Written by: Kip Vieth, Wildwood Float Trips
This is the year. You‘ve been thinking about exposing a kid to the wonderful sport of fly fishing, and you’ve decided that he or she is ready. What better way to do it than to take them on a guided trip? They will get a great glimpse into the sport and what it involves, and you’ll have an expert on hand to answer the questions and offer advice. Guides teach all season long and really reduce the learning curve for the new angler. My favorite trips every season are the ones that expose children to our wonderful sport. I pride myself in teaching youngsters, and it is a big part of what we do.
That said, there are certain things that adults can do to ensure taht the young angler has a good experience. Nothing turns someone off as quickly as a bad experience while they’re trying to learn a new sport. I’ve been guiding a long time. Here are a few things that I have seen that can make the difference between making fly fishing a lifelong sport or something they never want to do again.
1. Make it Fun
It might seem obvious. If it isn’t fun, good luck getting youngsters to be enthusiastic about going fishing again. It’s all about the experience, so make sure it’s a good one. This might include not fishing. Let the kid enjoy their surroundings. This might include throwing rocks, building sand castles, or swimming. Don’t make it a grind. For the most part, let the youngster dictate the day. The guide can help with this. A good guide know how to read people and can often see the frustration coming on.
2. It’s Not About You
Make sure that the day is about the kid. It was great that you brought him or her; that was the easy part. But many times, I’ve seen the adult start fishing and get lost in it, often forgetting why they’re there. If you want to make it a day the kid won’t forget, make the child the center of the world. All attention should be paid to them.
3. Let the Guide be the Bad Guy
If you have ever had children involved sports, you probably know this. I was lucky enough to coach my kids a bit in the sports that they participated in. They never listened to me as well as they did with the other coach. I was just their dad, not really a coach. Keep this in mind as you start your day. Remember that it’s the kids’ day, so let the guide be the guide. They are professionals at teaching, so let them teach. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen the adult jump in and the kid just shut down. Then frustration sets in. Sit back and watch the child be exposed to a sport that hopefully will be with them for the rest of their lives. It’s a great gift you are giving them. Enjoy it.
4. Comfort Is Important
If the child isn’t comfortable, they aren’t going to enjoy the day. Buy or borrow good outerwear, so they can concentrate on the fishing. Keep them warm and dry, and things will go much better. With all the great affordable outerwear available, there really isn’t an excuse for them to be uncomfortable.
5. Good Equipment Helps
Just like outerwear, there really isn’t an excuse for giving the kids second-rate equipment. I’m not saying you must spend thousands to outfit the kids, but don’t give them grandpa’s rod from the attic. There are plenty of good reasonably priced outfits out there. If nothing else, the guide will have outstanding equipment that they would love to let the kid use for the day. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to teach someone a sport with subpar equipment.
Nothing is more special than spending a quality day on the water with a child. Practice patience and make sure the day is all about them, and your experience should be great. Remember it’s about teaching. Also, remember that it might not be their cup of tea. It might be disappointing to you if they don’t care for it. Just know that you exposed them to it, and that’s all you can do. If the experience is a good one, chances are they’ll love it and you just might have a fishing partner for life. Now get out there and take those kids fishing.