Many parents choose to spend the early years of their children’s lives stuck at home thinking there is no way they can keep up the outdoor pursuits that they love until their children are older. I can tell you this is simply not true. My name is Tim Hepworth; I am a husband, father, medic, and fly-fishing guide in Southern Alberta.
I was born and raised in central Alberta. My parents started taking me on hunting and fishing trips at a very young age. However, when my wife and I first started talking about having children I was very resistant to the idea. I feared that if we had a child, all the things I loved doing would no longer be possible. I could not have been more wrong.
My daughter Wren and I took our first fly fishing trip when she was 6 months old. I carried her on my chest and to my surprise she did amazing. Eventually she graduated to a backpack carrier which made things even easier. That first Spring and Summer I got her out multiple times a week. Wren is now almost three and we have had an amazing few seasons together. I will admit that not every trip goes smoothly. There were many times when we would arrive at the river and be packing up to go home shortly after. Adaptability is the name of the game. You need to ask yourself what is the goal? Do you want to catch a ton of big fish every time out? Or do you want to show your child the beauty of the outdoors?
In today’s world it is so easy to set your kid in front of a screen and let it do all the teaching. However,I believe most people want something different. We want our children to appreciate the outdoors the way we do, and to be the stewards of taking care of it for the generations to come. I have chosen this path for my daughter, and it excites me to see so many others doing the same. I have fielded countless questions about fishing with Wren, so I figured it was time to put some words together and try to pass along some of what I have learned. I have come up with 5 tips I feel are essential to a positive day with your child on the water.
1. Don’t Have A Timeline
Fishing with an infant is actually quite easy. More than likely they will fall asleep in a pack and sleep for hours, giving you all the time in the world to fish. However, with toddlers and small children they decide when your day starts and ends. You have to manage your own expectations for the day and be realistic with yourself. You may get to the water, make two casts when your child has a meltdown or diaper blowout. This may end your day and you need to be ok with that. The worst thing you can do is force your child, who is obviously restless and no longer engaged, to stay out fishing. If you do then they will start to hate it and that completely defeats the purpose of encouraging your kids to be in the outdoors with you. Listen to your kid. When they’re done, be done.
2. Buy the right outdoor gear
One of my biggest frustrations is trying to find good quality gear for Wren. It took me months to find her a pair of toddler waders. These have kept Wren warm and safe and helped her be comfortable on our adventures. However it is still difficult to find warm gear at an affordable price. But don’t give up. Be prepared to put the money out for your kids. It’s an investment in the experience you are hoping they will love as much as you. If anyone actually needs the best warm, and durable gear it’s actually our kids. So don’t give up the search for good gear, it can be found if you're willing to look for it.
3. Snacks, Snacks, Snacks!
It’s such a simple thing, but having adequate amounts of food for your day on the water will save your butt a thousand times. You can lengthen your day by having just that one more granola bar or bottle of milk. Overpack what you think you will need for them and you won’t be disappointed. Always bring lots of water. My daughters “comfort food” has always been her milk. If I have forgotten it at the truck I may as well turn around immediately and go back and get it. Find what that comfort food item is for your child and don’t forget to stick it in your pack!
4. It’s a bug’s life
Once your child is big enough to be spending some time out of the pack. Get them on the shoreline digging in the rocks. Yes it may mean a lot of ruined holes as inevitably those rocks get thrown into them, but what it will do is get them looking at some bugs. Kids are fascinated by the creepy crawling things, which just so happens to be a perfect opportunity to teach them about the flies we are using. For every hour you are on the water go spend 20 min helping them find some bugs. Trust me they will appreciate it and it will probably spruce up your knowledge too!
5.Let them practice!
More than likely your child has spent hours watching you whip your rod around and will want to try it too. Now I’m not saying you hand them your $1000 T&T rod but have a rod there they can try to cast with. I started by buying my daughter a couch rod for inside. She spent weeks playing with it. I then started bringing along a rod I had bought for her (it’s the Echo Gecko kids rod), to practice with. Yes you will untie a thousand knots and tangles, but just be patient and let them “play” because for them that is what it is, and playing is supposed to be fun. I haven’t actually taught my daughter that much when it comes to casting, but I tell you what, it is uncanny how much they learn from watching you! At two and half years old my daughter casted, hooked, and landed her first solo fish. I wish I could say I had more to do with it than I did! But she learned by watching and practicing, give your kids that chance to learn. In the end they just want to be like you, so give them the chance to do so.
