Do you remember the first time your dad took you fishing?
Chances are it was one of those special occasions for father, son bonding, and the moment of magic when your enthusiasm for all things angling was kindled.
And now you find yourself in the position of introducing a son, daughter, niece or nephew to the delights of fishing? Feel daunted? Don’t be. It’s certainly a hefty responsibility and because there’s only one first time, you’ll only get one shot at it, but to help you pass on your fervor for fishing, here’s our six step guide to introducing children to fishing.
1. Don’t push it
Unlike twenty or thirty years ago, fishing has to compete with a multitude of distractions for your child’s attention. Not only are today’s kids hooked into the internet 24/7, they’re also more likely to be involved in a host of extra curricular activities. Given the time an average child spends on music lessons, karate class, footy club, Facebooking, Instagramming, Spotifying and yes, playing computer games, genuine downtime is at a premium.
With this in mind, introduce the concept of fishing gradually, and if your son or daughter rejects the idea first time around, don’t push it. Keep your powder dry – the perfect time will come!
You’ve generated the enthusiasm necessary to coax your kids to the riverbank – great. But just because you relish the prospect of feeling the howling wind tear through what remains of your hair, doesn’t mean your offspring and their friends will delight in the same level of physical discomfort. And remember, kids get cold quicker than adults. With this in mind, do remember to pack your bivvy, chairs, hot drinks and plenty of snacks.
And if you’re little princess is fishing for the first time, make sure there are adequate facilities close by for when she needs to spend a penny.
Don’t overstate the dangers of fishing but do make sure young ones understand the hazards and know what to do if they fall in the water. Younger children in particular need close supervision and buoyancy aids. Do make sure you choose to fish a spot that’s well away from deep, fast flowing water, and that offers an easy exit from the water should someone take a tumble.
For a first foray to the riverbank, choose somewhere that’s quick and easy to get to. Your favourite spot might take an hour’s hacking through vegetation to reach – but how will smaller people tackle the challenge? Always work to the weakest member of the party.
Stick with a simple rig to begin with. Not only will you have (in theory) less tangles to sort out, but children will soon pick up how to set up their own tackle, leaving your hands free to get your own line wet.
Do talk your child through the different tackle items and show them how everything works, but keep the information short and to the point. Teach a simple knot like the blood knot and help your child set up their own rig – remember – learning by doing is much more fun than watching you do it for them. Protect young fingers from hooks by burying sharp points in cork!
Demonstrate the cast, guide your child through it, practise it – but don’t expect it to go right first time. If every cast your child makes lands in the bushes, keep your sense of humour. At least they’re trying.
Tangles – they will happen – lots of them – so get used to the idea!
Be prepared for short attention spans. Whiling away the hours on the riverbank is an adult pleasure; kids like to be occupied. So when your youngsters get bored and want to play, then as long as it’s safe for them to do so, and they’re not irritating other anglers, let them. And when kids have had enough, pack up and go home. Better a trip that’s short but sweet than the memory of a marathon they’d rather wash the dishes than repeat!
When your boy or girl gets that first tug on the line, resist the temptation to take over. Instead, whenever possible, let your offspring play the fish themselves. Be ready with the net, and camera, and when they land that all important first catch, be generous with your praise as you show your kid how to handle their catch without hurting it.
And when with fish in hand, your son or daughter’s eyes gleam with excitement pride and pleasure, give yourself a pat on the back – you’ve just passed on the joy of fishing.