Dads, Take Your Children Fishing!

Hand in hand, my father and I walked to the shoreline as the wispy mist was stretching its fingers toward the orange-yellow dawn. Silently we boarded the canoe and shoved off, the bow piercing the polished surface of the still sleeping lake, and Dad adroitly maneuvered us toward the opposite shore where a bed of lily pads looked like a promising place to start.

The spoon struck the surface and skipped to within inches of the shore. I reeled in the lure – nothing. Our second cast, this time by Dad, again yielded no fish. Our third cast – my second – landed only two or three inches from the shore, and I was snagged. I tugged on the line and reached around to grab the paddle so that …

WHAM! With a leap and a splash, the northern pike on my line took off for deeper water. That was no snag; that was a fish!

Dad quickly reeled in his line to avoid getting tangled with mine, and he picked up his paddle so that he could move the canoe as needed, keeping my line free. He also made sure the net was ready.

I fought the fish for nearly ten minutes before it finally wore out and neared the surface; just when I could see the fish’s eyes, it turned to lunge back into deeper water, but Dad was quick with the net and scooped the pike out of the cold water and into the canoe.

What a way to start the morning!

And what a way for father and son to spend time together.

I was four years old when Dad took me out fishing for the first time, and we have caught scores of times together over the years. From northern pike and walleye in the northern Minnesota Boundary Waters Canoe Area to the bass and bullhead in the lakes and rivers of Tennessee, to the bass and catfish in the farm ponds of Iowa, we’ve had hours of enjoyment together.

Growing up fishing, I realized pretty early on that one of the reasons Dad took me fishing was so that I could develop patience. Though we had many exciting stories like that northern pike I mentioned earlier, we also had many days where we caught absolutely nothing. For a four or five or fifteen-year-old boy to sit there, hour after hour, waiting for something, anything, to bite, requires a great deal of patience.

Dad also taught me that the most essential part of fishing is in the process, not the end result. Seeking out that trophy, stalking the monster fish, strategizing where that next cast should be or what lure to use – that’s the fun part. Catching that fish is just icing on the cake.

Our fishing trips together weren’t always just about fishing. We had a black bear come into our camp once; another time, a moose onshore jumped into the water and swam after us. We encountered a man with a shotgun once as we were about to step onto shore to sit and have some lunch (we realized later he probably was moonshining with a still nearby – we got out of there in a hurry!). And we’ve had times together when the tent flooded from an unexpected downpour at two o’clock in the morning, everything we had with us was totally soaked, we were chilled to the bone, and all we could do was break into laughter.

So it was, when my kids reached the age of four, that I decided I needed to follow suit and teach them how to fish. More importantly, I needed to spend time with them in that kind of solitude, away from the frenzied pace of our normal daily lives. Whether it’s on a nearby farm pond or in a canoe on a lake miles away, there’s something unique and special about a father and a child fishing together.

As a dad, I soon realized that while I thought my father had taken me fishing to teach me patience, he was actually taking me fishing so that he could strengthen his own patients. My patience has undoubtedly been honed these past few years with my own children!

“Dad, how come we’re not catching any fish?”

“We just got here, son.”

“Dad, can we go home now?”

“We just got here, son.”

“Dad, when will the fish start biting?”

“We just got here, son.”

My kids and I have also added some new twists to our fishing repertoire. The last few years we have learned how to surf fish in the ocean, and we have even ventured out to try deep sea fishing a couple of times.

Yes, it takes planning and preparation – and patience – in setting up a fishing trip, whether it’s a half-day stroll to the local lake or a weekend trip down at the coast, but it’s time well spent.

You’re doing more than creating memories. You’re strengthening that bond between you and your child.

Get out there and do it!

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