Check out the article below from VVA’s Jason Paez as he talks with Flylords about getting his kids out fly fishing on the saltwater.
The last time the boys and I put together a piece with Flylords we wrote about “10 Tips for Fishing with Your Kids” and now we are back to share more about our experience of introducing the boys to saltwater flats fishing! The twins have grown up a bit since our last conversation and they are now turning 7 years old.
Both boys still love fishing and this past summer our family decided to take off time from work as well as everyday life. We spent a month in the Bahamas for some much-needed R&R after a crazy couple of years.
How do you choose a good destination for saltwater flats fishing with kids?
Jason: My wife and I have always loved to explore and gain new experiences but when we went to the Bahamas for the first time we absolutely fell in love with those islands. We have met wonderful people there who are willing to share their homes, beaches, culture, and of course fishing spots with us. There are a lot of wonderful places to visit but one thing we look for when fishing with the boys is accessibility.
The easier it is to explore the beaches and flats the less likely the boys will lose interest. They can immediately start exploring, picking up seashells, and try fishing with me. The Bahamas has heaps of flats and beaches or combos of both that are perfect for DIY fishing! The scenery and pink sands are stunning. The other thing we look for are spots that are primarily sandy for easy wading. We target low tides that allow the boys and I to wade around, spot fish, and try to make some casts.
When researching places to visit it is good to make sure air travel is easy. Prior to booking anything, we check that the lodging and amenities offer plenty of fun entertainment and are kid-friendly. A pool is a key ingredient for success! The Bahamas checked all those boxes.
What is a good species for kids to target in the salt?
Jason: I love starting the boys off with species that are easy to catch and get them used to the elements of bringing in a saltwater fish on fly fishing equipment. Unlike trout, most ocean species can give you a good tug even if they are small. The boys had to learn to play the fish more before we moved on to a fast-running fish like a bonefish (Trust me it was good to practice this as we broke a rod while learning how to handle the line against jacks off the beach).
We started off with little palometas, jacks, yellowtail snapper, small barracudas, and small mutton snapper. The majority of these fish could be caught right off the beach or near the mangroves. All these fish plus some by-catch species are also easily caught on the fly in the Bahamas and some like the yellowtail snapper are great eating. The boys love fish tacos!
What went into the success of your son’s first DIY bonefish?
Jason: On our trip, I had located a nice size flat using Google Earth that was accessible by car and close by our rental house. You could hike to it or cruise in a kayak or SUP. Once you got into the zone there were mangroves to tie off the rig before wading out quietly. The boys had learned to scan for bonefish from our good friend Shaw Underwood who is an amazing guide out of Spanish Wells and has been fishing with the boys and I for years.
So, the morning Mason caught the first tailing bonefish he had pointed out the school of bones feeding near the middle of the flat before I even saw them. We stalked quietly towards the school. Then I helped him make an early cast to lay up the fly as the school was feeding towards us and then I stood behind him guiding his strips as the bonefish came near the fly. After a couple of nice long strips, it came tight. After that, it was a bit of chaos clearing line for Mason but with a little luck everything went tight, and the fish was peeling line off the reel! Mason was hollering as loud as he could and laughing as he reeled it back in. I assisted him holding the rod until I was able to land the fish. He held the rod up over his head with so much excitement and grinned ear to ear. We took a few quick photos and he released his first bonefish and said he was ready for more! This memory will last us a lifetime.
What kind of gear do your kids use for the salt?
Jason: The must haves are good hats, kids polarized glasses, sunscreen, and a nice sun shirt! Patagonia has good options for kids regarding clothes. I typically bring life vests as we use on the fishing raft back home. The reason for that is if we use a SUP or Kayak or end up wading somewhere that gets deeper as the tide rolled in, I thought they would come in handy. Most of the flats had sugar like smooth white sand, so having shoes were not necessarily needed but they had either Teva or Keen water shoes to protect the feet. In my pack, I carried extra equipment, water, snacks, and a camera.
I liked using my 9ft. 7-8wt rods from Sage and Thomas and Thomas. I still assist the boys with their casting since the gear is a bit heavier than their setups for trout back home and they are still getting used to it all.
For flies, I threw them in a Fishpond Tacky Pescador box that fits in my pocket for quick access. We used pink gotchas and other similar patterns that the bonefish love in the Bahamas. The boys liked carrying a GoPro to assist with taking photos and it gives them something to do while searching. A handful of the pictures I shared for this article were taken by my son Kingston.
Any tips to other parents for having a successful saltwater fly fishing trip with kids?
Jason: I like to mix it up! I know as adults we all love fly fishing but sometimes for the kids the spot, stalk, and overall process of catching game species on the flats can be way more challenging than their attention span will allow.
For them to learn and get introduced to as much as possible regarding the ocean and outdoors I also enjoy taking the boys on the bay boats, offshore boats, and skiffs whenever possible to experience all the different types of fishing that can be done. If we go with our friend Shaw, he even lets the boys be captains for a bit and drive the skiff!
Both have enjoyed catching fish off boats with both flies and regular tackle which adds to more species and exciting catches. There are also more experiences for them to enjoy such as a little swimming, snorkeling, or hiking around small little islands to collect shells. Mix it up and keep it fun!
Where are you and the kids going next?
Jason: For their next school break our family is headed to Belize! Mason has his eyes set on Tarpon so Dad will need to find the small ones haha!
Be sure to follow along with Jason and his two boys on Instagram at @finsandtwins.