If you have ever taken a younger person on a fishing outing with you before, you have no doubt dreaded hearing the words “I’m bored,” or “Can we go home yet”.
“There’s no fish,” is another phrase that often signals the beginning of the end of an unsuccessful trip. This can also apply when taking out people who are new to the sport. They are usually more polite however, so them not having fun comes through with their body language as opposed to children (or girlfriends) who will tell it to you straight up.
In years past, I have lead many a fishing excursion with kids where the desired result of having a ton of fun left something to be desired. Thankfully, a stop for ice cream or Slurpees on the way home was usually enough to make them quickly forget. The thing is the whole point of me taking them on these outings was to make memories, have fun, and to get hooked on fishing.
I used to take my younger cousins with me and later my nieces and nephews on various trips to places like Selkirk, Portage la Prairie, Gimli, and the Whiteshell. Some trips were more fun than others. At first I equated good times with good fishing. What I came to learn was that the best outings were the ones where we didn’t even catch that many fish, if any at all.
Early on, I would take on either one of two personas when heading out on a trip. One where I would set really high expectations for the day saying things like “We’re going to hammer ‘em!” or “Get ready guys ‘cause it’s going to be unreal”. What sounds like positive thinking or just healthy optimism to an adult, means quite literally ‘we are going to catch a lot of fish today’ to a kid. As it would turn out, anything less than a gazillion fish was taken as a failure by my crew in tow. This would put a lot of pressure on myself to come through. At the first sign of slow fishing, my demeanour and outlook would be affected negatively and this was contagious to the kids.
At the other end of the perceived success spectrum, I would other times set the bar very low. But even in doing this, I was just transferring the pressure from myself onto the kids instead. “I want you to catch at least one today,” or “We can’t get skunked”. These types of comments made the kids feel like they had to succeed or they would be letting me or someone at home like their Mom or Dad down. If they happened to land a nice fish or two, I observed that it wasn’t joy they exhibited after but more relief than anything that they didn’t fail. And that was definitely not the feeling that I wanted them to associate with catching a fish.
After years of ‘kids fishing trips’, the best tip that I can give anyone who wants to get a kid hooked on fishing is to not make the trip about catching fish.
Certainly focus can be put on the act of fishing, however you may want to do that, but the overall success or failure of the day should not be defined by whether or not a set number of fish or a certain size is caught. A child having a line in the water and being outdoors for an hour or all day should be something to high-five about on the way home as long as everyone had fun. The only way a child knows any different is when we as adults set expectations on the results we want to see.
Today I can safely say that my best ‘fishing buddies’ are my two daughters (9 and 10). They were hooked on fishing long before those memorable trips when they caught their own first fish. I could go on and on about various Do’s and Don’ts and tips for taking kids fishing which I don’t have the space to fully get into here. Perhaps in another issue I will list some out. My main message is to keep it light, or ‘relaxed lang pag kasama ang mga bata’. With this approach, you can create fishing buddies for life. As I always say, there are a lot worse things that people can be doing nowadays than fishing.