Anyone who tells you they don’t go fishing to catch fish is either a liar, a bad fisherman or a parent. Unfortunately for my fishing addiction, I am the latter of the three.
When my kids were born, I imagined them chasing fish at my side the way Texas parents imagine standing on the sidelines of youth football games. Instead, mine run around like rabid squirrels, scaring every fish in a square mile that thinks twice about taking a fly. Fishing becomes a bit of a Catch-22 when you have children. I continue to bring them along, waiting for the day they catch fish fever and I can actually catch a fish.
There is a difference between fishing “with kids” and fishing “for kids.” Fishing with kids is kind of like being a rodeo clown in a library with a bull racing after you all the while trying to remain calm and quiet and not getting busted by the librarian. There is no more sneaking up on fish and making the perfect cast. I could have the state record in my sights, fly sailing in the air to the exact spot, stars aligned, fish rising to take it, and Huckelberry or Goose would throw a rock spot on. The fish has a better chance of being hit and killed by a rogue stone thrown by one of my kids than from my deadly accurate cast. And God forbid I actually do catch a fish, then I have to deal with hook removal from the fish or, more likely, from one of my appendages with a 2-year-old as my shoreline scrub nurse.
Fishing “with kids” implies that you are actually fishing and they are along to join you in the catching portion. In reality, going fishing with kids isn’t actually about fishing at all. Fishing with kids is about family and kids. My fishing bag now doubles as a diaper bag with dry shake tucked in next to the Balmex so I can dry up diaper rash while simultaneously drying my flies. Sometimes, I like to think that I can use the diaper cream for my chafed attitude when I miss a fish because one of my littles screams “Look Mama there’s a fish,” as the fish swims away in terror.
I have decided for hard-core anglers like myself, it’s better to concede and instead head out with the intention to fish “for kids.” It’s a better experience for everyone and, you know what, sometimes I actually do get to catch a fish this way.
Fishing “for kids” entails looking at the experience from their eye level. It’s a Waldorf approach to chasing trout, if I may. Kids see fishing from a different perspective than we do. They see it all: bugs, flowers, rocks to skip or sink. They see Bigfoot and monsters and butterfly fairies. They see marmots and chipmunks they have conversations with. They see shapes in the clouds and sea monsters in their reflection on the water. In reality, there is a lot of time spent fishing that doesn’t involve catching. It’s this hole in time, the flux capacitor of fishing, that you must fill for them in order to have a better chance to fill your net.
Above all, fishing with kids needs to be fun. It’s important to fill the not-catching time with important facts, like how to hold your mouth right and not to forget your lucky hat. Swear words are a slightly advanced fishing technique used when there is significantly more fishing than catching happening. My 8-year-old, Goose, has graduated to swearing at the fish and is thrilled when it works. Huck is not far behind. Ahh, the delights of parenthood and fishing, once thought mutually exclusive, now can be attained in perfect unison. All I had to do was adjust the lure to the sport for the children, not the lure to the fish. As fishermen, once we stop and adjust the experience and take into consideration the broader spectrum kids see as fishing, we all end up doing a little catching.
It’s also important to pick a spot where kids are more likely to land a fish. We have plenty of smaller lakes in the area to explore. From Andrews to Pastorius, whether you head north or south, a few things will remain constant: make it fun and keep it simple. Get kids a decent fishing pole, something that will reliably throw a roostertail or a salmon egg. Even if you are a fly fisherman like myself, remember that little ones aren’t typically capable of handling a 9-foot fly rod. It’s OK to chuck some heavy metal or the dreaded 4 letter word: “worm.” We all started somewhere, the important thing is to get kids out fishing.
Children bring a new meaning to patience while fishing, either with them or for them, and as fishermen, patience is a good example to set before we set the hook.
Jenny can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org