Nothing puts a damper on your personal fishing time like becoming a parent.
You’ve suddenly been forced into time-sucking responsibilities that without a doubt eat away at what was once time on the water.
In my situation, Mama just recently went back to work part-time, which means that I, Dad, have occasionally been on babysitting duty.
In order to make up for time already lost on the water, I figured, what the heck – I’ll take the little guy fishing.
My son Sawyer and I have been out fishing a handful of days, and here are a few things I’ve learned.
1. Make sure your child is secure and comfortable.
This is important for your child's safety (#1 priority), but it also helps you get as long of an outing as possible.
We have a backpack carrier as well as a front carrier. Both have advantages and drawbacks. If you opt for the backpack, make sure you’re aware of ducking limbs above your head, and remember, your child’s head is a little higher.
He or she will not likely be happy if you run them into a low-hanging rhodo.
2. Stick to small streams.
There are a couple of advantages to small stream fishing with your baby.
First, I’ve found the baby stays most interested if you keep moving. He or she will more than likely get antsy if you stand over a pod of stockers for long stretches of time.
Another advantage is wading in small water is pretty easy. A slip and fall in big water with a baby would be a bad situation with potential consequences no parent wants to think about.
Lastly, smaller fish are easy to land and handle without putting safety in jeopardy. There’s nothing better than running downstream after a two footer, but again, your child’s safety is your first priority.
3. Plan your fishing outing to suit your baby’s daily schedule.
Timing is critical.
I like heading out right after a feeding that might transition into a little nap in the car and on the water.
A sleeping baby is not an upset baby, which means you can focus on fishing.
4. Be ready to take a break if necessary.
This can be hard for a dedicated fly angler, but you might squeeze in more time on the water by taking a little break here and there.
Pull out a blanket and some toys, change a diaper, give your baby a little snack, and then get back to the action.
This will hopefully keep your little guy or girl happy and extend your fishing trip.
5. Don’t push it too hard.
Remember, fishing with a baby is better than no fishing at all.
Keep your expectations low for the first few outings. The last thing you want to do is traumatize the poor kid by pushing on through hours of misery on their part.
Shoot for an hour and try to end it before things go downhill. As you both get more comfortable with the routine, try for longer trips.
You can’t start too early when it comes to cultivating a good little fishing buddy.
Is it kind of a hassle taking your baby fishing?
Can you fish as hard with a baby as you can without one?
Will you feel awesome when you hold up a fish and see your baby smile and reach out to touch it?
You better believe it.
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About Ryan Kaufman:
Ryan is head fly fishing guide at Headwaters Outfitters in Western North Carolina. From stalking wild brookies to chasing smallmouth and musky, Ryan enjoys a variety of opportunities presented by living and fishing in the Southeast. He's currently making preparations to instruct his most important future “client,” his eleven-month-old son, Sawyer.