A neighbor of mine decided her three kids weren’t going to waste their family vacation time by sitting around and whining about nothing to do at their grandfather’s farm.
So she decided to take them fishing.
My neighbor, who could count on one hand the number of times she’d been fishing herself, was undeterred. She bought some inexpensive rods and reels. She taught herself how to spool a reel with fishing line. She stayed busy putting worms on all the hooks.
“I really didn’t know what I was doing,” she confessed, “but the kids caught some fish and had a great time. I want to take them again.”
My neighbor did most things correctly. For starters, she picked spincast reels for her kids. These reels are closed at the front and back, and resemble an egg sitting atop the rod. You cast these reels by pressing a button with your thumb, then releasing it as the rod swings forward.
Marc Johnson, who estimates that he’s taught more than 50,000 people how to fish since becoming aquatic education administrator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources in 2004, says these types of reels are easy to cast.
“A lot of people have trouble figuring out when to release the button,” he explains. “I tell people to pretend they’re throwing a baseball—you just release the button at the same point where you throw the ball.”
Youngsters can master a sidearm cast by pretending they’re playing T-ball. Except in this case, they swing the rod level with the ground instead of tucking it over their shoulder to start. As they swing the fishing rod forward, they let go of the reel’s button at the same position where the bat would connect with the ball.
Another problem Johnson sees frequently is beginners using a hook that’s too big. “You can catch a big fish on a small hook, but you can’t catch a small fish on a big hook,” he says. “You don’t have to have a big hook to catch a big fish.”
Beginners should stick with hooks with size 6 or 8 marked on the package. Red worms, wax worms, crickets, and minnows make the best fish baits. If this makes you squeamish, however, try a chunk of hot dog instead. Or roll a ball of dough from stale bread and stick it onto a hook. A tiny touch of vanilla extract mixed into the dough draws the fish sometimes. You never know what your kids might catch.
LEARN HOW TO FISH with a free copy of Basic Fishing. This booklet includes all you need to know to get started. Order your copy by e-mailing the department at firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning (800) 858-1549.