– Cathy Genthner
When I visualize fly fishing, I often play in my mind a trailer from the movie “A River Runs Through It.” It is the story about how the love of fly fishing is the tie that binds a father and his two sons to one another, throughout the challenges of life. Fly fishing is a great activity for people of all ages, and once you’re out on the water, the problems of life seem to drift downstream.
“Maine is the perfect place to learn fly fishing, whether it is for trout, bass or even perch. We have thousands of healthy and clean lakes, rivers and streams to choose from,” said David Bowie, a member of the board of directors for the Sebago Chapter of Trout Unlimited. “It is most important that kids see fishing as fun, so making it a part of a family vacation or day trip can provide an introduction to spin casting or fly fishing. Kids need to catch fish to get interested. To catch fish you need to know where they live, how and when they feed. Successful catching breeds more success and interest. A successful fly fisher knows some of the insects that live in a particular steam or lake so they can imitate them with a fly to fool fish.”
Some Trout Unlimited chapters in Maine have casting events where instructors teach children and adults the basics. Women-only events are also gaining in popularity. The group’s monthly meetings often have “where-to” and “how-to” fishing slideshows and are a good source for networking. For the past decade, Trout Unlimited has sponsored a weeklong “Trout Camp” for youth ages 13 to 17 held on the Kennebec River at Evergreen Campground in Solon.
“If you bring kids or anyone new to the sport, bring them to a place where they are going to catch fish like a sunfish, bass or perch. If the fish aren’t taking a fly, have a spinning rod available,” said Bonnie Holding, a registered Maine Guide and the director of information and education for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “As a guide you can’t always promise a fish, but I can promise a good time even if it is raining.”
Younger anglers may lose interest after fishing for only 15 minutes or so. Looking for bugs in the stream may regain their attention.
“Kids love to turn over rocks and catch the different insects that crawl about. Take a jar with a lid (plastic is best) and simple bug net or piece of window screen and take some samples home and try to identify the bugs,” said Bowie. “Online searches are simple and the local library has books galore to help by authors like Tom Ames or Dave Whitlock. There are YouTube clips on how to fly cast and tie flies. Try to make each outing an adventure with plenty of snacks and most kids will want more.”
L.L.Bean has hundreds of fly fishing demonstrations, classes and guided trips for every skill level going on throughout the summer. Mac McKeever, a spokesman for L.L. Bean and a seasoned fly fisherman, cast his first fly when he was 7 years old.
“The purpose of these classes is to demystify the activity and empower people to get outdoors,” he said. “People may think the sport is technical, arcane and a complicated activity – and it really isn’t. Once people spend a little bit of time with a fly fishing instructor, they discover it isn’t as complicated as they thought. If you want to get involved in fly fishing, get some instruction first.”
L.L. Bean has beginner courses tailored for adults and children as young as 8. Learning any new skill, takes time and patience. Adult anglers new to the sport may have some unrealistic expectations for those first few times out on the water.
“If you set yourself up to get the perfect cast, you are going to fail,” said Holding. “For anyone getting into fly fishing, I recommend taking a class or hire a guide for teaching. As far as equipment, if you take a class or hire a guide, everything is provided for you.”
L.L. Bean sells a “Beginner Fly Outfit” for $79, and other outdoor stores such as Cabela’s or Kittery Trading Post have similar packages. Flies can be bought at stores or online, or you can tie your own. Three basic flies – the Woolly Bugger (black or olive), Devil Bug and Muddler Minnow are recommended for beginners. They are easy to fish with and have a high success rate.
“We often teach kids to tie the Woolly Bugger as their first fly as it is simple and effective,” said Bowie. “If you really want to see a kid’s eyes light up, help them catch a fish on a fly they tied themselves. They will be truly hooked.”
The Rev. Dr. Cathy Genthner is a registered Maine guide and a chaplain at Hospice Compassus in Scarborough.