This is reprinted from TravelingDad.com.
A big part of modern parenting is “memory building.” We’re told in all of the magazines and self-help seminars that we should build memories with our kids. Back in the 70s and 80s, this was just doing stuff as a family. For fun. Now, it’s a job.
In the name of memory building, my job recently was to take the kids fishing. Since my day job is driving other people’s brand new cars, you can hopefully see the sarcasm in my use of that word. The other people’s brand new car I had for this fishing trip is the really cool-looking 2018 Nissan Titan in its Midnight Edition. Truck makers love doing blackouts on their trucks and buyers love gobbling up those editions. Because.. Well, just look at it. It’s sweet.
The Titan has a great look and the Midnight Edition adds a lot of flavor to that. Compliments on the truck were common. One guy even offered to trade his older Chevrolet truck, a dirt bike, a couple of tractor tires, and his ex-wife “straight across” for the Titan. I told him that I already have an ex.
Now that we had the truck, we were ready for fishing. But wait. Before we could take fishing seriously, there were going to have to be a few things adjusted. My kids are 7, 8, and 9 years of age. I figured they’ve grown out of those Disney Princess and Spiderman poles and it was time they got some real fishing gear. So we went to the store and kitted them out in longer, grownup’s poles. Still with beginner’s push-button, enclosed spinning reels, but learning to fish is a step-by-step process.
TEACHING KIDS TO FISH
The first step is teaching kids what fishing is all about. My kids have been fishing many times before. We started with them just holding my fishing rod after I’d cast a bobber and some bait into the water. Then letting them reel it in. At three and four years old, that’s pretty impressive to a kid.
Soon, it was time for some poles. So we got the short little, largely useless branded rods you buy at Walmart and other box stores. They come with some equally useless gear and are more about the pre-printed characters and fake lures with no hooks (for safety!) than they are about actually catching fish. If the kids do hook a real swimmer, the rod is definitely going into the lake after it. Hopefully without the kid in tow.
Once they’ve got the idea of casting down, no matter their size, they can graduate to a real fishing rod with at least five feet of length to it. These don’t have to be expensive (ours were $15 each) and shouldn’t be. Because they’re going to get dunked, stepped on, left behind, run over, and generally abused. Another season of learning to cast and to not hook things they shouldn’t or didn’t mean to hook (i.e. each other) is next. That’s where we are now. Eventually, their own little tackle boxes, learning to tie proper fishing knots, and so on are in the works.
GETTING TO THE LAKE
Going fishing is like going camping, but without the tent. Otherwise, most of the stuff you’ll need to have for a camping trip is what you’ll need on a proper fishing trip. The essentials like food, water, bug spray, sunblock, TP, something to sit on that isn’t a rock, and some backup bug spray. Bugs love water and since you’re next to the water, the math isn’t tough to do. I’d also recommend pre-setting the fishing rigs so that once there, the fuss of getting a line into the water is minimal.
On the drive up to the lake, we had all four of us inside the big Nissan Titan Crew, the kiddos lined up in the back seat. The Titan is a big, beefy, well-built pickup truck. It rides well, sounds muscular, and does all of the things you want a pickup truck to be able to do. The standard gasoline Titan we were driving has a burly 5.6-liter V8 and four-wheel drive. The kids spent most of the ride trying to spot pronghorn and calves (spring in Wyoming) while arguing over the nuances of Minecraft. And asking me, at every song change on the radio, whether or not this was my favorite song. Or asking if this is the band with the one-armed drummer guy. Or whether the lead singer is dead or not. Often all of those in succession.
Our gear was stowed in the Titan’s bed, tied into place, and the cooler was full of ice and goodies. I’d also made sure all of the kids were wearing their Tevas because getting into the water is inevitable.
We eventually arrived at the lake and tooled around the perimeter to find the right spot. We were at Curt Gowdy State Park, just west of Cheyenne, Wyoming. There are actually two lakes in that immediate area, we chose the lower one, Crystal Reservoir, as our spot. It’s generally less busy and parking near the water or trees is usually simpler.
We found our initial spot and got unloaded.
FISHING WITH KIDS
The joke about fishing with kids is that you’ll spend all of your time setting up their poles and baiting their lines and never get to fish on your own. If you do get a cast in, it will immediately be followed by one of the kids catching a fish instead. That joke is rooted in some reality, hence the “preset everything possible” advice above. If all that’s required is to put on a hook, bait it, and hand it over to your kid, then the fuss is minimal.
From there, I’d also recommend having kids fish with floating bait or stationary bait like worms, trout pellets, etc. These rarely fall off the hook, last quite a while before needing to be changed out, and add enough weight to the line that casting is easy. This means you’ll be more likely to have time to fish as well.
With three kids, that strategy worked. All three put their lines out and I chose a spot and did so myself. We fished at that location for quite a while, or at least until the kids started getting fidgety. I let the kids reel in and re-cast as often as they’d like. It’s their line and it’s good practice. All three are pretty good at it. Constant reminders to pay attention to where the hooks were and where they were going were all that was required. The occasional replacement of bait or swapping for something different (fake worms were popular too) was all the work I had to put into it.
We loaded up and moved down the lake to another one and tried again. We ate lunch before setting up our lines and were in the trees and more comfortable this time. The kids eventually gave up on fishing and just played in the water. I moved off a little from them and fished while the gettin’ was good.
We didn’t catch anything that day, but it was a full day of good times. It was a great trip: the bonding was good, the drive was easy, and the kids enjoyed it. They often ask when we’re going fishing again and if we can try other places. I’m happy to oblige. Sadly, the 2018 Nissan Titan Midnight Edition is now gone, replaced with a decidedly non-fishing vehicle from BMW. But we will manage.