How Are They Different, and How Can We Encourage Them?
So here's some good news: the number of young anglers is on the rise, reversing a two decade trend. The problem has sometimes been called Nature Deficit Disorder, which overstates the case but identifies a real issue: kids have been spending less and less time outdoors.
It's encouraging to hear that young anglers can be enticed back outside, even in an age glutted with digital entertainment. And given that the future of our sport matters, it seems worthwhile to ask how the next generation of anglers have been brought back, and how we can keep up the good work.
Taking Advantage of Urban Wilderness
I'm not talking "concrete jungle"--I mean the growth in urban parks and other outdoor spaces where good fishing can be found close to home. It almost goes without saying how this helps get young anglers into the sport. Having good water in your back yard means you can go fishing cheaper and more often. A lot of cities also run high quality stocking programs, giving kids a chance to hone their skills against a wider variety of fish. Urban fisheries have been used all over the country to bring kids and their families out to the river and the lake.
Children Are Better Learners
More from Wide Open Spaces:
Educators, child psychologists, and I guess Jeff Foxworthy all know that children are powerful learning machines. It may not seem like it when your kid tries to bake mud pies in the microwave, but children are absorbing a lot of information at once, and their brains are designed to absorb it quickly.
Adults who try to pick up the sport are often discouraged when they get skunked several trips in a row. Often the problem is a deficit of know-how. With a little guidance, kids can rapidly overcome that learning curve, and success from early on will help sustain their interest in the sport.
How They'll Change the Sport
I have never heard the expression Fly Fishing 2.0, and I don't know if I like it. But apparently that's what I'm doing right now, and it's a real phenomenon. Like everything else, fishing has found its way to the Internet. Unlike a lot of other things, that's significantly increased fishing's exposure and availability. Information that used to be privileged to guides and veteran fisherman can now find its way to anyone via Google. Sharing that knowledge will help people fish better and have a more exciting time on the water, hopefully eroding the popular image of fishing as a flimsy pretext for drinking.
As much as people grouse about the internet, that may be what winds up saving our sport for the next generation. Their fluency with new technologies won't change the basics of fishing--who would want it to?--but it is going to keep them close to the sport, help them share information, and draw in new anglers.