People remember firsts because they’re unique. It doesn’t really matter what we’re talking about, because a first dog, a first touchdown, a first car, and anything else that is first is special. When you take an angler fishing for the first time it’s important to plan for the event. The experience you provide, be it good, bad or indifferent, is one they’ll remember for life.
My #1 rule for picking a spot is to find one where catching a fish is as close to a sure thing as possible. In the freshwater I’ll hit a farm pond loaded with panfish, and in the saltwater I’ll choose a salt pond lit up with blitzing schoolie stripers or cocktail bluefish. If the fish tug a bobber or smack a plug they are the ones for me. Bigger or difficult fish have their purpose and it’s for anglers with more experience, not rookies.
My #2 rule is to pick a comfortable day. Getting seasick on a pitching boat, soaked by rain, or chilled by a stiff wind is part of fishing, but I’d rather a new angler experience it later. For their first time I want calm water, bright sun, and stable, high pressure conditions. An abundance of wildlife is ideal, and firm footing while wading or walking preferred.
My #3 choice is a pretty place with an open space. If the bite slows down and you’re looking at a gorgeous pond surrounded by rolling hills, willow trees, and birds you’ll still have a great day. Open space means back casts won’t hang in trees and frustration levels remain low. It’s good if they’re quiet places, too; new anglers will focus better if there aren’t as many distractions.
And number #4 has something to do that is part of fishing. It could be a boat or kayak rental place for diversity, a great tackle shop to visit on the way in or out, something notable of history or wildlife (I remember seeing my first manatee on my first fishing trip to Florida), and the like. Anything that makes the experience stand out from just a normal, average day is worth including. It might be as simple as a place to go swimming in between casts.
Proper preparation prevents poor performance, so give a first spot some serious thought. When the stories are retold 20 years from now you’ll be glad you did.
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