How well I remember the sad little eyes of the young kids as dad goes fishing for a day, so to avoid this, take them at an early age. I started with my children about the age of 2 ½ or 3 years of age. Of course, at that age, they are not able to use a fly rod. However, they can use a child’s small spin cast outfit that comes in a kit. Some of those kits have a theme such as “Barbie.” Yes, do not think that fishing is a man only sport!
The first thing to remember is that the trip is for the kids. Do not expect to do any fishing yourself, and if you do, it is a bonus! Concentrate on the kids, give them all your attention, and be prepared to spend most of your time untangling the line. It is best to start on a small pond or small stream that has plenty of panfish. Stand very close to shallow water so that when the child casts, the hook cannot miss falling into the water. I took our children to the neighbor’s pond that has full of bluegills; because of this, they were stunted and small.
Remember, it’s not the size of the fish, but the fast action that they like. If you do not catch any fish after a few casts, their attention will be on the birds, or the trees, or throwing stones, etc.
You should use a tiny hook tied on to the end of a light line such as four-pound monofilament. At this point, place a small colorful bobber on the line, with sufficient line ahead of the bobber, to allow the worm to rest just above the bottom of the pool. Now, take a small piece of the earthworm and place it on the hook. The reason to use a small piece of worm is that the panfish have small mouth and they will take small bite. That bite will move the bobber. This causes a false hit because they have do not have the hook in their mouth yet. Use the darker band of the worm and slide the hook under it and up the other side of the band. The remainder of the worm is not very useful since it breaks very quickly, and most likely, will not stand the rigors of a child’s first cast.
Then, you should cast it out the first few times before starting the child to cast unless the child is about 8 or 10 years old. As the fish takes the worm, the bobber will swim rapidly to and fro. This is especially exciting for the kids. Be sure to set the hook by pulling up sharply on the pole. (If they are learning to fish, all this is done by the dad). After you have the hook set, hand the pole to the child and have them crank the fish in. I call this “seeding” the line since you have done all the work.
Keep in mind the fact that the first fish they catch are going to be frightening. They may be no larger than the palm of your hand, but in the eyes a child, they are monsters. It will take some time for the child to get close to, and even touch the fish. However, do not force them, but let them get acquainted at their own pace. Be sure to take a picture to record their smiles as they hold the squirming fish up. Do not succumb to the child’s desire to bring the fish home to show mommy or to cook. Instead, you can use this chance to teach “catch and release” as well as other conservation measures.
Now, for are some reminders. First, do not expect to hold their attention very long. Catch a few fish, and then let them pepper the surface of the water by throwing stones. All kids have a natural desire to throw stones and do not be discouraged if at first, they enjoy the stone throwing more than fishing. Secondly, expect frustrations like tangled lines, lines caught in the weeds or trees, and casts that do not hit the water. Just teach yourself to be patient, and you will have good memories. Also, be sure to teach them to respect the property by asking permission and by cleaning up the area after you fish. You probably have had some sodas, and some snacks while fishing. Never leave any of this refuse for the property owner to clean up. Finally, do not break any fences or leave any gates open.
When the kids become older, you should try to take them trout fishing with a fly pole and flies. They can even learn to tie their flies after they are in their teens, or perhaps, even sooner. My grandson, made a few extra dollars, while still in high school, by tying flies and selling them.