Sunday, June 2, 2013

Parents' Guide to Fishing: Be an Angler a Child can Observe and Emulate

Every Kid Would Love to Fish

          When I see a youngster fishing with a parent, I might consider that child lucky whether he or she catches anything or not. Every three to five-year-old introduced to fishing loves it. You could say that a three to five-year-old introduced to anything loves it, but there are plenty of things that can bore. TV might be one of them. Even though children respond well to shows appropriate to age and interest, TV is like tunnel vision, an enclosure in something like a dream that does not have the full, participatory experience and value of the outdoors. Every kid wants to live a real life.

          The first good-sized largemouth my son caught at age three, a 13-incher, seemed to give him the sense that the world is his for the plucking. That may be cliché, but he caught a bass and that’s as plucking as picking blueberries, and the bass was considerably more resistant and larger. He got a sense that the world is to care for as well, since he released a living creature. As he grew just a little older, he wanted to fish almost every day after pre-school session. So I was willing to take him for an hour or two a couple or several evenings a week after work. Since he truly loved to fish, his total intent was infectious and I found my own desire to fish fully reawakening after a 25-year slump. Soon he was catching as many bass as I caught, a five-year-old with the finesse of a master with plastic worms.

         I had done something right in how I had introduced him to fishing. And from that initiation he developed very much by his own efforts, yet by always being visible to me, and with me as his own source of know-how to elaborate upon his own experience.

        At ages two and three, a parent or guardian needs to do all the casting for a youngster. Not only is such a young child simply too small to put a bait or lure out there, he has very little idea yet of the pursuit, the placing of the lure or bait where a fish might be. Buy him a rod of his own. Cast for him. The ideal lure for bass, if you’re not using nightcrawlers or shiners, is the plastic worm since you can help him retrieve it slowly. Let him reel in a fish; help him if it’s big.

          I went ahead and built for Matt at age five a 3 ½-foot spinning rod for trout, the same size that I use with salmon eggs. When he was three, I cast salmon eggs for him on the same rod he used for bass, and he caught some trout. He had not yet caught a “pickerel pike,” at five; but he was very eager to do so. So late in April, I took him to a pond I knew had pickerel in it, and baited his hook with live shiners. He caught one that afternoon, which was all he needed to fill the outing.

          Kids are interested in catching all kinds of fish. My son is 14 now and hasn’t yet caught a carp, very much wanted to at age 12 and we did try once. I bought a mulberry purple bait concoction and gave it to him to add to his wide selection of lures and tackle, a promise that we may try yet, although now that he’s teenaged, his independent interests have of course taken him in many other directions.

          It’s important to show kids very different methods that varieties of fish species require in order to be caught. The more they know, the better impressed they will be by the range of value, which may become a lasting endeavor. By age three, a boy or a girl has a rudimentary grasp of many differences of approach; how it is you are fishing should be pointed out. So long as a three-year-old grasps that there is a way to do it, by the time he is five he may be on top his game with at least one method, and possibly more.

          By the time a child is six, have him learn to tie knots. Kids this age are interested in such skills, want to perform them. To know the Uncle Homer knot or the clinch or both are notches they can cut on their belts. It’s the same with different lures and methods. A six-year-old wants to know how to use these devices that are so fascinating to him. As long as you relate to him at least one way to use each of the lures owned, he has a basis on which to build upon variations of method. Tell him there’s more than one way to do, but show him at least one way.

           For example, with weightless plastic worms, I told my son to cast and count slowly to 20 before he twitched the worm off the bottom, then to count to 10 and twitch it again by moving the rod tip about a foot or two and so on. He got that down pat after a couple of outings. Seeing that he had that under control, I told him so. Always confirm with your son or daughter that he or she has it right.

          “By now you know what 20 seconds feels like, don’t you think?”


          “So now just fish that plastic worm by what feels right.”

          And as I noted earlier in the article, he was a young master in his fifth year. He was very intent upon catching fish and saw his dad doing just that. So, besides how I instructed him, he watched how I fished very closely and imitated this. The best you can do for your son or daughter is be an active, open model from whom he or she can learn by observing and trusting you.

          As kids grow older, all sorts of other life influences draw them in many other directions, as I mentioned earlier. Fishing for them may seem removed from the mainstream of life. We older adults always used to speak glowingly of getting away from it all. Today kids don’t seem as much to share that value of getting outside. They seem to want to be very much with their generation’s technological involvement.

          However, older kids are very environmentally aware, much more so than we were in some ways. They are very concerned about global warming, for example, because they know it is affecting their lives now and in the future.  If you train them to recognize that equipment, tackle, methods, approaches, environmental appreciation, and successes are like any other endeavor in life, they might retain the tradition as they grow even older. They may realize they got their basic education and appreciation of life out fishing with dad.



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