With the virus running rampant our daily lives have taken a drastic change. I have worked from home for a while now pre Coronacalypse so not much has changed much on my front except for one thing. I have a 5-year-old who is now home all day with cabin fever. Homeschooling is going just about as well as a trip to the dentist and not seeming to get any easier. But one thing I can say and highly recommend is now is the time to get our children outside and into fly fishing. I have never been one to push fly fishing on my son in fear of him not falling in love with it as I have.

Image courtesy of @joshuacaldwelldirector

The activities we have done together this last week have been priceless and fly fishing has once again been my saving grace. Here are a couple of things we have done to keep my son entertained.

Make a Game Out of Casting.

We jumped in headfirst, I handed my son a fly rod and let him show me his casting skills. I fully expected knots, snags, break offs and whatever else you can imagine a 5-year-old doing with a fly rod. Patience is key here and in my opinion where they are going to love or hate it. I am sure a lot of you like myself didn’t learn to fly fish until you were old enough to drink. It can be frustrating and the last thing my son wants at the moment is to be “taught” something else with my wife and I already replacing his teachers.

Image courtesy of Orvis

I recommend using your old fly fishing equipment, so you all don’t walk away from this game with a broken Orvis Helios or Sage X.  I took some random things like a hula hoop, a bucket and even had him make a shape out of sticks and placed them randomly in the yard. The game was to put the fly on the object, I took the rod and cast at the bucket and missed. His little laugh was something I hadn’t heard for a couple of days since this madness started. So I missed a few more times and it then became his mission to beat his dad at our new game. I let him try on his own for a while before trying to show him some basic casting techniques. He was hooked, the screams of joy that ensued when he hit his target were priceless. If you can’t get outside you can still enjoy this game inside. We have an Orvis Practicaster that is small enough to cast indoors with a string and yarn line.

Image courtesy of @lbrasseur

Take Your Kids Fishing!

By day 4 of Quarantine, we decided a hiking trip to a secluded pond would be a great way to spend the day. It was a 3 mile round trip through the woods. I was a little ambitious here since my son doesn’t hike a lot but it wore him out and the adventure aspect really kept him interested. I chose to take him somewhere I knew we would have the most luck, while still practicing good social distancing skills. I think this is part of the fishing experience for kids is important. If you are skunked your first couple of trips I find it highly possible they will not want to go back. Fly fishing for bass or sunnies makes for a great first outing. We were lucky because I know a great pickerel spot where they are always hungry or maybe just mad and will attack anything that swims by. A few casts in and there was a lightning-fast strike and a fish on.  My son went bonkers and almost forgot he needed to reel it in. He actually got a decent pickerel and couldn’t wait to “hold it”. 

Image courtesy of @lbrasseur

This is a perfect opportunity to teach proper fish handling skills without it being a lecture. And just a side note be mindful of mouths full of teeth and spines in the fins here when your little ones are handling fish. We were lucky our trip went as planned but be prepared for the “maybe we will get’em next time speech”. I also brought my son’s favorite snack to soften the blow just in case we weren’t as lucky.  

Image courtesy of @lbrasseur

Tie Flies! 

The day after our very successful fishing trip, we woke up to some very heavy rain. The forecast? Rain and snow for the next couple of days. I am the type of person that always tries to think ahead for the most part and was prepared for this. I ordered my son some light wire streamer hooks, some crazy looking feathers and set up my old vise for him to “tie flies like mom or dad”. Make sure to show them how hooks can hurt and my advice here is to place them as far back in the vise as you safely can or maybe even place a small piece of cork onto the tip before you let them start tying. Some of the concoctions they create can be pretty fun. My son tied what he called a “tiger fly” and is looking forward to our next outing to try it out.

Entomology Bedtime Stories!

My son loves bedtime stories. I have read him several books about bugs and he loves to look at the photos. We are constantly reading “Pocket Guide to New York Hatches” by Paul Weamer. We also got a great book at the last fly fishing show called “Down by the River: A Family Fly Fishing Story” by Andrew Weiner. It’s a great children’s story that revolves around a young boy learning the ropes from grandpa.

Hopefully, this gives you some ideas on some activities you can do with your children while social distancing, quarantining and continue to do in the future.

Mason admiring his catch on our local trout stream. Photo: @finsandtwins

Bonus Tips from Jason Paez (@finsandtwins)

Out of this whole mess, one positive thing I can say is that I truly get to spend some quality time with my boys that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do so otherwise. We have been hunkered down for a couple of weeks now, but we try to go outdoors each day for fresh air and to burn off energy which helps keep everyone happy. The key to fishing during this time has been visiting our local spots that I know are less likely to have angling pressure and areas that give us ample opportunity for space if we do run into other people. The boys have been enjoying the fishing because they can play on the banks, be loud, and stretch their legs.

Mason saying goodbye. Photo: @finsandtwins

We don’t go in with the notion that we are going to be out there long and fishing all day. We go just long enough to have a little fun, catch a fish or two and really focus on enjoying the serenity of being outside. Fishing close to home will also build their foundation for knowing fishing spots that they can go to on their own one day when they are old enough to jump on their bikes and explore with a rod in hand.

Catch and release all the way! Photo: @finsandtwins

After fishing the local spot the one activity my boys have enjoyed is crafting fish out of cardboard. This was an absolute hit for them, here is all you need to make it happen.

Photo: @finsandtwins

Cardboard Fish Art Recipe

Tools and materials required:
Pick your species of fish. Then “Google” the fish and look for an image with a side view that gives you an idea for the outline. Once you have an image free trace the fish using a marker onto the cardboard. Then cut out the fish with your scissors. I suggest keeping a picture of the fish open on an iPad or phone for reference and then let your kids color the fish in.
Photo: @finsandtwins

If your kids are younger you can add scale outlines on some of the cutouts for fun and this gives them something a little easier to color in. Our family tried rainbow trout, carp, redfish, brown trout, and salmon. If you have enough cardboard the kids can make tons of different fish and kill a few hours. Afterward, we hung them up on the wall to enjoy!

10 Tips for Fishing with Your Kids

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