Help Your Kids and New Casters Shoot Line

May 22, 2018

Learning to SHOOT line is one of the hardest challenges a young or new caster is up against. Simply picking a static length of line and laying it down is relatively easy.  Roll casting is relatively easy.  Put that same kid or caster on a lake where you are required to cover some distance and everything falls apart!

As I teach my own kids how to fly fish I learn a ton about what new anglers are up against.  It's hard.  One of the main things to understand is that kids may not be interested in fly fishing just because you are. Go easy on them. Mine fish a handful of times each year but honestly prefer tackle fishing. It just makes sense. They can cast so much further, cover more water, and often have more success.  I would love to see them fly fish exclusively so I try to set them up for success by putting good gear in their hands and putting them in situations they can be successful.  I also buy them ice cream. Every time.

General Tips for Helping Kids Succeed

  • 9' 5 Weight Fast Action Rods with WF Floating Lines are tough to cast. Get them a kids rod or a light rod they can load.
  • They probably don't prefer fly fishing.  Yet.  Make sure you keep this in mind.
  • Target species and destinations that make sense. We fish small creeks in late June - August, bass and Bluegill in the spring, and trout on the Yakima River only on summer evenings of the fall.  We still float and fish a little bit when the bite is tough, but we also skip a lot of rocks.
  • Bring junk food.
  • Practice. Make casting a game in the yard. We do this about 6-10 times a year and even 10-15 minutes helps.  This is a fun tool to have around the house. Redington Game Form Rod
  • Tenkara Rods help them learn to form a loop and understand the physics of the cast. My kids fight over who gets this rod when we creek fish. The only one I have found that I really like is the TFO Cutthroat at 8'6". Most are too long for practical creek fishing.

I took my young boys bass fishing last night and set up a rod for my 11 year old as somewhat of a test. When they trout fish I have had great success putting a 5 weight line on a 3 weight rod so they can load it up easy for short casts that they can feel.  It works GREAT.  That same setup will work on the bass lakes, but it still doesn't shoot very intuitively.

Bass, Lakes, and Streamers - Use an Ambush Line

Trout - Use a 5 Weight Line on a 3 Weight Rod for Kids

What I encourage you mentors to do for your students is set up a shooting head line system. While this line sucks for casting itty bitty dry flies, it rocks for pitching streamers, leeches, or bass bugs.  I put a Wullf Ambush WF6F on a 5 weight rod and my son was able to cover water like a champ.  It was so much easier to shoot line and he really begin to understand the physics of a proper delivery on open water.  Bass aren't as forgiving as a stream trout. They are much tougher because they don't allow for a short sloppy cast that relies on drifting to present the fly.


The Recipe for Kids That Want to Shoot Line

Medium Fast Action 5-6 Weight (8'6" rods are easiest to load)
Wulff Ambush - Floating Line Presentations (one line bump for modern fast action rods)  This is the line we like for bass and panfish fishing most of the time.
Wulff Ambush Short w/ 5' OPST Sink Tip - This is for Sink Tip Situations OR it can be a very close range floating line setup.
RIO 7.5' 0X Tapered Leader - This is a stout and heavy leader that will turn over best for them.  Heavier leaders will tangle less and they won't lose very many flies.  You're welcome haha.

Bluegill - The Worlds Greatest Fly Fishing Species for Beginners

Here is shot of the same kid, 4 years ago using a Tenkara Rod to hone his skills on some Bluegill.  They love dry flies and we site cast to them and it helps build all around fly fishing skill.  It really helps with accuracy, hook setting, and learning to form a loop. All of this will eventually translate into a good cast that will shoot some line for bigger species given the proper equipment. As I try to help him progress a good foundation is critical. In order to do that you gotta have some fun in the process. God Bless Bluegill for that!

Flies for Small Bass, Bluegill, and Other Panfish

Get surface flies for small bass and Bluegill and make sure to fish the evenings. Again, PRIME TIME is when you want your kids on the water. 

  1. Hi Joe, I love your suggestions for new fishermen and especially for kids learning to fly fish. I have to say that I didn't have it figured out when my kids were little and as I am now thinking about how to help my grandchildren get into fly fishing, I really appreciate your insights. Keep up the good work as dad and Red's Fly Shop head blogger! Cheers, Mike
  2. This was just what I neede to see to help me with my grandsons. Well thought out ideas that will work. I really enjoy your insightful videos, Keep them coming!