Fly fishing with kids in your near-, mid- or distant future? Platon Trakoshis has seen it all and can guide you on your way.
“Daddy!, Daddy! …… Daddy!” Frustrated Dad “Whaaaat!?” as he tries to fish undisturbed. I’ve witnessed this scenario too often and always thought, I never want to be that kind of Dad even though I admit I have at times.
Kids are pretty different when it comes to learning how to fish. Those that are completely obsessed with all things fishy, to those who really enjoy it but have other things to keep them happy and then there are hopeless cases.
I have my experience as a small boy and my two boys now to draw from with a few friend’s kids thrown in for some variety. I’m writing here about what I did as a father trying to introduce my boys to fishing. There has been a lot of frustration at times and one thing I have been trying hard not to do is to push them into it. I have been fortunate in that they both enjoy the outdoors and have taken to fishing quite naturally. I’m sure many of you were introduced and have introduced their kids to fishing in different ways but this is my experience.
Stavros, the older one at 8, has been into water creatures and bugs from a really young age and the progression from a seaside net to a spinning rod has been easy. He’s bright and has stuck to spin/lure fishing and my prompts to get him fly fishing have been shrugged off with a “why it’s much more difficult?”.
Leon, 4, on the other hand, loves the gear, he picked up casting a spinning rod in no time and loves casting and watching the lure wiggle or spin or pop. He is keen to learn to fly fish or waggy waggy fishing as he initially called it.
I was extremely fortunate to have a father who was nearly as immersed in fishing as I am, it was a given that fishing would always be part of my life. This became clear way back when I stayed with cousins every school holiday in a small town called Shurugwi back in Zimbabwe. We spent most of our days across the road in a beautiful park with a pond covered in lily pads, in the shadows below lurked tilapia (bream) the size of my tiny hands. At the end of each day, I’d go missing much to the panic of my aunt but the cousins knew where to find me, at the pond with a piece of cotton attached to a bent pin, squashed up grasshoppers were the bait and beautifully coloured bream the prize, I used to admire them and then toss them back.
Boredom in fishing with small kids kicks in fast so I started them off the way I learned and kept it simple with instant rewards. A stick rod with a line and float and a small hook dressed with an earthworm from the garden worm farm worked perfectly. Fortunately, the Berg river flows past a few hundred meters down the road from our house and I know of a few spots that hold small schools of banded tilapia. Tossing out the float at the small school got an instant response and the float would start to move and dip under the water which was visual enough to get them excited and focused, they soon learned to read a bite and when to strike. 5 to 10 little bream a session was full of screams of excitement and made them crack fisherman keen to do it again soon.
Stavros initially wanted to keep the fish and take them home but keeping them in a bucket and taking a couple of photos to show mama before letting them go saved the poor little buggers. All the while explaining catch a release and the importance of it which has sunk in after a few trips.
Weekends away are probably tops for getting kids into fishing, they can fish until their heart is content and when they get bored they can drop the fishing and do something else, usually, there are other kids too which really helps. Stavros rotates from fishing to frog or crab catching, a bit of swimming and then back to fishing. Low tides on the coast is his heaven.
Being at the water’s edge, be it the sea or a river, for a few days makes getting them onto bigger casting rods easier, they get to practice and really get into it. Open spaces and open water are the best for this. I didn’t start them on the press button closed top reels and went straight to spinning reels and I must admit I was surprised how quickly they picked it up. Setting up a permanent rod at home for them to practice and play with made a huge difference. Of course, there are problems with tangles that can drive any father crazy especially when you are trying to fish yourself. So I often don’t even consider that, especially when they are both with me, the fishing is about them and my fishing can wait.
Often these trips are with other families and fishing fathers and I’ve found they’re the best people to teach my kids and visa versa. This just helps avoid the blow-ups due to some form of frustration between father and son and friends being involved tends to make everyone more tolerant.
Stavros has reached an age and level where he fishes with confidence and independence. We’ve done many father and son day trips and a couple of weekends away alone which have been very special. I’m starting to take him to more challenging places and he’s really getting into it and learning a lot as he goes to the point where I can fish properly with him doing the same by my side.
Leon, on the other hand, is still young and very much learning and I’m letting him get into it at his own pace. This past summer he caught a few carp on bait, which gave him a good pull that he loved and helps to teach them how to fight fish. He is yet to catch anything significant on a lure but has had his popper smashed a couple of times which got him screaming with excitement and has him hankering to go fishing again.
Then locked down kicked off and he’s just going to have to wait to fish again. With work coming to an abrupt halt I’ve been spending a lot of time tying, refilling boxes and finally shooting some upcoming SBS’s. This has sparked an incredible interest from Leon in particular to the point where it has become a bit obsessive wanting to tie a fly every day and “filling his own box” and testing them in the pool. He’s too young to have the motor skills to tie on his own but he always wants his own design and goes through my boxes picking out what he likes in flies and combining them into his own designs, some have been remarkable.
It’s also sparked off interest from Stavros to tie more and a miracle happened the other day when he asked to learn to fly fish. So I have set up a fly rod with a bright indicator at the end and made the dog bowl the target to aim for, making it a game keeps them interested, the competition has begun.
I often get asked to take friends kids fishing because their fathers just don’t fish and I do so as often as I can. Too many times I’ve seen non-fishing fathers with their kids fishing and they just have no idea and the kids don’t catch, it’s sad really. Kids need fishing heros, be it their father, their grandfather or just your friends who seem to catch more fish than you because your kids see you blank so often. So take your kids fishing, or your friend’s kids fishing and show them what to do, it’ll bring them a lot of joy.
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