Parenting is hard! Not as hard as fly fishing, but it’s tough man! Plus, it’s going to be hard whether you’re at home or in the outdoors, so get outside and take them fly fishing! Here are my trusty tips for taking your kid fly fishing.

First tip, head to a Timmy’s (or similar pastry establishment) and get your kid a box of donuts. Mom will likely frown upon this, but the promise of sugary pastries can keep your kid entertained for the quick drive to your fishing spot. They will inevitably crash from the sugar high, giving you the opportunity to rig up at the parking spot. Next up, sunscreen, new diaper, water, snacks, and anything you think the little gaffer will need because once they get in the backpack they will bug you for the one thing you forgot until they get it.

Get fit! You’re going to be hauling 30+ pounds of kicking, screaming weight and you don’t need your back giving out at mile #1. Retire that dad fat, run, do some squats, take a #bootygainz pic, post to your story, and promptly delete in 4 seconds. Also, this is a good time to get yourself a decent child carrying backpack. If you are a distracted and errant caster like me, it’s a REALLY good idea to get a backpack that has a canopy to shield from rogue hooks.

Bring your kid something to do, like a fishing rod! Definitely, take the hook off the lure they’re using unless you’re into shoddy piercings with rusted metal. If you chose to bring a fishing rod, make sure you periodically check that your child has reeled in the lure. Otherwise, you’ll be following their line for hundreds of yards trying to catch up to where they cast the lure 10 minutes ago as you waded upstream.

Pick an easy stream. This isn’t the time to prove to your fishing buddies how deep you can wade, or how you can scale cliff faces to get to that untouched lake. Rather, pick a stream that has plenty of fish that are ready to take a dry. The best times I’ve had with my son is hopper season out West where my son can watch a fish nail my hopper. You’ll never forget their reaction to a fish taking a big dry that they can see out on the water! It’s a good time to mention that fish handling is always priority #1, but quickly lift up any fish you catch so your kid can see and maybe touch it. Be prepared for them to freak out when you release the fish, as they have already deemed that fish as a suitable pet regardless of how they plan to get it home alive.

Pack light, as in, don’t pack like me. As a photographer, I’m a notorious over-packer and nothing changes when I add an extra 30 pounds to my gear. DON’T BE LIKE ME, pack light! All you really need are the essentials, diapers, change of clothes, snacks, water, 1 fly box, some tippet, nippers and a camera so you can prove to the world that in fact, you do still have a life.

Lastly, make sure to give your child lots of breaks. Just imagine being suspended by your crotch on the back of a sweating, I-didn’t-have-time-to-shower, caffeine junky for 6 hours straight. Not pleasant. But seriously, give your kid breaks as much as they need them. They’ll have a blast turning over rocks, looking for bugs, throwing sticks and trying to break your fly rod.

All joking aside, this is an important time where you’re teaching them to enjoy the outdoors much like you probably did as a kid. Always keep your child’s safety forefront in your mind and don’t worry about catching fish (the road was closed in the picture below). It’s all about the experience of getting outdoors with your kids. And hey, if it doesn’t work out and your kid turns out to be a shopaholic like mom then you’ll get a whole bunch of fishing time while they’re racking up the visa bills. Anything for fishing time, right dads/moms?

One last tip. Find yourself a good fishing buddy who is cool with a shorter and slower day, and who will be an extra set of eyes for your kiddo!

Thanks for the tips, Steve! Steve Longfield is a dedicated fly fisherman and father. For more for his work, check out Steve on his website and Instagram here!