When you’re teaching children how to cast, do it anywhere but on the water while you’re fishing. Tie a rubber practice-casting plug onto their line and make a game out of practicing by setting up targets in a field or on your lawn. Start with a large target. Initially have them hold the rod while you make the motions. Unlike many adults, young children have not yet acquired bad casting habits, which may make your teaching job a little easier.
It’s a good idea for many youngsters to learn to cast two-handed, with their dominant hand on the reel seat and subordinate hand on the butt. All modern spinning reels, and some spincasting models, are convertible to either right- or left-hand retrieve, so be sure to set a reel up properly for a young angler. Youngsters shouldn’t be forced to fish right-handed if they’re lefties, or vice versa.
Overcome Line Issues
One of the biggest problems children have is line tangling. Often kids turn the reel handle backward, which is not a line problem but becomes one when the line gets stuck in places where it was not meant to be.
Engage the reel’s anti-reverse mechanism (often called the “clicker”). This prevents backward reeling.
Line twist is an even greater challenge, invariably caused by reeling against a slipping drag while playing a fish. Either the drag is too loose or the child shouldn’t be reeling at that moment. Young anglers have to be shown the function of a reel drag, how it works, and how to play fish. The younger they are the harder it is for them to comprehend this. To start, set the drag at a medium rate of tension to prevent slippage while reeling. As the child becomes more experienced, you may need to lighten drag tension in accordance with the strength of the line being used.
Let Them Tackle Bigger Fish
As youngsters progress they’ll need to learn how to play stronger fish and how to land them. Carp are a good fish to sharpen those skills because they grow large and put up a good fight when caught on light tackle, although many anglers don’t even try to catch them. Catching some harder-fighting fish teaches young anglers how to handle fish that are larger than the run-of-the-mill panfish. It also gives them confidence and pride. When they advance to bass, trout, stripers, or whatever, they’ll have some idea just what to do.
An Opportunity to Instill Principles
In time, young anglers will be ready to learn a lot of other things, from picking up their bait container and candy wrapper, to being careful how they cast, watching for the location of other anglers or trees or bushes, and developing an appreciation and understanding of natural resources.
New anglers can learn so much from books and science classes, but there’s nothing like first-hand outdoor experience. When they’re fishing, it’s all happening right in front of them, especially in fall and spring. As they get older, they’ll learn the principles of sportsmanship, the purpose of regulations and why it’s necessary to abide by them, and how to do right even when no one else is looking.
Remember the most important element of taking a youngster fishing is that it be fun. So it helps if you pay attention to incidental details. Always bring a cooler along with food, drink, and treats, even if it’s just a morning outing.
Have some bug repellent on hand to ward off potential misery. Try to avoid rainy or windy days on open water, and cold weather. In the fall, pick days that are sunny and relatively calm. Dress kids warmly. They can remove clothing to cool off if conditions warrant. Try to foresee the need to answer nature’s call; no one likes to be uncomfortable.
Let them play with the worms. Don’t force them to handle fish or bait if they’re squeamish. Above all, don’t force them to go fishing. It’s best that they go when they’ve decided they want to. Then make the most of it.