Column: Teaching a child to fish yields lasting rewards

Great Outdoors by James Murray

The process of teaching a kid to fish is quite simple really.

You start by giving them a fishing rod and a few casting lessons. You then arrange to take them out in a boat or to the end of a dock somewhere and simply sit back and wait for the bobber to go up and down on the surface of the water. Once that happens, and your young angling protege is into their first fish, well, let’s just say the job never ends.

Teach a kid to fish and you have a fishing partner for life.

The thing is, it doesn’t really cost all that much to get kids into fishing – a rod and reel to start with, then a tackle box, some lures and a maybe few odds and ends. You should be able to buy a good quality, new rod and reel for around $50 to $60 that will cast properly and stand up to use. Don’t buy one of those cheap package deals with a picture of some cartoon character on the side of the reel. They are junk and a waste of money. Give them something you would be willing to use yourself.

Yard sales are great place to acquire decent quality gear.

Once you have attained a rod and reel for a child, take them out to the backyard or a field somewhere and let them practise casting until they get the hang of it. You can buy rubber practice weights at most tackle stores. All they need remember is finger, line, bail, cast and release.

To start them off casting, have them slip their first-finger under the line and lift it up so the line is pressed between their finger and the cork of the reel seat. With their free hand, they should get used to cocking the bail (that loopy thing-a0that helps wind back the line) back on the reel before arching the rod forward through the air. Finger, line, bail.

Explain the key to casting is releasing their finger from the line just before the rod tip points to where they want the line and lure to go. Finger, line, bail – cast and release. It takes some practise, but before long they will have the practice weight sailing through the air smooth as can be. But, be patient, and tell the child not to worry about how far they can cast at first. It’s more important they get the hang of casting smoothly and accurately. Don’t get too technical with kids, neither. They just want to have fun.

As long as they can cast their line out into the water, far enough and in the general direction of where there might be fish, they will be content.

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A simple plastic, two tray box doesn’t cost a lot and there is a real sense of ownership that comes with having your own tackle box. Again, you can often find tackle boxes, more often than not with lures in them, at yard sales. As far as any other fishing gear necessary when children are concerned, the only other things required are a life-jacket, a wide-brimmed hat and maybe a pair of polarized sunglasses. Whether fishing from a boat, off the end of a dock or along the banks of a stream, each child should have, and wear, a weight and size appropriate life-jacket. A wide brimmed hat will provide protection from the sun, as well as protection from any hooks that might go zinging past.

When it comes to kids and fishing, remember quantity, not quality, is the name of the game. Kids just want to catch fish. It doesn’t matter what kind of fish. Quite simply, kids would rather catch a whole mess of small fish than one big one.

When your kid does catch a fish, let them make the decision, in their own time and on their own terms, as to whether or not to keep the fish or release it back into the water.

No, it doesn’t cost all that much to get kids into fishing, and regardless of how much or how little you spend, the price will be well worth it when you get to watch them catch their first fish. That kind of bonding and shared experience tends to last well into adulthood.

What I wouldn’t give to go fishing with the man who taught me how to fish.


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