When I was a child, my all-time favorite thing to do was go fishing. There was nothing I loved more than to sit out in a lake, or near a river or creek, and wait for my line to tighten—for the fly to disappear, for the big one to strike.
The enjoyment came from the whole experience: the beautiful surroundings, sitting next to my grandpa or my dad, the peaceful waiting, the thrill of the catch. I loved every aspect of it. To this day, it remains one of my favorite things to do, and I fish any chance I get. I am now trying to cultivate a love of this pastime in my son and soon, my baby daughter.
Here are 9 reasons why you should, too:
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1. It Teaches Patience
Unless you are fishing at a hatchery or into a barrel, you will not usually catch a fish immediately after casting the line. Sometimes you’ll wait 15 minutes, sometimes half an hour, and sometimes you’ll spend the whole day without even a bite. In a time where instant gratification rules, it’s nice to see children accepting and understanding that they can’t control the outcome when it comes to nature. They can’t be all, “Where’s that app that gets that fish on my hook?” And as great as it is to see their faces when their patience pays off and they hook a fish, it’s just as nice to see them be OK with hearing, “Well, not today. Better luck next time.”
2. It Teaches Nature Appreciation
Fishing spots—wherever they may be—are usually beautiful and, at the very least, quaint. As a child, I found it very comforting to be in nature. I could do nothing but smile when I stood fishing, wildflowers and pine trees surrounding me, sun reflecting off the water. And nature seems to happen all around you. Squirrels chase each other up trees, eagles fly overhead and dragonflies hover around you. It’s a wonderland for children. I learned to respect and love the outdoors. And being outdoors is good for any child.
3. It’s Quality Bonding Time
When you’re in the middle of a lake on a boat, or in the middle of a forest by a river, you have relaxed, quiet time together and a perfect opportunity to bond and communicate. Some of my most memorable moments with my grandparents are on the bank of a river or at the end of the dock. My most special moments spent thus far with my father are times spent fishing with him; and sometimes just standing next to him in the river, casting our lines, not saying a word.
They learn that a combination of patience and reading the environment can pay off in the end.
4. It Teaches Kids to Problem-Solve
Fly fishing requires that you know your environment. You must learn what kind of flies or baitfish is on the water at that time of day, and at that time of year. If the fish aren’t biting, you must assess why. It was always fun for me to find out what kind of flies the fish were going after and to learn to read the rise of a feeding fish. If that sounds geeky, well, I was.
5. It Teaches Conservation
Fishing of any kind gives you the opportunity to teach your child about conservation. Teaching your child about the concept of catch-and-release or only taking home what you will eat helps them to understand the importance of ensuring a thriving population of fish for future generations.
6. It Teaches Children to Be Present
You can’t help but feel alive and be present in the moment when you are connecting with nature through fishing. It’s an invigorating, uplifting feeling, and you find yourself observing everything around you and taking it all in. And when that babbling brook or the rushing water of the river calls nature to be present in their junior bladders, hey—you’re in nature! Go for it, Daniel Boone. Now you’re really feeling alive.
7. It’s a Hobby You Can Continue to Enjoy With Them for Life
You can fish with your children until your teeth fall out, and then you can continue to do so from the seat of your motorized Rascal. And then your children can pass down the hobby to their children, and also, they can pass it down to their rascals. You can create a fishing companion in your child and have common ground—a shared activity to enjoy for life.
8. It Teaches Diligence and Builds Confidence
Kids learn to not throw in the towel if they don’t get a bite or reel one in the first day. They learn that a combination of patience and reading the environment can pay off in the end. From feeling the fish strike your line to setting the hook and reeling the fighting fish in is a reward to being patient, paying attention and setting things up correctly. High-five, nature!
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9. It Helps Kids to Not Be So Squeamish
Kids will learn to worm a hook and then to remove the hook from the fish’s mouth. And during times when you decide to keep and eat the fish, your kids will learn to clean the fish. Sure, you may not need these skills in everyday life, but it does put some dirt behind the ears.
Fishing is a beautifully innocent pastime, a wonderful family activity that will bring everyone closer together. It’s a scene right out of a Norman Rockwell painting, which is nice because, let’s face it, sometimes life looks more Edvard Munch’s "Scream."