It’s always fun to pass on some fishing traditions

Schools are done and summer officially arrives later this week. While I’m not going to offer any predictions, I’m cautiously optimistic that we finally might be returning to more normal summer weather patterns this year compared to the rainiest summer on record last year.

That unprecedented monsoon season in our part of the world put a major damper on so many fishing opportunities. I know I fished less last summer than any I can remember in the last 50 years, and many other avid anglers I know experienced a similar disruption to our sport and are craving to make up that lost time on the water.

Fishing has always been an important and gratifying part of my life. I started as a wide-eyed 12-year-old and my fascination grew with each passing season. My personal angling odyssey has taken me throughout the United States and even to Canada and Mexico where I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and fishing with so many others who share my passion for the sport.

But what I most appreciate about a long fishing career is the fact that fishing can be a lifelong hobby and wholesome form of outdoor recreation at a time when folks of all ages desperately need to connect with the natural world in some way.

As a guide and fishing instructor for 30 years, it has been my great pleasure to introduce hundreds of people to fishing or to help them improve their angling skills. Even if they only become casual anglers who fish now and then, I’ve still introduced them to a potential hobby.

Because fishing has no age limits, it can be a great family activity, and to help promote family fishing, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, John Kennedy Chapter of Trout Unlimited and Canoe Creek State Park are sponsoring a series of free instructional events throughout the summer for families with little or no fishing experience.

These Family Fishing Programs are taught by PFBC-trained instructors and allow beginners of all ages to discover how much fun fishing can be when done together. Participants will learn basic fishing skills like knot tying, casting, baiting the hook and taking a fish off the hook, along with the opportunity to use those skills while fishing. The program is open to all ages, including children ages 5 and older. Those under age 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

All equipment is provided, and no fishing license is required during the event. The only “catch”: adults must bring a child and children must bring an adult. You’ll be learning to fish together.

The first event will be next Sunday, June 23, from 2 to 6 p.m. at Canoe Creek State Park. If you would like to attend, you should register online by next Friday at www.register-ed.com/events/view/143371. And if you are unable to attend this event, other Family Fishing Programs scheduled at Canoe Creek State Park this summer include July 21, register online at www.register-ed.com/events/view/143372; August 18, register online at www.register-ed.com/events/view/143373; and September 15, register online at www.register-ed.com/events/view/143374. For more information on any of these events, contact Carl Reed at hookedontrout@aol.com or 886-5817.

Of course, I also encourage fellow fishermen to introduce other adults and youngsters to fishing whenever you can, and I’ve found three basic rules to make that process enjoyable and productive for all concerned. First, use good equipment. I make it a rule never to hand a kid or adult beginner a rod and reel I couldn’t or wouldn’t fish with myself.

And “good” equipment does not necessarily mean expensive. I’ve seen all sorts of decent rod-and-reel combos starting for as little as $25. I strongly recommend avoiding the push-button type spin-cast reels. Some folks like them, but they tend to be clunky and awkward to cast and to fish with.

Also resist the urge to buy one of the cute packaged outfits for kids depicting cartoon characters or something like that. Most of those, too, are cheesy and will be a misery on the water. Opt instead an open-face spinning outfit and take a few minutes to learn to cast with it. I’ve taught kids as young as three to fish with a smaller open-face spinning outfit.

Rule number two is to catch something. I know that might seem obvious, but I know many nice folks who fish a lot and really enjoy it but don’t catch many fish. And fishing is certainly not always about catching a bunch of fish. But beginners need a little positive reinforcement for their efforts. There is something magical about feeling a fish at the end of your line, so a beginner needs a good dose of that magic. Beginners don’t care what species of fish or how big they are. All that will come soon enough once they are hooked on the sport. Find a bunch of sunfish or other species that will be sure to bite and have at them.

Finally, keep it fun. I see a lot of adults who take kids fishing and end up boring them to death. Remember, “sit down and be quiet” sounds more like punishment than recreation to a youngster. Kids are full of energy and like to be doing something, not sitting. Don’t make them sit and watch a stupid bobber, especially if the fish are biting well.

Tie on some kind of lure and teach them to cast and retrieve it properly. Young folks have a short attention span and are often diverted by other things around them. Let them catch bugs, pick flowers or throw stones if they want. Let them indulge their natural fascination for all the things in nature around them.

You want them to want to come back outdoors. Teaching others to fish can be giving them the gift of a wholesome form of outdoor recreation, something that could potentially be a satisfying lifetime hobby.

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