Getting kids hooked on fishing.
Fishing can be a challenge for adults—image how it might intimidate a child?
Whether you’re here on vacation, or you’re a young parent easing junior into the activity, there are right and wrong ways to indoctrinate.
The wrong way involves high water on the Gallatin in May. The right way involves catching fish—here’s how it’s done.
Easy Does It
As with any new sport, you want your kids to feel accomplished at the end of the day, not defeated. Keep it simple, keep it safe, and keep it fun. Find a still body of water close to home, and start there. Glen Lake at the East Gallatin Recreation Area is perfect. There’s a beach, so if you aren’t getting any action, you can dive off the dock and go for a swim. There are grills, so you can take a break and make lunch when the kids get hungry. And there are trails and beach volleyball, so one way or another, it’s going to be a fun outing. Plus, you’ll probably catch fish. Bring a spinning outfit and drown some worms. The “lake” has warm-water species like bass that should be more than happy to indulge your offerings. Bozeman Pond behind the Gallatin Valley Mall is another good option.
Less-pressured creeks also hold loads of gullible fish. Break out a map, look for blue lines coming out of the mountains, and head for an adjacent trailhead. The trout are generally small, but the action is usually big—and even if the fishing’s slow, you can still enjoy a hike along the stream.
Less Is More
Rod, reel, line, leader, tippet, flies, floatant, nippers, forceps—that is a minimalistic list of gear you need to fly fish Montana’s rivers. Introduce that laundry list to your young ones and they’ve lost interest right off the bat. When you think the kids are ready to try fly fishing, start with a Tenkara rod. Tenkara is a Japanese fly-fishing style that does not involve a reel. A longish rod and line are all you need, and you can still practice casting, drifting, and mending, without the reel further confusing things. Head to a slow-moving creek to practice, like the braids above Hyalite Reservoir. Once they have the basics down, introduce a standard reel setup.
As you know, kids’ attention spans are short. You might love a six-hour day wading through the same 50-yard stretch of the Gallatin, but your kids will most likely get bored after 30 minutes. Incorporate the fishing into a bigger outing or as part of a camping trip. If you’re camped along the Madison, fishing will be just one thing you do at camp, among various other forms of entertainment.
Odds are, you’ll be fishing the Yellowstone, Madison, Gallatin, or Beaverhead at some point this summer—why not plan to overlap these with some kid-friendly events? All across southwest Montana, on any given summer weekend, there are youth fishing derbies. At these kids-only events, aspiring anglers are given exclusive access to in-town ponds in places like Twin Bridges, Three Forks, and Livingston. There are free clinics, food and refreshments, and most importantly, other children learning the craft. While Timmy and Becca definitely love hanging with Mom and Dad, learning alongside their peers will make for a much richer experience. Plus, it’ll give you some time off to organize your fly box and patch your waders.