“Hey man, you want to go fishing tonight?” Asks fishing buddy.
“No, sorry. I am watching my daughter at home. I have to stay in,” Replies new dad or mom.
This was how the first couple of months went after having my daughter. I was under the impression that I shouldn’t be taking my precious newborn out to the wild to get sunburned or eaten by mosquitoes to selfishly chase trout.
After a few months of being homebound, I finally had the thought. “Hey, I can just take Maya fishing with me.” I grabbed my front pack to hold her, buckled her into her car seat and took off to my favorite trout stream to go chase some brown trout. It happened to be February in Wisconsin, and for some reason, the weather was in the 60’s. Go figure.
As I unloaded my daughter, fishing poles, bag, waders, boots, and other gear I came to the realization that I really don’t know how to manage keeping my daughter safe and giving myself the greatest chance to catch fish. I also realized I had too much stuff and need to simplify the fishing gear to accommodate keeping my kid safe and my hemostat out of her face. A good fishing buddy, was there with his son, who was a toddler, taught me the ropes, and Maya and I had our first successful outing.
Here is the knowledge that has been passed on to me and that I found out myself to help you get the best of your time on the water when you have a little one with you. Specifically a newborn or child you will have to carry.
Get ready ahead of time.
The first priority to being efficient with your time is to make sure that you and your child are prepared for this trip. To maximize my time, I tried to time the trip to leave as soon as Maya got up from a nap and ate some food. We also planned to return right when she was going to go to sleep again. As she got older, I was able to get her naps in while she was in the chest pack, and I hunted for fish. That was great because it literally doubled the time I spent on my local stream.
Plan on a shorter fishing trip.
On my first trips I was able to get out for about 3 hours total. Minimize your driving distance, to give you more time on the water. And, of course, make sure you are aware of when it is actually time to call it and head in.
Rig up First.
Before you get your kid out of the seat and put them in the holder, make sure you are ready to walk to the water. Waders on, pole rigged up with your fly tied on, and second options for flies put on your hat for easy access.
The gear that you chose to use for this trip should be only the essentials. You probably won’t need that spool of 7x or your extra spool of sinking line. Take one or two boxes of flies that have everything you need. I almost always used streamers, mainly because they worked and it was a more simple way to fish more water effectively. Stay away from dry dropper rigs, or tandem nymph rigs as you don’t want to try and untangle your leader, flies, and tippet when you have a grabby 6 month old strapped to you.
Some of the gear that I found most helpful:
A net - allows you to keep the fish wet and gives you a chance to show your kid how beautiful fish are.
A hip pack - I chose this because Maya was on my chest with only one or two fly boxes, nippers, hemostat, and maybe some spools of tippet.
A hat - Put all your flies up on your hat, way easier than fumbling with your boxes.
O’Pros Dragonfly Rod Holder - When you need to attend to your kid or retie,
you will be thankful that you have a safe place for your rod. I appreciate the rod holder here more than in any other situation on the water.
Don’t stop moving.
My friend David gave me some of the best advice when it came to actually fishing with Maya. Keep moving. She is much less likely to get fussy when you keep your feet moving and keep the scenery changing. And this is another good reason to reach for that wooly bugger instead of trying to dead drift dries or nymphs.
Put sunscreen and a hat on your baby.
Don’t be like me and forget the hat the first time you take a baby out. Keep their head covered. Put sunscreen on their exposed skin, and while you’re at it, put some on yourself.
As I write this my daughters run of never getting skunked, or me not getting skunked while carrying her, has just come to an end. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and my learning, get out with your kids, and get them to enjoy our awesome streams and wilderness.