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James and Flounder. Photo © Ron Brooks
But, it wasn’t always this way. His dad, my son, Tom , began taking him at a very early age. Tom had James in the boat and on the water much earlier than ever I did Tom. Frankly it scared me on occasion. I have a tendency to be much more careful now than I was when Tom was younger.
At any rate, Tom took the time and had the patience to teach and train James, and now he is a really good fishing buddy to his granddad – me. I though about how that transition took place, and came up with some of the things I did for Tom and he did for James to reach this point. Maybe they can help you as well.
There is absolutely no way that you can be successful in teaching a youngster to fish without patience. They are going to frustrate you, aggravate you, and in all likelihood will either loose or break at least some of your tackle along the way.
Locate some tackle that is in good working order that will not be a great loss to you if it doesn’t come back. In my case, I found a couple of used Shimano baitcasting reels when my sons were small. They were good enough to fish with, but only cost me a few dollars. I paired them with some inexpensive rods from the local big box store and then turned them over to my boys.
Like other skills, casting and handling a rod and reel takes practice. I let my boys practice in the front yard, casting dummy lures (NO HOOKS PLEASE!). I adjusted the casting reels to help prevent most backlashes, and then sat down with them and advised them on how to fix the backlashes that did occur. Yes, I let them do it on all but the very worst ones. They needed the confidence that they could do it themselves. Otherwise they would come running to me on every backlash. And, believe me, there were many to start with.
Remember to be patient
This may mean going to a local park or duck pond and simply fishing for small bream with bread or worms. It really doesn’t matter what kind of fish they catch as long as they catch fish! The worst thing to do at this point is to take them on an all day expedition where you do all the fishing and they get banished to the front of the boat because they are “in the way”. You MUST make these fishing trips specifically for them. They need to catch, not just fish. Nothing turns a kid off faster than fishing for several hours and either not catching anything or having to stay out of the way while you catch everything!
Cheer every time they catch a fish. Encourage them when they miss a bite. Always be positive. You can’t cheer enough. They actually are looking to please you by catching a fish. They want to catch a fish to show you that they can do it. Really make them feel special when they do catch a fish.
Did I mention patience?
Try to catch at least a few fish that you can take home, clean (with the youngster’s help, of course) and then cook and eat. For all the rest of the fish you need to explain – in their terms – why we need to keep only what we plan to eat and release all the others. Plant this seed early and they will practice conservation of the resource their wh*** life.
If you were fishing in your boat, let them help while you clean it. Let them know that, especially in saltwater, they need to wash their tackle after every trip. This is another seed to plant early.
This is obviously the most important factor in all you do. Loosing your temper or getting angry will absolutely turn a kid off. “I don’t want to go fishing, 'cause all I do is sit there and get yelled at”. Sound familiar? If so, you are headed the wrong direction!
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