There’s nothing like a lazy summer afternoon spent by the ol’ fishing hole, and every summer’s day is some kid’s first. How fondly do you look back on your maiden angler voyage? Dads taking their kids fishing is a pastime that’s probably as old as man’s ability to take fish from the water. So if you’re looking to bring your young one out to cast, here are some helpful hints to make the day a memory.
Whether it’s on the dock, on the boat or in a shallow stream, be sure that proper precautions are taken. Life vests and supervision are key. Shiny hooks can catch a child’s eye. So be sure to warn them about the danger and be sure that adults handle the sharp stuff. In fact, there is some pretty cool fishing equipment that is made with kids specifically in mind.
Experienced anglers may desire custom gear and fancy strategies, but you can save all that for Bass Masters.
Avoid flustering kids with high-tech equipment and expensive poles they’ll probably end up breaking anyway. When it comes to choosing bait, as fun as squishy live worms might be for a small child, you might want to consider soft artificial baits instead. They won’t go bad and they can take a beating from inexperienced little hands. For older children, rig baits with anything from a 1/32 to a 1/8 oz. jig is a good introduction. Crappie jigs (tinsel or marabou) will serve them well.
Let Them Know
There are several things that beginners should be aware of upfront.
First, snagging things like boots are common for first-timers and it can be disappointing for someone who isn’t familiar with what a fish feels like at the end of a line as opposed to an inanimate object. Also, make sure they know to have a firm grip at all times. Nothing is as disheartening to a child angler as losing their first rod, especially if at the other end is their first fish.
Beginners can easily be caught off guard by the sudden tug of even the smallest fish. Finally, tell them they may not catch anything, but that it’s okay. Let them know it’s a very real possibility and no big deal. Make sure they remember that fishing is about the journey, not the destination…and you might just end up reminding yourself in the process.
Be sure to encourage their successes, but be aware that you will have to be patient with their struggles. No sense adding undo pressure. That’s what their teachers, soccer coaches and mothers are for. So rather than stressing their flaws, celebrate everything they do right. Remember, it was your first time once too.
While it is important to tell kids that they may not catch anything their first time out and that fishing is about enjoying a relaxing day with nature…catching a fish is still fun. As Bob Ross used to say, “Nothing breeds success…like success.” So secretly stacking the deck in your favor is a good plan of attack. Find a very well-populated location and help give beginner’s luck a little nudge in the right direction.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Before you hit the water, it’s a good idea to hit the pavement. A big open parking lot is the best place to teach your little one how to cast off. Pull the fly far up for them during their parking lot practice mode. Teach them to stand comfortably and to keep the pole above the waist when ready to cast. Be sure to allow them to see what the proper grip looks like.
Remind them to check all around to make sure no one is behind them. You don’t want anyone to get hurt. Tell them to pick a target to aim at. Show them how to throw forward and flick the wrist and tell them when the right time to release is. Make sure they end up with the rod pointing at the target. Do this a couple of times, being sure to encourage them a lot. Next, take them to the water.
Bring the float down the fly when it’s time to hit the surf. Then keep a simple jig dangled beneath the float. Let them cast out and get a feel for the line being in the water.
If nothing happens within a few moments, let them practice reeling back in. The start and stop action is a good way to keep kids engaged. Then once they get the hang of that, have them leave the line in and occasionally twitch. For a little more action, slow reeling and hopping jig retrieval are good too. When do they catch a fish, hold on WITH them and let them reel it in, once you’re sure they can handle it. Then when the second fish comes around, let them do it all on their own.
Fishing can be a great experience between a dad and his child. Make sure it’s a fun time and before you know it, your Little One might just be reeling in the Big One.