When Frosty Fly asked me to do an article on fly fishing with kids and raising them on the river, I felt very grateful for the opportunity and humbled to know that I had the chance to help inspire others, while getting more kids out on the water. Life is always changing from one minute to the next. We always pray for the best, but unfortunately it doesn’t always happen that way. Some things are out of our control, but all of us have the power to be the change what we hope to see in our future.
Growing up, my childhood would seem like we had everything. Truth is we grew up in the mining industry. My parents worked hard to provide for us, but with that dedication came a huge disconnection to us children. At the age of 10, my family was falling apart. At 12, I became part of the system so many kids get lost in, forgot about that never do rebound from. By 16, I lived in 3 provinces, 5 cities and who knows how many different homes, including the streets. By then, I was old enough and started working to provide for myself instead of relying on other sources that would eventually lead to jail or death. But the pain and abandonment from my childhood followed me with anger and substance abuse until I lost my own family when my daughter was a year old. That’s when I disconnected from the life I was lost in, and found myself alone on the river searching for a purpose. Fly fishing ended up consuming every bit of spare time I had. It fueled a passion, a new love for life, myself and everything around me. Over that first year of being on the river finding my identity, I knew that I could do what was needed in order to be successful in raising my family.
In 2011, we welcomed Adalynn into our family, I was terrified for our future together because of my experience and where I was in life. All I did know is what I had prayed for when I was a child. That sparked the fire that still rages inside of me today. A year later we got back together and welcomed Joshua into our family in 2014. Looking back at life, then looking at my beautiful wife and two amazing children, who are now 7 and 4, I know I am where I’m supposed to be, 6 years sober, making the best out of life and the time we spend together as a family.
When and Where
We decided to move out of the city, into the mountains to start our family and are blessed to live within 5 minutes to an hour of 10 different river systems in the area. So getting out regularly at any given time hasn’t been an issue for us. We have never been ones to have a scheduled nap routine, they usually slept while traveling as we were always out fishing and exploring the backcountry. We prefer smaller streams, with slower moving water, looking for spots with easy access, sand to play in and some shade if possible. As long as we prepared properly, our time together on the river just increased the more we went out and exposed them to the elements.
This has been a challenge with our first child. Once we had our second, I think we had it mastered. We learned to over-pack, just in case something happened. The first couple of outings ended with an explosive diaper, being wet, weather change to them being cranky because we ran out of food. So, a backpack filled with 3 changes of clothes, 2 for warm temps and 1 for cooler temps or vise versa. A jacket, 2 pairs of footwear, diapers, wipes, and lots of food and water. Also, don’t forget sunscreen and bug spray. If you are not prepared, it can be a deterrent to future endeavors, so simply pack extras.
When the kids were smaller, we were more focused on exploring the surrounding environment and getting them comfortable by the water. We would teach them the hazards and let them make their own risk assessment when the situation would prove safe to do so. When it came to casting, I have always taught them to stay on the opposite side that I cast. Now, they are older and more familiar with the environment and fishing gear. They are both picking up the rod and wanting to swing their own fly around. Make sure to de-barb the hook, or just cut it off and let them swing the fly. After watching the dog get hooked I was thankful that we are required to use barbless, but some shades and a hat wouldn’t be a bad idea to invest in.
Embrace the Experience
Stop and smell the flowers, check out different rocks while packing 10lbs of special ones to take home. Play in the sand and build little rock inukshuks. Find a spot they can throw rocks with little disturbance to where you plan on fishing (this is inevitable). Bring a butterfly net and container to catch bugs flying around or in the water (kids are awesome at matching the hatch, take their advice and I promise you will catch more fish). When you open your fly box and let them match that bug, they feel involved. But when you catch a fish on that bug, they feel accomplished. This all plays into making their experience the best possible on the river and keep them wanting more. When you get a chance to cast a line, hopefully you can hook up with one to wrap up the experience. But remember to just have fun and keep them engaged in every aspect so when they get older they can’t wait to hit the river.
First fish on her new rod, the Echo Gecko
Challenges and Rewards
Looking back I realize how much these little things played into their love for being on the river and out in nature. I say the word fishing and they are out the door before we even have a chance to get our gear ready. They used to help me reel or strip in the line, while Mom netted. Now they both have their own gear and help each other out. Don’t get me wrong, it has its challenges, but watching our daughter hook up and reel in a 10lb bull trout is amazing. Watching my son give it everything he’s got fighting a cutty is hilarious.
Being able to have a second chance at being a kid and following along in their footsteps, to seeing the world through their eyes has been a life-changing experience. They have taught me so much about life, I could never compare it to what I have taught them.
Wherever you are in life, whatever challenges you face, I hope this inspires you to get out and connect with nature. Find yourself, your passion, whatever that may be. If you have kids, include them into your adventures and remember to have fun while doing it. Let them help you reel/strip in the fish, or do the netting when safe to do so. As they get older, stronger and more comfortable with helping you, hand the rod over. Give your kids the chance to experience what we all go looking for when we are out on the water, that tug on the other end of the line and the connection with the beautiful outdoors. We lose a lot of the fish that we hook up with, but it’s not all about catching fish, it’s about having a great time while catching memories that will last forever.
All photos in this article courtesy of Adam Cooper.
Nestled in the heart of the East Kootenay, this beautiful mountain valley is home to the phenomenal Elk River and it’s tributaries. Chasing native west-slope cutthroat eager to take a dry, or hungry bull trout lurking in the depths waiting for its next meal.
We spend most of our time exploring the backcountry with our children. Our love for nature and being on the water keeps us engaged as a family, we enjoy sharing this passion and love watching them work together, have fun and catch fish.
1 thought on “Fly Fishing with Kids: Catching Memories That Last Forever”
Congratulations on your life travails and accomplishments, Adam.
This is an inspiring, heartwarming article.
If you are ever in Ontario, please let me know.