One thing I really enjoy is teaching young folks to fish. Their enthusiasm knows no bounds! We talk about fish, and they’re all ears. They’re fascinated by the gear, and they’re quick to learn basic spin casting. Then we go down to the water, and they learn to put bread or worms or maybe a bit of hotdog on a hook. Soon they’re casting so it lands in the water instead of in the grass. And it’s not long until they catch a few fish.
And then, pretty soon, somebody will ask The Question.
“Mr. Steve,” somebody will say, “This is fun! But can we try fishing with one of those flies like you do?”
Ahh! It’s no secret that fly fishing is a passion of mine. Even though the kids’ classes focus on spin fishing, I always take a moment to show the kids a few flies – usually brightly colored foam spiders or fuzzy-looking Woolly Worms. It’s my version of priming the pump. We talk about fly fishing, and all the kids’ curiosity starts to stir.
That’s when The Question usually comes up.
“Yeah, Mr. Steve, can we try one of those flies?”
Alas, teaching kids to fly fish with a fly rod takes more time than we usually have. But there’s a great compromise, a perfect piece of middle ground where even a first-timer gets a taste of fishing with a fly without having to learn the nuances of fly casting.
Enter the noble “casting bubble,” a neat little creation that provides the weight you need to cast very light-weight lures (like flies) on a regular spinning rod.
A casting bubble is essentially just a plastic float. It’s been designed so you can add water to make it heavier and easier to cast. It’s also big and easy to see. That turns it into what fly fishers call a “strike indicator,” a visual aid that helps to cue you in to when a fish takes the fly.
Aha! The stage is set for fishing with flies without a fly rod!
To set up a casting bubble rig, first slip the casting bubble over your line and secure it at the desired point. Different models are attached in different ways, so check the instructions if you’re unsure. Then tie your chosen fly to the end of the line so it’s two to three feet below the bubble. If you go much longer, you up the odds of tangles later on.
At that point all you have to do is to cast. The weight of the casting bubble is more than enough to pull out line and send your fly toward its target.
What kind of flies should you use with a casting bubble rig? Favorites include small worm imitations like the San Juan Worm (especially when using the rig in a trout stream), small foam spiders with rubber legs, and subsurface flies like a bedhead Woolly Worm or traditional subsurface trout flies known as nymphs.
The rest is easy. With a floating fly like a foam spider, make the cast and let it sit there. These are great in ponds. The subtle motion of the spider’s rubber legs is more than enough to attract fish. It becomes a waiting game…can you stand to let it sit still long enough for the fish to decide to hit? Kids (and adults too) seem to love the challenge, and when a fish hits, you actually get to see it happen. Talk about fun!
In a creek (say, a trout stream) try a sinking fly like a beadhead nymph. Flip the casting bubble rig upstream and let it drift down through the run. Watch the bubble for signs that a fish has taken the fly, then set the hook and hold on.
Subsurface flies work in ponds too. After making the cast, give the casting bubble (and thus the fly) some motion with short tugs of about six inches, pausing between tugs. The hardest part is being patient enough to pause…but as you’ll soon discover, that’s usually when the fish hits.
Especially with kids who don’t yet fish with an actual fly rod, the casting bubble approach provides a great way to introduce the concept of fishing with flies. Give it a try, with a kid or on your own. It’s a great way to add a new dimension to your summertime fishing, and I think you’ll have a lot of fun!