Thursday, May 5, 2016

Make Fishing Fun for Kids and The Rest Will Come With Time

The most recent volume of Trout Unlimited's quarterly magazine Trout (Spring 2016), was dedicated to mentoring.  Inside was an excellent article on tips for introducing kids to fly fishing, twelve tips to be exact.  Reading the article on bringing kids to the sport of fly fishing reminded me of my own introduction to the sport, or actually, the fishing precursors that eventually brought me to the sport.

My first experience catching a fish wasn't on a fly at all.  I was fishing with my stepdad on the Bighorn River in Thermopolis, Wyoming.  The area we were fishing was below a number of the hot springs from which the town drew its name; mineral laden waters flowed from the terraces above us, down the nearby cliff wall, covering it in rainbow hues. The hot springs are the natural infrastructure for two public swimming pools that make use of the geothermal heated waters.

On this particular day I was walking down the shore, stick in hand, doing the things little boys do on the water front, when my stepdad beckoned my over. "Take this Brad, I think we have something," said my stepdad,  handing me the pole rigged with a hook, worm, and sinker.

Taking the pole, with my stepdad standing directly behind me, I immediately felt the tug on the line and what felt like a tremendous weight as that pull was transmitted through the pole to my little hands.  Unsure what to do, I turned my head, which was answered by a large hand engulfing mine as my stepdad told me to reel in the line.

With only a few cranks of the reel a rainbow trout revealed itself.  It was holding just offshore as my stepdad had reeled the fish in nearly to shore before handing me the rod (little to my knowledge or care at that point).  With my stepdad's help I finished reeling the trophy in (of course my first fish was a trophy, what else would I think?!) half reeling, half- walking backward and dragging it on shore.

All it took was this act of mentorship to hook me for life on fishing.  I learned to fish with worms and a bobber, then graduated to spin casting lures and spoons.  Learning how to cast a fly rod at the side of my grandfather a few years later would eventually put me on a path to fall in love with the sport of fly fishing, which over the years has become coupled with a love of conservation.

My progression in the knowledge and types of fishing was underpinned by something more than the joy of sport or an early love of the outdoors, that all came later.  Before any of that, my mentors made it fun and that made all the difference.