Sharing a love of fishing with youngsters is noble and enjoyable. You don’t need to be a professional angler or an expert guide to plant seeds of fishing interest that can be cultivated for a lifetime. Whether you’re hitting the water with a son or daughter, a grandchild, the neighbor kid, or any other fishing newbie (and thank you for doing so) keep these five simple tips in mind.
1.) Success creates interest. Let’s face it. The easiest way to work around the “attention span issue” is to actually catch fish. That’s exactly what places like stocked ponds (and worms and bobbers) are for. Do your homework on where to go and what to use. Build challenges as you go.
2.) Visit the tackle shop. Ask questions, and encourage them to do the same. Kids find tackle shops fascinating places, and people in tackle shops delight at the prospect of helping kids learn to fish. The number one tip for any angler, at any age, who wants to catch more and bigger fish is to be inquisitive.
3.) Let them do the work. Sure, it’s okay to make some casts, hand the rod off for the little ones to feel the tug, and wind the reel. But encourage them to do as much of the whole thing as they are able and interested in doing. Be patient. Tangles happen. Nothing satisfies a young angler more than claiming they did it “all by himself/herself.”
4.) Make side diversions fun. “Try to hit that lily pad with the lure” and “how far can you get it out there this time?” can be fun challenges that keep the interest level going, especially if the fishing gets slow.
5.) Let them eat what they catch if they want to. Of course, you want to mind all regulations, you should keep only what you’ll really use, and instilling a catch-and-release ethic at an early age is great. But little anglers like to bring home dinner, at least once in a while.
Of course, the fishing mentor is also in charge of keeping things safe, comfortable (mind the weather) and explaining the rules… it’s a big responsibility! But the more you teach fishing, the more you’ll find that casting vicariously through others, especially little anglers, offers some of the greatest rewards.
Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large with Field & Stream magazine, and the editor-in-chief of Angling Trade. He is the co-author of four books, most recently the Little Red Book of Fly Fishing.