Finding time to hit the stream and throw some casts (and try out that new pricey rod you just got) is becoming a real challenge in today’s way of living. Finding time to fish when you become a parent of a new, tiny baby for many of us sounds like mission impossible. Or, at the very best, too complicated to even contemplate the idea. However, some have managed to master this skill and in spite all obstacles, succeeded in merging the unthinkable – fishing with a baby in tow. And – both, these wizards and their babies seem to be having so much fun! We wanted to find out their magic recipe, the list of prerequisites, needed education, secret training to take, or simply words of encouragement or a few pointers. We have asked them to share with us what they think would be the most important things to learn/master/accept in order for an angler to continue fly fishing while being a great parent to a new baby.
We wanted to know what their advice is on baby carriers, how do they handle safety, timing and scheduling, would fishing locations change once when baby is in tow, and how to pack both baby and fishing gear. Finally, we wanted to know what their biggest challenges are and what are the greatest rewards in taking your baby to the river.
Two of our Pro Staff members, Ethan Smith and Tanner Renshaw were so kind to share their experiences and wisdom, both new, proud fathers and both enjoying fishing time with their little ones. These are their stories.
I was beyond excited when you guys reached out to me and asked for a write up on fly fishing with my daughter Rainey. It’s something that I absolutely love to do and, honestly, it’s one of the highlights of my life – doing the things with my kid that my Father did with me growing up.
When I was 23, my Father was diagnosed with stage IV cancer. After a year of fighting cancer my father passed away. Since then I didn’t like going fishing with other people that much. I always tried to go alone, and in being alone on the water, fishing in the area and the places my Father taught me to fish – I grew up. It became my way of re-connecting with my dad. I fell in love with fishing on a whole new level that I had before. I found myself going every day just to escape the world and be on the river catching fish, reminiscing of the times with my dad and always wishing he was still with me to share those memories of fishing together.
A few years later I married Morgan, my beautiful wife, and then, a couple years down the road, she gave birth to our daughter Rainey. When we had Rainey, so many people told me how much harder life would be to get out, continue being in the outdoors and fly fishing as much. However, truthfully, having a child, for me anyway, it’s easier getting out and exploring with her and going on different fly fishing adventures. It’s something special to me. I’m able to re-connect with my Father on a whole new level. I’m doing things with Rainey that my dad did with me when I was just a baby. Sharing with her all the beauties that come with fly fishing and the places it takes you, to me, is the best thing in the world.
I have to admit, fishing with a baby entails a little more work and preparation that you have to do before heading out for the day and spending a day on the river and in the mountains. My wife and I will pack all the diapers, bottles, wipes, extra clothes, food, everything that we could possibly need on our fly fishing days with Rainey. Sometimes we might be a little overkill on preparation, but when we go, we don’t want to be out there and have to have a short trip because we forgot something and need to go home early. So first and foremost, when fishing with a baby – be prepared. Have all your essentials on you in your backpack wherever you go.
Another extremely important thing while fly fishing with a baby is to have a good carrier. Rainey loves when she’s in her carrier and she goes hours and hours in that thing without a peep. We have a Deuter baby backpack and it’s been a dream for us. Rainey is comfortable in it all day and even takes solid naps in it. The backpack also has a large pouch on it where I can keep all her food, diapers, extra clothes, blanket and everything she needs for the entire day, all right there.
A lot of people when they find out I’m fly fishing with my baby on my back, get concerned that she’s going to catch a hook one of these times, but that just something you have to be careful with. Although I still choose to throw large 6-inch streamers, even with Rainey on my back, I do change the way I cast to give more space between myself and where the fly is ripping through the air and ensure it’s not coming close to Rainey.
When and Where
Lucky for us we live less that 15 minutes away from the river and living so close we are always getting on the river as much as possible. Typically, we’ll try to go right after Rainey eats and fill her up before we go so she can last longer before Morgan or I have to take a break fishing and feed her. As far as location, nothing really changed for me. I’ll take Rainey to all the spots I fished before and depending on the day, we’ll even go explore new rivers and waters. I still wade in the river with her, but obviously you have to be extra careful. I try not to go deeper than my thighs, just to be safe.
Challenges and Rewards
If I could, I would have Rainey right there with me, fly fishing every time I go, for the rest of my life. Yes, it’s a little more work having the baby fishing with you, but the memories I’m able to create with her and do with my daughter what my Father did with me, is something that’s so good you can’t even put it in words.
This was a challenge for me when I first started fishing with my baby because I usually wore a vest. The chest carrier made it impossible to wear a vest, so I began to wear a backpack. That was a hassle because I would have to swing it around and my kid would be grabbing at everything and trying to stick flies in his mouth as I’m trying to get gear out of my backpack. I would recommend using a fanny/hip pack to store flies, tippet, leaders etc. because you can use the fanny/hip pack with both the chest carrier and backpack carrier, instead of having to switch your gear from different bags, vests or backpacks.
I have both, a chest carrier (Baby Bjorn) and a backpack carrier (Deuter Kid Comfort Air). The Baby Bjorn is worn on the chest and good for younger age kids for a few reasons. Most are rated for babies that weigh between 8-25 pounds. The larger ‘on the back’ carriers are usually rated for babies in the 15-50 pound range. Another pro of the chest carrier is the fact the baby is right in front of you, so it is easier to keep an eye on them and make sure they are comfortable, warm and happy. Your fishing outing will be real short and not so sweet if you have an unhappy or uncomfortable baby. The backpack carrier is good for your child once they are a little bigger. They can hold their head up and have a bit longer attention span by that age. One thing I like about the backpack that you miss out on with the chest carrier are pockets and storage space for bottles, snacks and gear.
When fishing with kids, safety should be first and foremost and catching fish secondary. When wading or crossing a river TAKE YOUR TIME. Don’t get too sandy trying to cross a deep pool, or swift moving water to get to a money hole. Walk slowly and make sure your footing is stable. Make sure they are appropriately dressed and that they won’t be too hot or too cold. You have to remember that even if you are walking and moving, your kid will remain stationary and isn’t going to be working up a sweat like you are with your out-of-shape Dad-bod. Bring extra clothes in case they get cold or wet. Don’t forget a warm beanie and gloves (socks work too) for a cold day, or a wide brim hat for a sunny day.
When and Where
I think the best time to go is anytime. If your kid has been fed and dressed appropriately for the weather, then go for it. My little man always loves to be outside regardless if there’s snow falling in the winter or birds chirping in the springtime. That being said, I would start with small time increments and work your way up. Most times I find myself going for an hour or two. I imagine that as your kids get older so will the amount of time that you spend on the river together.
My little guy particularly likes being on the move so if I’m nymphing or throwing dries, I usually try to fish a seam for a few minutes and then move on instead of being stationary at the same spot. I also have found myself fishing streamers more often because I am constantly on the move. I try to fish places that are a little closer to home and require less hiking.
Challenges and Rewards
One of the challenges I face is when it comes time to change flies. It can be hard to tie a knot and put flies in boxes with a busy little baby kicking around and trying to grab everything. When it comes down to it, everything is a little bit more challenging when fishing with a baby in tow, but it is so rewarding to be outside with your kids. It is beautiful to share what you love with them, to see their curious cute faces watch a bird, or listen to the flow of the water and to see them light up and get excited when there is a fish on!
Get Ready, Hit the Stream & Have Loads of Fun!
It will take a little practice and a bit more patience, but fly fishing with your new baby is extra rewarding. What a great way to spend time with your little one, make some awesome memories and, most importantly, pass on your greatest passion to your child.
What is your angle? Share some of your thoughts and experiences down below.