More than 140 years after we first met Tom Sawyer and his buddy Huck Finn, American boys and girls who have tried it still appreciate one guiding principle of those youngsters’ lives: Fishing is one of the most pleasurable ways to spend an afternoon.
Getting kids into fishing means helping them catch fish first and foremost. For those first times on the water, the experience has to be about “catching,” not just “fishing.” That means matching gear suitable to the kids involved, and finding waters that are fish-rich.
When selecting fishing locations for kids, try to improve their odds of actually catching fish by sticking with “easy water.” Many areas offer well-stocked lakes open only to kids — usually 13 years old and under. If you can’t find one of those places, visit a local pond or slow-water river that boasts a strong population of pan fish. Pan fish (bluegill, crappie, sunfish, etc.) inhabit waters throughout the country and tend to be easily caught near shore with a simple nymph under an indicator. Even a ‘twitched’ streamer – a basic small woolly bugger twitched like a jig – can be an effective means of catching panfish. It’s not about the quality or even the size of the fish reeled in at this point; It’s all about catching something, since catching makes the fishing more enjoyable for kids.
Once kids have caught fish on a few different outings, you can introduce them to more advanced angling experiences. They can try fishing surface poppers on lakes, or even dry flies on trout small trout streams for instance. The point is to start slow, show them some success, and teach them the necessary skills along the way.
When selecting gear for young kids, it’s okay to start them with simple spinning rod and reel set-ups, but contrary to some beliefs, kids as young as 5 or 6 can learn to fish using fly fishing tackle too.
In fact, there is fly gear made specifically for children. Redington leads the way in offering gear suitable for kids with the Redington Minnow Combo, which includes an 8-foot rod, reel, line (5 wt), and zippered carrying case. The kit is designed for kids age 6 to 12, and comes with a slow-medium action rod that is well suited for the motor-skills and strengths of younger children. The combo includes some basic easy-to-read casting instructions as well as some suggested games that can be used to keep kids engaged as they practice their casting strokes. The Minnow Combo sells for $110.
For older kids, the Redington Crosswater Youth Combo (ages 12 and up) offers a little faster action on a longer rod — 8-foot, 6-inches — than the Minnow. This kit also includes rod, reel, line and case, and it’s an effective option for any novice or intermediate angler. The rod offers a bit more power and line speed than the Minnow as well. The Crosswater Combo lists for $150.
Once they are outfitted, encourage the kids to practice casting for an afternoon or two in your backyard or local play field before hitting the water. After learning the basics of casting a fly, make sure they get out on a lake or river that is well stocked so they can quickly learn the joys or hooking into a fish. Once they’ve acquired some skills in both casting and catching with fly equipment, you can move them on to some of your favorite waters, starting with small streams or lakes then moving up into more challenges as you grow into your angling lives together.