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There are many phrases in the English language that can cause a guide to sweat profusely, but this one used to give me goosebumps every time it came out of the Bossman’s mouth during schedule meetings. Visions of broken gear and small, frustrated humans would send me into a planning panic as I tried to piece together an itinerary that would result in a good time for all, preferably myself included. The trouble wasn’t the kids, per se – it was the adult-sized gear that the kids had to try to manipulate to the best of their small-statured ability. A lot of these trips would see me casting for the kids, or “power-assisting” the long, non-kid-sized fly rod for them so they could (with a little help) get in the game and catch some fish. I use the past tense in this description, because now I have a secret weapon.

The GECKO.

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Thanks to Uncle Tim and the ECHO folks, the kids now have a setup that is proportional to their body size. Sporting a snazzy-colored small diameter grip (perfect for kid hands) and an easy loading full-flex action, this 4/5wt is a great fit for the youth angler – kids finally have a rod that won’t lead to fatigue and frustration.Image

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Don’t be fooled by the Gecko’s diminutive stature – while it is kid-sized, it isn’t a toy and is more than capable of handling full-sized fish. I will admit that there were times this year when I thought, “This is it. There is no way that kid is gonna get that fish near the net without SOMETHING breaking.” But after several dozen youth anglers and well over a hundred salmon and char, the 2 Geckos I fish are still in their original 4 pieces and still going strong.

I pair my Geckos with the SOLO45 reel and a SOLO 5wt line – I have found that the 5wt line makes an already easy casting rod work even better for the smaller kids. At under $165 for the whole setup, it is a great value for my peace of mind while guiding, and an inexpensive way to start kids out with the right tool for the kid-sized job.

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Echo/Airflo Pro Mark Hieronymus is a senior guide for Bear Creek Outfitters, designer for Umpqua Feather Merchants, and serves as the Trout Unlimited Southeast Alaska Sportfish Outreach Coordinator working to save native spawning grounds in the Tongass National Forest. No bones about it…Mark’s one busy dude.

Learn more about the Tongass 77 Campaign here.