Tentative first casts for tiny fishermen

Stephen Cheetham teaching fly fishing student Alistair on his first ever lesson as a seven-year-old.
Stephen Cheetham teaching fly fishing student Alistair on his first ever lesson as a seven-year-old.
Have your say

THE BEST age to start fly fishing is 10-years-old, or so I read in a recent article in a fly fishing magazine.

Children younger than 10, they said, ought to stick to coarse fishing with maggot and worm. In some part I would agree with this statement but try telling that to the mums and dads out there who want to encourage their children to use the great outdoors.

Children under 10 may not have the strength and ability to concentrate but for some youngsters below that age their enthusiasm and willingness to learn can overcome this.

Throughout the last month I seemed to have been surrounded by children at the riverside; like buses once one comes along a whole host appears. It started with Alistair, who I have been instructing since he was only seven. He is 14 now and still enjoying it to the full.

For one morning each year during the summer I have been steadily building up his casting, showing him the different methods of fishing wet and dry flies, landing fish and encouraging his dad to build up his range of fishing tackle. He is nearly ready now to go it alone, we just have to take the next tentative steps into river fishing.

The week after I had been with Alistair I had a phone call from a dad so eager to get his children into fishing I could hardly refuse.

Enquiring about the ages I was told there was three of them - aged six, eight and 10. The youngest was going to be a challenge, I thought, but what the heck, let’s give it a go.

It’s disheartening for a child to be left out when the others are all learning to fish so I encouraged mum and dad to get involved too and, lo and behold they, and all the children, caught fish.

I don’t promote the big boys’ method of fly fishing for the youngsters but stick to some easy roll casts and fish with the wet fly under an indicator, very much like float fishing. It’s easy and comfortable and if the attention span wanes, so be it - we end up poking about in the water to see what bugs we can find.

Mid-July saw the big annual event of course, the Great Yorkshire Show. The Salmon and Trout Association always has a very large marquee at the show in the Country Pursuits section where we promote fishing for all ages.

This year was the best yet. We had more than 140 children and some 45 adults taking part in casting lessons on the pond and watching some of the youngsters cast put a lot of old hands to shame.

With only 15 minutes allotted to each person the instructors gave it their all and the smiles on the faces of the instructors, never mind the smiles on the faces of the mums and dads, were worth every ounce of effort that we put in during the three days.

I think the youngest entrant was just four-years-old. Okay, I will hold up my hands and say that his attention span was extremely short, but his enthusiasm was so great I could not let him leave the area without a second hand rod and reel that he could practice with. You never know, in 10 years he might be fishing for the England youth team.

The end of July saw me at the Nidderdale Angling Club Junior Day. This annual event draws in boys and girls of all ages to experience coarse fishing, fly fishing, fly tying and entomology (that’s the identification of the bugs we fishermen try to copy). What a day! And what a great crowd of people in Nidderdale.

Flies were tied, fish were caught, maggots were handled and big smiling faces proved we had once again, maybe, convinced a few kids that this fishing lark isn’t so bad after all...