fishing buddies.

Remember when you take your kids fishing, their little eyes watch your every move. Rember that those little mouths will be doing some talking later.

Make Fly Fishing an Add on Activity

Introducing children to fly fishing slowly and gradually is one of the best ways to gauge if it’s something they’re interested in. This is a good way to find out with minimal upfront investment.

So instead of planning a full-day fishing trip right off the bat. It may be better to just bring a fly rod along on a canoeing trip or a hike into a lake.

If you happen to come across a nice fishing spot, rig up a rod quickly and make a few casts yourself. If your child shows some interest, you can give them a quick lesson. But please try not to make a big deal about it.

Don’t Get Too Hung Up on Fly Fishing, Give Spinning a Shot

Here’s the most important thing to remember when introducing your child to fly fishing:

Keep it fun and focus on catching fish.

Think about the experiences that got you into this sport. There are not too many of us that fly fished first; we evolved into it. Try to make a fishing trip fun at first and then work into casting flies.

If it means you leave your fly rod home and take a spinning rod and a can of nightcrawlers, so be it. Give your youngster a taste of what’s it’s like to feel the throbbing pulse of a fish on the line—no matter what tools you’re using—and chances are, you’ll have a fishing partner for life.

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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