Since Ethan was born, I have been hoping he would find passion in fly-fishing like I do. The idea of traveling the world and finding new fishing adventures
together would be a dream come true. I waited patiently for his coordination, focus, and patience to develop enough to get him out on the water. With Ethan, I knew there would only be one opportunity to introduce him to fly-fishing, and if he was not enthralled, there would not be a second time.
Planning the Perfect Kid’s Fly Fishing Trip
As his twelfth birthday passed, he seemed ready. He had always been interested in basketball, but this year, he started having real passion for the sport. He spent countless hours, day after day playing. His focus and determination proved to me he was ready. So I set out to plan the perfect fly-fishing trip for him.
My underlying strategy was:
· Get a guide
that not only was excellent with kids, but also a great teacher
· Make sure to plan a variety of kid friendly activities
· Don’t fish too much or long
· Increase the odds of catching fish
I reached out to my fishing buddy Alex who also wanted to introduce his son Spencer to fly-fishing. The boys could fish together, and play on the down times. My brother-in-law Sharrad also joined, bringing our total group to five.
Eric Shores of Red Mountain Adventures
, conveniently located in Ennis MT
, my favorite stomping ground, is my friend and regular guide. Eric had heard many stories about Ethan and Spencer from Alex and me while we were fishing. I knew he would be a great first-time instructor for the boys.
We decided to book two boats - Eric taking the boys, and his wife Annie taking us. This would be the first day of fishing. Eric recommended a second day without him wade-fishing, where the boys could practice what they learned. What a great idea! Maybe Alex and I could get some fishing in ourselves. That would be a bonus.
With the guide figured out, the next step was when. Ennis has quite a few kid friendly activities during the 4th of July weekend so that seemed like a logical time. Also, there was a good chance we would see the Salmonfly hatch
, a first for me. After reviewing flights and prices, we decided on 5 days of activities. Any shorter and it would be too much effort for too little time, and any longer and the boys probably would start getting bored.
Next up was planning the activities. Ethan has a real love for horses so I thought a horseback ride would be fun. I spoke with Eric and he recommended Wolfpack Outfitters. I found them easily on the web and interestingly, not only do they do horseback trips, they also paint fences. I will have to keep that in mind when I need my fence painted. I gave them a call and we discussed days available and trip details. They suggested Axolotl Lakes. I had been there my first year fly-fishing on a scouting mission when the Madison River was blown out. It was an amazing slice of heaven about 20 minutes away from Ennis. It was perfect for the kids. Too bad we couldn’t bring our fly rods and a float tube. We saw some huge cutthroats the last time we were there.
4th of July ended up being the easiest of all to plan. Because it is quite an event in Ennis
, there are a series of activities to keep families busy. It starts with the parade in the morning followed with the Rodeo in the afternoon, and a quick drive to Virginia City for the fireworks. We decided to leave a day open to provide some flexibility. If we got bored, we still had Water of the Gods hot springs in Norris, or a drive out to Yellowstone Park.
Fly Fishing Trip Itinerary
· Travel day
· Breakfast in town
· Horseback ride
· Optional Water of the Gods hot springs
· All day float trip with Red Mountain Adventures.
· DIY wade fishing day
· Optional Yellowstone
· Optional Water of the Gods hot springs
· 4th of July parade at 10am
· Spend day in Ennis
· Rodeo at 6pm
· Fireworks in Virginia City
· Travel day
With the activities planned and booked, we thought it would be a good idea to do a little prep on mechanics with the boys. We took them out to the percolation ponds in Campbell. They have a great place with water and rings to practice your casting. We set out on a Saturday morning in the spring. We started with teaching them the basics of assembling and functioning a fly rod. This seemed to go over okay even though they did not appear that interested. Next we worked on casting. Alex is an excellent teacher (he taught and continues to teach me) so I let him do the honors. For the first 30 minutes or so, all went well. They listened mostly and practiced their casting. But, with no fish in the water to keep them focused, after about 30 minutes, we lost them. They were more focused on goofing off together than casting any more so we packed our gear, and left.
As I was driving home with Ethan, I remember wondering “Is he ready for Montana? I hope so.” But with everything booked, and no way of backing out, I had to hope that the combination of good planning, great environment, and an amazing guide would ensure my son had the “fishing gene.”
With our bags packed, and a touch of excitement (or was it anxiety?) in the air, we headed out to the airport to begin our trip. Ethan was in an exceptionally good mood. We had a late flight out, landing in Bozeman around 12am. By the time we picked up the rental car and drove to Ennis, it was around 2am. We were exhausted. We picked up the key, and headed to our room at the Rainbow Valley Lodge
, one of my favorite places to stay in Ennis. Everyone was quickly assigned beds and immediately crashed.
Tomorrow was going to be great. (Next - Part II