I can trace many of my best qualities back to the trout fishing I did with my father and brothers growing up: my love of the outdoors, the value I find in making mistakes, my patience, and – last but not least – my impressive skill in putting a worm on a hook. Most are lifelong skills. I’ve seen fishing help nurture those same skills in my own three kids, all of whom love to fish—one of them from a wheelchair.
As with other sports and pastimes, fishing is also magical in the way it reveals character. Sure, jealousy and impulsivity arise on the water, but I’ve never seen my brothers or father be more themselves than when chest high in a lazily moving trout stream: My older brother Jim’s encouraging others to fish a hole before he does; my brother Ric’s optimism that there are always trout in the water and his tenacity to prove it; my father’s joy in seeing his sons in the water.
And then there’s the simple excitement of catching fish. Hemingway was right when he talked about the way “a rod came alive and dangerous” when there was a trout on the end of it, and I still get a little short of breath and shaky whether I hook a brookie in the middle of Ontario wilderness or a sunfish within earshot of the Mass Pike.
My father always observed, though it really never needed saying, that it wasn’t the fishing that mattered, it was just being out there together that was important. He was, of course, right. Fishing is, certainly, a magical, mystical sport, and it’s worth sharing with your kids, or learning it with them. It can be surprisingly inexpensive, and it can be surprisingly simple to learn.
Here are some tips for taking your kids fishing:
- Start simple. Begin with spin fishing and try fishing with worms first. Rod/reel combos are plentiful everywhere from Orvis to Target, and since you can literally catch fish with a broom handle and dental floss, you’re fine to start off with something inexpensive. Worms make sense because they won’t introduce plastic or rubber into the environment.
- Bobbers (small floats) can be helpful in avoiding bottom snags and exciting to watch when fish are nibbling.
- My younger brother’s excitement his first time fishing that he had “caught a worm!” is a good reminder that kids can get hooked by catching anything. Don’t sweat trying to position your child to catch salmon or trout if it’s easier to find sunfish. The gamefish will come later.
- My family’s shared fishing philosophy is one that carries over into the rest of life with the same ease and importance that the skills and qualities above do: “Tight line. Be ready, be hopeful.”