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What Makes You Fish?

Teaching a child to fish brings back memories of how I learned to fish

By

Photo © Ron Brooks

Tom Learns to fish from his Granddaddy

Photo © Ron Brooks

My father took me fishing and taught me to fish at an early age – like about 4 years old. I can remember times when I was fishing by myself and caught a nice fish. I just had to take it home to show my dad. I thought it would please him and make him proud of me. I know that when I taught my boys to fish, I could see it in their eyes. They looked for my approval at even the slightest thing they did. If they made a good cast, they looked at me. If they set the hook hard, they looked at me. And if they caught a fish, they really looked to me for approval. I made it a point to make a big deal out of everything they did while fishing. If they did something wrong, I gently corrected them. If they did it right, I told them so. Teaching a youngster to fish means going out of your way to make it enjoyable

What drives you to fish? Is there some internal mechanism that pushes you? Do you fish because a good friend or relative fishes – like maybe a father who took you fishing? Or, maybe you fish for food – to have the fresh taste of seafood on your table.

I watch today as my grandchildren grow. I see my sons doing the same thing I did and the same thing my dad did. Encouragement seems to be the strong thread in all this.

Here are some things you can do to encourage the youngster you are trying to teach. It may be a son, a grandson, or simply a kid who wants to learn to fish. All of these suggestions will apply, and all of them are important.

  1. Take them where they can catch fish

    To begin with, make sure the place you are taking them has fish that bite. Nothing is more discouraging than fishing for hours and not even getting a bite. Try a bream pond or a farm pond. Lots of people in the country have ponds with fish in them. Ask to take you student angler there and then let him or her fish.

  2. Start with the basics

    Let them hold a pole by themselves right off the bat. Make it a cane pole with no reel – you don’t want to complicate things too early. But, let them see the bobber go down or feel the fish bite and run with the line. Then show them how to lift the pole and the fish to the bank.

  3. Let them play with the fish

    Part of fishing is discovering just what a fish is all about. I remember my oldest son cleaning fish with my dad. We gave him a table knife – not a sharp one – and let him go to work on a fish of his own while Granddaddy cleaned fish. I asked him what he was doing as he worked on the head of the fish – his replay was, “cutting off the eyes”. He had it in his mind to cut those eyes off, and I let him do just that. To this day, some 40 years later, he remembers that day.

  4. Praise them at every chance

    Wow, you can really hold that pole up there, can’t you! You are really good at watching that bobber! Boy, now that’s a nice fish! I think you get the picture here. Make them proud of their accomplishments and they will be trying to please you with everything they do.

  5. Take pictures!

    Whether with a cell phone or a camera, make sure you take a lot of pictures. When you get home, print some of them – even print an 8x11 – so they can “take home the fish”. Frame that 8x11 of their first fish. As always, make a big deal out of it – how proud you are of them and how they did a great job. Trust me, they won’t forget.

  6. Gradually teach them on a rod and reel

    Nothing can frustrate a new angler like having a piece of equipment they cannot use. Maybe it’s too big, too heavy, or just plain too complicated. But do bring them along and teach a little every time you go.

On the negative side, there are a couple of things you should never do when teaching.

  1. Never yell at them even if they do something wrong

    Of course if they are in eminent danger, you almost have to yell. But yelling at them because they got the line fouled or missed a fish – that’s going to turn them off in a hurry.

  2. Don’t take over for them

    Let them fight the fish and maybe even loose a fish. If you take over every time, that teaches them that you have to do that for them every time.

  3. Don’t get so engrossed with your own fishing that you ignore them

    These types of fishing trips have to be all about them, not about you. Patience is the key, and you can’t show patience if you are doing more fishing for yourself than you are teaching.

  4. Don’t stay too long

    Young people have short attention spans and are easily worn down. This is particularly true if it is hot in the middle of the day. “Daddy, I want to go home” is something you want to avoid. Make plans to stop before they tire or get bored. I believe you are better off having to tell them that we are going to go again rather than hearing them want to leave.

The bottom line to all of this is to have patience and make the teaching trips all about them and not about you! Let them have fun and encourage them with everything they do. You won’t regret it! One of the best things I get to hear as a grandfather these days is one of my grandkids sincerely asking me, “Granddaddy, when are you going to take me fishing again? Can we go this week? Where will we go? Are the __X__ biting at _Y__? Will we go there?” You get the picture? They are anxious to go because they know they are going to have fun and they know they will please me if they catch a fish!

 

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