With it being Fathers Day Weekend, I thought this would be apropos…
I love to see parents who get their children out on the water at an early age. My son has been fishing with me since he was probably 4, fly fishing since 7, and paddling since about the same age. If he is free, he will go out with me, with other friends, or by himself. Here is how I developed that.
Start simple. If you are fishing, do it in a park setting where the child can quickly catch bluegill, and when they get bored, head over to the slides. When you catch a fish, let the child reel it in. Take pictures. Get them to touch the fish. Cheer them on. If you take your non-fishing spouse with you, they can then watch the child while you continue to fish more seriously. Do NOT abuse that though!
Plan trips carefully. When Josh started going on weekend trips with me, we would not fish for 10-12 hours a day. I would know what else is around such as museums, hiking, horse back riding, and ice cream. It is time with your son or daughter, so use it wisely. Do not frustrate them. Plan the more adventurous trips without them, and make sure to give your spouse a chance to take a trip that they want to enjoy. Oh yeah, bring lots of snacks and juice boxes!
Focus on safety. If you are in a boat, make sure that the child wears his/her PFD at all times (you should have yours on as well – set the example). Take the time to get one that fits well and is comfortable – the orange horse collars will just irritate them. If you are wading, make sure that she has waders that fit, a belt that is snug, and if necessary, attach a rope leash to them, and a PFD in water that you are not sure about. I have never used that, but know other dads who have<
Teach as you go. The Bible has a passage that says to teach them as you sit, walk, lie down, and rise (Deuteronomy 6:7). The same goes for life. As you rig your rod, teach the knots and the fly or lure that you are putting on. Explain the different types of fish. Talk about water safety. Pick up trash that you find and tell them about how to be a good steward of the environment.
Let them be kids! This means that you will be skipping rocks, looking for turtles, crayfish, getting wet and dirty (an extra set of clothes and a towel in the car is advisable). Don’t expect them to be able to pay attention for hours. When you go to the big box outdoor store or local bait shop, let them explore the fish tank, animal mounts, and bait sinks.
What you will discover is that as the years progress, you will be able to fish longer with them. The child will develop more confidence in the water and you will be able to let them venture out on their own. Do not force them. If they do not enjoy it, find other areas of interest to spend time with them.
I floated from Mio to McKinley on the Au Sable RIver just before Memorial Day with my 13 year old daughter. While she enjoys fishing with me, she enjoys the kayaking more. We fished the first half of the trip, wading at different points. Note that an inexperienced angler flyfishing from a kayak is not advisable. After our stop at Comins, she wanted to just paddle, so that is what we did. I had to put away the rod (passing up some beautiful streamer water!), and we talked and laughed as we paddled and explored.
Guess what, she’ll go with me again.