I recently took my 5-year-old son Marsden trout fishing for the first time. He’s caught lots of flathead on bait, and can fly-cast reasonably well with my Echo micro practice rod. He’s had a cast with my other fly rods too and can manage 10 metres, so on that first trip I gave him my fibreglass 8-foot 5-weight, figuring it would be harder to break than one of my graphite rods.
But, even as light as that rod is, he still struggled to cast while sitting down in the kayak. He tried two hands on the grip, but his little hands found the adult grip too cumbersome. In the end I did the spotting and casting, and handed him the rod the second I had set the hook.
He loved it! The smile on his face when he landed his first “spotty one” was priceless. He was asking to go again before we’d even stopped on that first day.
I realised he’d need something lighter and considered my 7-foot 3-weight. Then I found the Gecko on John Coles’ website. Developed by Tim Rajeff to help kids learn to fly fish, it has several features which make it stand alone in the market as a kids’ rod. It is 4-piece, only 7'9" long, throws a 4 or 5-weight line and has a really slim full-wells grip plus a small second grip where the fighting butt should be — so it can be cast two-handed with some real leverage.
Best of all, it is bright yellow with crazy camo-patterned EVA foam grips! It comes in a bright yellow rod-tube with cloth sock. It’s clearly THEIR rod, not just one of dad’s that they’re allowed to borrow.
I had a cast with both a DT4 and WF5 line and it felt good (better for learning with the #5) — light and easy to swing, if a little on the softish side. I was able to cast a reasonable distance, and to throw some neat loops, and could even get the hang of using it double handed. It’s good to know that it can cast well in the hands of someone experienced, but really it doesn’t matter a jot what I thought of it! Here’s what Mars found…
He was instantly able to swing it easily, both fast and slow. At first he was rotating at the hips, swinging the rod in an arc to the side, but once I got him to anchor his bottom-hand near his tummy, he started throwing straighter. After 10 minutes practice in the backyard he was able to hit the swings, the trampoline, the camera I had on a tripod…
On the water, again from the kayak but this time sitting above the deck, he could get a line out far enough to be outside the ‘spooked’ range. Usually the cast was a bit puddled, so I’d back the kayak up to take up the slack. Of course, many times he changed direction during a cast, or the wind took the line, and we ended in a mess.
When wading, Mars was able to cast a dry fly far enough from the bank and could just leave it floating. Although we caught no fish that trip, he was still enjoying every minute. As long as I kept him warm and well fed, he stayed at it for ages. I’m sure the light weight and small grip helped in delaying fatigue.
While I’m full of enthusiasm for him, I have to keep reminding myself that he is only five and it will be quite some time before he can manage to cast and control the line on his own. It’s all part of the journey, and every little bit of progress I see is extremely rewarding. Mind you, he’s already keen to go again and I fear I might have shot myself in the foot for any future solo trips!
Available from John Coles Fly Fishing for around $120.