When my sons were born I couldn’t wait until they were old enough to hold a fishing pole, but I’ll admit I was a little unsure of how to start fly fishing with them. At first I thought it would be difficult, so I decided it would be easier purchasing a Styrofoam cup of worms at the gas station and watching a red and white bobber sit motionless on the surface of a pond. But what I found out is that using artificial flies is not only simple, but my boys are more engaged in fly fishing than bait fishing; and to be honest, in many situations it is easier to catch fish with artificial flies than bait.
An easy way to start fly fishing with your children is to actually forgo the fly rod and simply use a push button “Snoopy pole” with a fly and a bubble. We started fishing bass and blue gill ponds around my home in Arvada with Woolly buggers and a Batman rod from Wal-Mart. The rig was simple – Sliding clear bubble, barrel swivel, length of tippet, and weighted streamer fly. My sons were able to cast this rig on their own and catch and hook fish merely by slowly reeling in line.
When the oldest boy turned 4, I decided to introduce him to the fly rod and to moving water. The most important lesson I’ve learned from guiding is “Keep it simple”, so I started him off with a short 3 weight fly rod, strike indicator, and single weighted nymph (i.e. Pheasant Tails, Copper Johns, and Princes). Most importantly we fished rivers I knew were abundant with small, easily catchable trout. Clear Creek in Golden, Bear Creek in Morrison, and The Big Thompson in Estes Park are all great small rivers to start on. I had my son cast a short fixed line with 2 hands, and taught him how to follow the indicator with the tip of the fly rod (High Sticking). I did find that I had to help set the hook, but in most situations the trout never even took line and my son was able to easily lift and guide fish into the net.
Fly fishing with children is surprisingly easy as long as it’s not overly complicated. Keep the line short and rig simple and your kids will have a great time on the water. They’ll stay engaged and they will learn a valuable lesson in catch and release conservation, plus you’ll never have to deal with disgusting cups of worms ever again.