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5 Tips For Teaching Kids To Fly-Fish

Posted On
Jun 01, 2016
Yellowstone Fly Fishing


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.


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


  • 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.

Originally posted by Louis Cahill at