One of the best things about fly fishing is that you always learn something new. You can fish new water, head to unknown places, try different styles, and catch new species. But what happens when all of a sudden you have a baby in your backpack? Do you give up your time on the water, or change your fishing habits? I would say that fly fishing with a baby is more than a decision, it is an attitude, a lifestyle choice all its own. A choice that will require many compromises: more planning, flexibility, and patience. Choosing to focus on the positives and not the challenges will open up a whole new world of experiences together. You will notice that you are heading into the future, which looks quite brilliant.
Determined to live the family lifestyle, when our son was born we decided to take him with us whenever possible. For us, giving him the experience of letting nature be his playground was important. Our first year was filled with hours on the river learning to fly fish together. The urban waters near our home were a good place to start. Being nearby made it easy to make short visits.
As an infant, it was simple to take him in a wagon to the river where he just slept and ate alternately. But that was only a tiny little moment in time. It wasn’t long before he wanted to explore and move around without any patience to stay in place. At that point, a good backpack was worth its weight in baby gold. The type of carrier depends on you. Just make sure that there are pockets for baby needs, fishing gear, and integrated weather protection, which is a big plus for outdoor enthusiasts like us.
Fly fishing during the baby-year was challenging, since he was growing so quickly, making the situations and rhythms ever-changing. Flexibility was key.
Baby or no baby, I’m sure we all agree that safety comes first. No matter how good and safe your backpack is, you always want to avoid risks while moving around. Safety and comfort affect many things when planning a fishing trip as a family. Whether you stay in the wilderness in a tent or choose a hotel is up to your comfort level. When we were heading to Slovenia, we chose our destination by thinking about where it would be easy to fly fish and move around with the baby. By choosing a familiar fishing spot, we didn’t waste time or expense by searching for the fish or getting to know the river. We knew from previous trips which places were easy to access and close to where we would be staying. The terrain wasn’t too difficult to hike and the river was easy to wade.
We made sure it was never too long a walk back to the car should something happen or if the baby was losing patience.
What I have learned is that when you are planning a fishing trip with the baby, you must be ready for a normal, non-fishing trip if fishing with the baby doesn’t work for some reason. Keep your mind open and live in the moment, and you won’t be disappointed. Fishing days can be long, even for adults, so save some time for relaxing outside of river time. Our accommodation in Slovenia was a nice, cozy, and child-friendly farm in the middle of the mountains. There were a lot of animals, a swimming pool and playgrounds, both inside and outside. It was a peaceful place to spend time when the weather stole a few river days. In the end, we had only three fishing days in Slovenia, but it was just enough for our first trip abroad. Our son was 10 months old at that time and I think that more fishing days would have been too much for him.
It is clear that fly fishing with a baby changes your fishing habits. Gone are the days of giving the fish 100%. When the best evening hatch is just beginning, chances are you will be putting the baby to sleep. During morning mist, you will most likely be off the water at home boiling porridge. Many a day will be spent changing diapers instead of waiting for a rise.
It is okay to put your rod in the closet and let your waders dry.
After we became a family, I noticed how much it meant to share the best moments with others, especially those who are the closest to my heart. Fishing alone, everything I saw and felt existed only for me. But having that little someone with me, made the joy a thousand times bigger. Suddenly, happiness didn’t come from the fish I netted, but from the smile emanating out of my backpack.
I spent a week in the wilderness without my family and I realized something: no matter how challenging fly fishing with the baby is sometimes, it is always easier than a fishing trip without him.