To conclude, remember what all of this is for. Yes you want to share your love of fly fishing with your kids, but furthermore this is about spending quality time with your kids in the outdoors. Cherish it and don’t take it for granted. One thing hours of time together can give you, is the chance to create a forever lasting bond with your child that cannot be replaced. Talk your kids, be their first teacher and guide them down the path you want for them. I can’t tell you how many hours I practiced the “abc song”, or sang the “itsy bitsy spider”. Much of the time you are just a walking day care centre, but it’s these moments that I know will be some of my best memories for the rest of my life. Don’t fear the difficulty or inconvenience of taking your kids fishing, I promise it will never be something you regret.
My name is Dana Lattery and I am the head guide/outfitter with Fly Fishing Bow River. We are a guide service based out of Calgary, Alberta and we guide the rivers in all of central/southern Alberta. Having spent the last ten years in the guide/outfitter industry, I have seen a lot of things take place on a guided day of fly fishing, some good, some bad. Some outfitters better prepare their clients for a day on the water, and some completely miss the boat on this. Throughout the 10 years, I have come to a conclusion that most errors come from lacking of being informed. So, I have compiled a list of things to try and merge the expectations of guides and the expectations of clients so that there is a better day had by all on the water. Remember this list is just a starting point, and nothing can take place of great communication. So whether you’re a guide, or a guest looking to go on an amazing guided fly fishing trip, take into consideration these points as you prepare for an next awesome day on the water.
-5 things for a Guide-
- Serve your clients in every aspect of the day. In having a servant heart, this can help you in leaving your ego at the door. What do I mean? I feel a lot of guides make this trip about them and trying to show how good they are to their clients. If you’re choosing to guide with a servant heart, you won't be able to have an ego. Hands down the best guides I know on the river are those who truly care and serve their clients. This will help shape your attitude throughout the day, in knowing that all your actions, are serving your client. Being cognitive to their needs throughout the day is very important, and you will be more aware of this if you choose to serve your clients. I can’t tell you how many times at the end of the day, the best compliment that comes out of a client's mouth, is that they felt taken care of all day! Approach your day with a WE not a ME attitude.
- This could almost be at the top of this list, because if you wanna start your day off on the wrong foot, well, show up late. Being late insults others, it also undermines you to your clients. It tells them you aren’t prepared enough in your day to be on time. This might be day 92 in your season, but for them it’s Day 1, and they didn’t sleep last night waiting to go on this trip. Respect them and their time, so that they will want to respect you and your time throughout the date. Being early also gives you time to visualize your day, and have a few moments to yourself to get mentally prepared for the day ahead. BE PUNCTUAL, simply that!
4. Be a Teacher
- Be a teacher, not a teller. Nobody pays this kind of money to be yelled at all day. A lot of the days success comes from the teaching and learning. Whether your clients are on their 500th guided trip or their first time fly fishing, everybody has lots to learn. I always ask my clients how much they wanna be taught or corrected, or perhaps, they just wanna fish and do their thing. Almost 99% of clients answer me be saying “don’t hesitate to teach me some stuff, and let me know if I am doing something wrong”. They have opened a door and are now receptive to my teaching. It is up to me, to be a teacher not a teller. I think this could be one of the most important traits of a guide, is the ability to teach people, if you can’t teach, you can’t guide. Again, check your ego at the door, and you’ll be surprised how much YOU can learn from your clients throughout the day, which in turn will only make you a better guide, as well as fisherman/woman!
5. Be a Friend
- Be honest with yourself and Be honest with your guide. I can’t tell you how many people show up on a trip and tell me for 30 minutes about how amazing they can fish, and that they have fished all over the world, and been on so many guided trips. This may all be true, but once you pick up your rod, your guides gonna know right away how much of that was real. The more honest you are with your guide about your skill set, the better they can plan a trip for you. We can shape our tactics for fishing that day based on your ability and experience, so it is very important to be Honest about where you are at on your journey of fly fishing! If you have the right guide, there should be no concern in where your abilities are at, they should be able to work with everyone, from New fly fishers to the most experienced, but just make sure you are honest about this before you get started for the day!
5. Tip your guide
Fly fishing is fun! There’s no other way around it. We as clients and as guides can all do our part, in preparing for these trips, that they can be filled with laughs, stories, fish, and ultimately memories! We need to also understand that as different and unique as each client is, each guide has their own uniqueness as well. We should not feel the need to conform to any standards, but to use this list as a guideline to help shape a successful fun day on the water! Hope to see you on the river sometime with a tight line and a big smile!!