5 Tips For Teaching Kids To Fly-Fish

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Maxine McCormick photo by Chris Korich

Maxine McCormick photo by Chris Korich

Taking the time to teach a kid to fly-fish is an investment in the future.

To my mind, there’s nothing more important than teaching kids to fish. If done right, it’s an investment that pays three times. For the child you teach, it’s a life of wonder and purpose, which builds character and keeps them grounded. For yourself, the satisfaction of knowing you have changed a life for the better. For society, another grounded soul with respect for others and the natural world.

We are not all, however, teachers by nature and the task of passing on the fundamentals of fly fishing to a young person can be as hard on us as on them. With all of the excitement surrounding 11 year-old Maxine McCormick’s performance at the107th ACA National Tournament, I thought there was no better person to ask for advice than her coach, Chris Korich.

Chris Korich’s Foundational Rule and 5 tips for teaching kids to fly-fish

Foundational Rule: CONSERVATION OF ENERGY: Make it look easy, effortless, efficient, encourage rest and relaxation.

5 Tips

•TRUST – Establish rapport by asking questions, probing about other sports & interests. Listen and repeat, prove that you care!

•SIMPLIFY – Teach the basics. Teach grip and stance with a pencil, not a fly rod. Next, practice the casting stroke with just the 2 tip sections of the rod and NO LINE to start, then add a third section and a line. Cast to 20-30 foot targets with short 0X leader and yarn.

•PRAISE – Ignore bad strokes, loops, etc. Immediately praise good strokes, positive stops, tight loops, good timing, mechanics and results.

•CHALLENGE – Set goals. Start with large targets and work towards smaller targets. Encourage multiple hits, consistent loops and casts at varying distances. Make it a game and keep it fun.

•REWARD – Kids need feedback. When they achieve their goals, they should be rewarded with age appropriate awards: breaks, play time, treats, movies, fishing trips. Bigger rewards for bigger challenges help keep them focused.

“Eight to ten years old is the perfect time to start,” Chris tells me. ‘If you don’t have them hooked by 4th or 5th grade, you may have missed your chance.”

IMG_4955Remember, an eight year-old’s attention span is limited. Practice sessions should be short. Especially at first, maybe only 5-15 minutes. When you see them getting tired or losing focus, it’s time to stop. Keep it fun. Practice sessions may be 30% focused time and 70% playing with the dog or climbing trees. Let them learn at their own pace.

Don’t take them fishing too early, and when you do, make it easy. The last thing you want is to frustrate them. Play the casting game until they can consistently make a good 30 foot cast and hit a target. Then take them to a trout pond or out for some feisty blue gill. There will be plenty of time for wary brown trout later.

Louis Cahill

Gink & Gasoline
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9 thoughts on “5 Tips For Teaching Kids To Fly-Fish

  1. Great post Louis. Agree on all counts. Teacher must know how to cast AND how to teach kids. That means make it fun. Casting is only complicated and difficult if you do not really know proper technique. Over-correction and confusing or conflicting correction will frustrate any learner and turn kids off.

  2. Excellent tips. It’s also important to change the terminology to language kids know. “Accelerate to a stop” might as well be in Chinese. I try to incorporate actions kids do for fun to demonstrate the casting strokes, such as, throwing a water-balloon up on the roof behind you.

  3. I have found that getting them onto the water as soon as reasonably possible is important. If it aint fun they aint intrested. Bluegill at a local pond are the perfect target, especially will small poppers or foam ants. So much the better if you can find a spot with clean bottom where you can wet wade and not sink to your knees in muck. Very short leaders help with turn over and more line will be outside the tip for a given distance. If needed up line by a size to help load the rod easier. Student led learning works well. When they ask about casting further then you can get into improved form to increase distance. If they want to spend their time flipping out 15′ casts and giggling over potato chip bluegill, hey at least they aren’t glued to a screen…

  4. Guys, you’re making this too hard. If you want to get your kids into fishing or flyfishing, take them fishing. Once they can roll cast and swing a fly they are in business, after that everything thing else is just for fun, and can be picked up along the way.

    And the idea that someone has to start fishing as a kid is nuts. I work with a lot of kids, but we also start a lot of young adults just out of college before they start a family, 45-55 year old empty nesters, people just, or just about to, retire. And the 80 year olds that figure what the hell, how hard can it be?

    Whether the kid is 8 or 80 it has to be fun. Teach a casting class of ten people sometime. They will all learn at different speeds and and you’ll probably have to change your approach numerous times. If you make it fun and stay flexible everyone learns to throw some pretty good loops.

  5. fly line manufacturers need to make wf fly lines with about 20 foot heads in line sizes 4-9 for kids and some adults who aren’t strong enough or don’t have the time to practice or have enough coordination to get much line past the rodtip. I used to own a fly shop and ran into students like this on occasion. make an 80 ft line that can be used in hot weather, please, similar to rio mainstream bass or sw, just with a 22-25 ft head, maybe with loops on both ends, in the $40-$60 range.

    • I agree. In the meantime cut an old fly line down to the length you want. I’m doing this when my salmon lines running lines crack up over time. Or there are many suitable short head manufacturers today

  6. Excellent post Louis! This post keeps me motivated because I have 3 GIRLS, ages 3, 6, and 8. I think you’re right that ‘FUN’ has to be the key to keep their interest. Fortunately, they all love the outdoors just as my wife does. My 8 year old is starting to show an interest and likes to help tie flies. She even comes up with her own designs, so I think I’ll run with it! Keep up the great work!!!

  7. Pingback: Tippets: Fishing Belize, Tips for Teaching Kids, Highcountry Flies | MidCurrent

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