As I grow older, I really get the sense there are no guarantees in this world. The markets, employment, housing bubbles, and so on. Well, I suppose traffic in southern California is something you can always count on. That runs like clockwork! So many other things, though, don’t go as planned. I guess this is where the old adage comes in, "It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.
We’ve been learning more and more about fishing as the boys come of age. It was never part of my childhood, but I fell in love with fishing after I learned how to cook fresh trout. While catch and release is a great way to fish, I am more of a catch and pan-fry sort of person. It’s all part of me finding my place amongst the bounty of nature. I felt like my eyes were opened to what so many had forgotten was there. Not many people know where their food comes from today and sadly—especially in California—some don’t even know what the fish they eat looks like, except as a fillet on a plate.
Along with this, we’ve started learning a thing or two about what it takes to go fishing with kids. Now, some of you may have a fair idea. A lot of people I know who like going fishing with their kids have one—maybe two—kids. I’m dealing with four. So, I have BIG learnings to pass along, people! In any case, these are five of the best things we’ve learned over the last couple years.
1. Bring a hat. A fancy one.
- The sun is a brutal adversary. Even if it’s cloudy, that giant ball of burning gas will send its punishment straight to your face.
- Sometimes a good hat even helps mark the moment. It may not be the biggest thing, but a hat can be fun and help build positive memories. You can even stick your patches and spare bobbers on it.
2. Take snacks
- Duh. You have children. You can't forget the snacks.
- When fishing, try not to bring smelly or oily snacks because fish can smell. Try to bring dry and heatproof snacks. Melted chocolate gets messy.
3. Weather doesn’t follow the rules
- Depending on where you’re fishing, weather can be sporadic. It’s a good idea to know the possibilities in the area.
- Weather can change your safety needs. Make sure to bring water and possibly a warm set of clothing. A long day in the sun can be draining on the little ones, and what is cool to you may wind up being uncomfortably cold for them.
- Know when to call it. You might just have to make the responsible decision to pack it in. Extreme heat, lighting, or cold could become a safety concern.
4. Remember their age
- Different age groups respond to fishing differently. The smaller they are, the less likely they are to have the attention span for long bouts of...well...nothing. Try not to get frustrated when they don’t seem as attentive as you want them to be.
- Allow for diversion. Sometimes, letting them take their mind off things will help their stamina throughout the whole experience. When fishing on a big river, my sons like tossing blades of grass in the water so "ants can find them and hang on when they get tired of swimming." Well, okay then.
- Kids 4–6: This is a good time to talk about rules for equipment and safety. Remember, hooks are sharp.
- Kids 6–10: These guys are going to have more hands-on time at this age, so talk about regulations and laws, cleaning, ethics and moral lessons. How you treat a fish when caught is a valuable lesson and this is a great age to embed these ideas.
- Kids 10+: At this age, kids are more dexterous and coordinated. They also get more competitive. This is a great age to work on technique and styles as well as get an idea of what type of fishing they prefer. Bass, trout, pier fishing, or maybe even ocean sport fishing could be of interest.
5. Be patient
- Start out understanding that nothing might go your way.
- Remember, THEY are the ones with the "take away." It’s not about you.
- Have fun! At the very least, you’re with your kids. They will remember you the way you are in these moments. You can mold the moment however you want.
We recently got a chance to fish on the Eagle River in Colorado, where these lessons came into play in one way or another. As much as I loved the chance to try and catch fish in the cold river, it was more about making small memories for the boys. Of course, they had hats. We always have hats. And with Chelsea holding the smallest boy, the bigger ones passed a bit of the time tossing grass life-rafts in the water. We got lucky with excellent weather and a river parade of rafts and fly fisherman who caught a whole heck of a lot more than we did.
We did, however, take home a ton of memories.
To learn more about the fishing and boating opportunities waiting out there for your family, visit Take Me Fishing. Be sure to share your own family’s memories with us on social using #FirstCatch.