Choosing fly fishing gear for kids

Here are some tips on choosing the best fly fishing gear for kids, based on our experiences with George, who has been fly fishing since the age of six.

Choosing fly fishing gear for kids
© Fly and Lure
Choosing fly fishing gear for kids
Picture copyright © Fly and Lure
Choosing fly fishing gear for kids
Fly fishing tips Estimated reading time 8 - 13 minutes

1. Use lighter gear

Although 6 or 7 weight fly rods are the norm for adults who fly fish on most stillwaters and reservoirs, the majority of children will find rods of this size too long, heavy and unwieldy to cast, especially if they're under 10.

A 4 or 5 weight rod is the ideal fly rod size for kids to fish on most small stillwaters. Pair it with a nice light reel and a good fly line and you're ready to go.

2. Consider over-lining their rod at first

Children can find it tricky to feel the weight of the fly line bending or "loading" the rod, so one common technique is to use a line one or even two line weights heavier, say a five weight line on a four weight rod. 

This "over-lining" technique is ideal if they're making shorter casts, too, as they won't need to aerialise a lot of line to make a cast. Once they have their timing cracked, you can drop the line rating back to the one the manufacturer recommends for their rod.

The same technique can work just as well for grown-up beginners to fly fishing. Indeed, Orvis actually makes a line - the Orvis Access fly line - which is designed to be half a line weight heavier than the usual rating to provide some gentle over-lining.

3. Try before you buy

If you have a fly fishing shop nearby it is worth seeing if they will let your child have a test cast with a few different rods to see which one they can cast best.

Although they only stock their own brand rods, Orvis shops will let you try them out before you buy. They'll even give you a free fly fishing lesson and a discount if you buy all their kit from the shop, which is great.

4. Consider second hand if funds are tight

If you're on a tight budget, consider second hand gear. Fly fishers tend to like nice gear, so often replace it as they upgrade, which means there's always plenty of second hand fly fishing gear available.

If you know what to look for, you can pick up a bargain from Ebay or the fly fishing forums. However, to avoid purchasing some heavy old tackle that's unsuitable for a child, it's worth figuring out exactly what you want before you search.

In some cases, it could be better and cheaper to buy something modern and new.

George's four weight rod has been easy for him to cast and is strong enough to cope with most trout.

George's fly fishing gear

To give you some idea of what sort of gear you might want to consider for your child, here's a list of the fly fishing gear George uses when trout fishing on small stillwaters. He's been using this since he was six or seven.

8'6" 4 weight fly rod

George started off with a hand-me-down Greys GS2 fly rod and absolutely loved it. It was small, light and easy for him to learn to cast. The soft action was also great fun for catching perch and small trout.

An unfortunate accident with a fly line led to a snapped tip, a devastated child, a flood of tears and an upgrade to a stiffer rod - the Wychwood Truefly SLA 8'6" 4".

George found that this fly rod felt very different to the Greys GS2, being faster and stiffer, and it took some getting used to.To be honest, he wasn't a fan at first, but six months on he loves this rod and can cast it for miles.

It's been a good choice, especially now he's become more proficient at fly casting. The GS2 was too soft to be of much use on a windy day, but the Wychwood Truefly SLA has been great when the wind has been howling.

George uses an 8'6" 4# Wychwood Truefly SLA rod and an Orvis Encounter reel - both are equally good for grown-ups who are new to fly fishing.

Orvis Encounter fly reel

George started out with another hand-me-down fly reel - a lightweight machined aluminium one - but managed to drop it and bend the frame which stopped the spool from turning freely.

Thankfully, Granddad treated George to an Orvis Encounter fly reel for Christmas. The Encounter has been the perfect choice for a junior fly fisher. It's made from extremely tough plastic but features the same sealed drag and smart design as the more expensive Orvis Clearwater reel series.

The Orvis Encounter has stood up well to George's abuse.

It cost about £45, but I'd be surprised if any amount of dropping or mud is going to hurt this virtually indestructible reel. The only issue with it is that the reel seat bends upwards slightly, making it a little tricky to attach to the rod. 

The Orvis Encounter fly reel has now been discontinued, but still comes with Orvis' brilliant Encounter fly fishing kits. In retrospect one of the Encounter fly fishing kits would have been the perfect choice for George, as the rods included are great and similar in overall feel to the Truefly SLA he uses now. I quite fancy the eight weight model for myself...

Fly line

Picking the right fly line has probably been the most tricky thing to get right. Initially George used an old 5 weight floating line on his GS2, which loaded it nicely and allowed him to get a feel for casting.

He struggled to feel this five weight line on the stiffer Wychwood Truefly SLA, despite it being a four weight, so I gave him my old six weight Orvis Access line.

As he was only making short casts, the Access loaded the rod much better for him and he really got the hang of casting when using this line. His timing is now spot-on and there's probably no longer a need to overline his rod so much, but he does find it easier to cast.

When the trusty Orvis Access line eventually wore out, we opted for a cheap fly line from John Norris - their John Norris Pro2 fly line - in six weight. To be honest, for a fiver, I was expecting much but we were both amazed at how well this line worked.

It's an absolute bargain for a fiver and definitely worth considering if you're on a budget. It's supple, has little or no memory and shoots beautifully. I cast the entire 90 foot line on the Truefly SLA when testing it out, which is impressive for a mediocre caster like me. The minor downside with the Pro2 fly line, we found, was that it stopped floating for some of its length and needed some help from some Silicone Mucilin to keep it afloat.

George's line of choice is now a Wychwood Charles Jardine Presentation fly line in five weight - which was a gift to George from the man himself following a recent fishing trip together! It's a cracking little line and casts brilliantly.

George now uses a Charles Jardine Presentation fly line, which was a present from Charles himself!

Polarised glasses

Protective glasses of some kind are absolutely essential for young fly fishers and George isn't allowed to fish without them. When it's sunny he uses a pair of FishTec Polarised Sunglasses, which are great value for around a fiver. They make fish spotting easier and they're relatively small in size so don't look too ridiculous on his comparatively tiny head.

Polarised sunglasses from FishTec really improved George's fish spotting abilities, which made trips more interesting for him.

For Christmas this year he got a pair of Sema Phat Sunglasses with yellow lenses. These are ideal for cloudier days - though the frames are a little on the big side for children. Again, they weren't expensive at only a fiver, so they didn't break the bank (for Father Christmas).

Other essential fly fishing gear for kids

George has a number of other essential gadgets and tools - including a pair of nippers (the Leeda ones are good value for a few quid) a small pair of forceps for de-barbing new flies and unhooking fish (again, just a few quid for a cheap pair), some tippet (he uses cheap Greys Greylon colpolymer tippet) and a rapidly overflowing box of flies.

Riverge Tippet rings make it much easier for children to extend leaders and tie on new tippet.

The other essential piece of fly fishing gear of particular use to children are Riverge Tippet rings (about £2 per packet). These help prolong the life of leaders and make it easier to extend tippets without the need to tie surgeons' knots, which means George can fish independently without assistance from me.

Don't forget to take them to your local Orvis store for a free fly fishing lesson to get them started, and they'll find the whole thing much easier. 

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