After a long hard year in school, kids want a break. Fishing is a perfect release, particularly if you don’t turn into summer school.
Kids are visual, so when you take them fishing, appeal to their keen eyesight. Bobbers when bait fishing, surface poppers for spin fishing, or dry flies for fly fishing give them something to focus on. The movement from the bobber dropping creates excitement, the back and forth zig zag of a popper creates anticipation, and the floating dry fly shows perfect drag-free drifts.
These days it seems as if kids are far more mature than they were a decade or two ago. Don’t be fooled, kids are still kids even if they seem all grown up, so be sure to give them easy skills to master. To try and teach them to cast, swim a lure properly, tie a knot, fight a fish, land a fish, release or kill a fish, and to clean and stow the tackle is too much. Too much responsibility will turn them off to fishing as quickly as a boring teacher turns them off to a subject. Get them casting in open areas where they won’t get tangled. After they can consistently handle the open space, give them a series of easy to reach targets. The left end of a big rock or right underneath the waterfall is a good coordinate.
Break up the curriculum. In the summer you’ll want to get them into fish – and lots of them, too. They’ll have fun feeling the rod bend, they’ll get valuable experience fighting fish, and they can learn how to release or clean a fish. After you’ve caught a bunch of one species, create a leader board where they try to catch other species of fish.
Jimmy Johnson, the former coach of the Dallas Cowboys, is credited with turning the team into Super Bowl Champions by changing his approach. Instead of yelling at his players when they did something wrong like drop a ball, he told them what to do, as in ‘next time, catch the ball.’ Completions increased dramatically, and it’s a good way to work with your kids. Be clear with your expectations and you’ll be surprised how quick they learn.
Tom Keer is a freelance writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He regularly writes for over a dozen magazines, and is the contributing editor of Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America and a columnist for The Upland Almanac. His book a “Flyfisher’s Guide to the New England Coast” was published by Wilderness Adventures Press in 2010. Visit him at www.tomkeer.com.