Remember the old movie, A River Runs Through It? Fly-fishing is the theme surrounding the story of two brothers and their family in Montana. It’s a marvellous film by Robert Redford with wonderful angling scenes that bring back boyhood memories of learning to fly-fish.
My Dad was an avid fisherman and tried to instill the nuances of the sport into my brother and me. I remember my Dad giving me a Roderick Haig Brown book on the sport which was really inspiring. Unfortunately, I was not especially gifted at fly-fishing, but was glad to discover spin-casting, which is much easier.
I guess that’s why spin-casting was invented — to make fishing a lot easier for those of us who can’t master the art of casting a fly.
In Redford’s movie, A River Runs Through It, fishing looks easy. Flick the line out there into the river, wait a moment for the current to take it and then — voila! — the fish strikes. It all looks pretty basic.
But the movie left out a few things, such as the frustration of:
• Waiting endlessly for fish to bite.
• Casting your line and hooking a tree.
• Casting your line and hooking yourself.
• Getting the line snagged on the bottom.
• Falling down in the river.
• Dropping the fly while trying to tie it on your line.
• Dropping your entire box of flies into the river.
• Trying to swat mosquitoes while doing all of the above.
So as your box of flies floats leisurely out of sight around the bend, you come to realize that this is not quite as simple as it looks. Like all sports, fishing looks easy when done by experts. It’s a great revelation for youngsters when they try it and discover that it’s actually quite difficult.
Teaching the family how to fish
First of all, there's the equipment.
When the kids were young and we got into this sport, it was understandable that everybody in the family wanted their own gear. So for our family, that’s five sets of spin-casting gear.
And, of course, everyone wants their own fishing basket, complete with a vast array of exciting, expensive lures as advertised on those incessant TV fishing shows. Discount cheapies won’t do. It must be the top-notch, name-brand, super-duper, extra-special, guaranteed-to-catch-your-limit, original, tried-and-tested lures that the pros use.
Take out a bank loan.
Naturally, all children want to start fishing right now, so it can be a little stressful trying to bait everyone’s line at once. Lures are flying in all directions, pickerel rigs are tangled up like spaghetti and, of course, worms and minnows are impossible to slide onto a hook quickly without impaling your fingers. The chance of the kids wanting to put on worms and minnows themselves is about one in a million. And, let’s not even discuss leeches.
Children also have a unique way of deciding which lure they want to use, so there is no point in explaining the subtleties of what lure will attract what fish. They want the big, bright, purple one, period! The fact that this lure is almost as big as the fish they're trying to catch is irrelevant to them, so just put on the big, bright, purple one.
Fishing doesn’t exactly fit into today’s mode of instant gratification for children. They want results immediately and can’t always relate to patience and perseverance. So the boredom factor is quick to rear its ugly head. This syndrome is exemplified by the little girl who fished for a while and then threw down her rod in disgust, saying: “I quit! Whatever I do, I can’t seem to get waited on!”
Eating sunflower seeds helps pass the time, but it can be pretty boring for youngsters, unless someone actually gets a bite or, even better, a catch. When that happens, it's a whole new ball ... er ... fishing-game. Talk about enthusiasm. They’re all thinking , “Hey, I want a fish like that too!”
Remember how exciting it was as a kid when you actually caught something? The adrenalin really starts to flow, there’s action in that rod tip and a real fish is about to appear on the end of the line. Reel in some more and there it is. What a great feeling.
But if the fish count doesn't increase, boredom creeps back in and it’s not easy for the kids to stay focussed. This is when you’ll start hearing comments, such as:
• “How much longer?”
• “The fish have all gone home.”
• “I have to go to the bathroom.”
• “Did anyone bring any games?”
• “Whose idea was this, anyway?”
You’ve caught one
The kids are not usually too keen on catch-and-release. They prefer catch-and-mount. They can’t relate to throwing something back after such a long wait. So if the fish is the proper size, you agree to show them how to clean it. Boys will find this extremely interesting and respond with, “Gross!” Girls may offer a slightly less enthusiastic, “Yuch!”
Later, getting children to eat fish is yet another exciting project with about the same odds of success as mentioned earlier. The kids will either like cleaning and eating fish or will start to appreciate catch-and-release. As an old sage once said: “No matter what happens in fishing, you’re ahead. If you catch them, you feel satisfied. If you don’t, you don’t have to clean them!”
Most likely, after a few seasons of mixed results, many lost lures and a freezer-full of smelly minnow containers, your kids will abandon fishing. This will leave you with a fabulous array of equipment just waiting for an enthusiastic garage sale buyer.
But at least you’ve exposed the family to the sport and they may come back to it later in life with fond memories of your guidance and good humour.
The added bonus of this experience is that your sizable investment in all that fishing gear must surely have had a significant impact on the economic recovery.
Well done, angler!