Your daughter is giggling as her rod arcs and stutters against another stringer-worthy bluegill. The sun is shining as she adoringly looks up at you and asks if she can stay at the pond forever.
Then the sound of her sobbing startles you out of that daydream and you're back to swatting mosquitoes, begging your daughter to hold it together and praying something bites in the next ten minutes.
Why can't fishing with your kids be like the vision in your mind? Maybe it's because you're doing it wrong.
Everyone wants their kids to love fishing as much as they do, but it's possible you're doing things on your trips that are getting in the way of that dream. See if you're guilty of any of the wrong ways to take your kid fishing.
You're trying to fish too.
If you think you can manage a kiddo wielding a rod and catch fish yourself, think again. I know. You love fishing. That's why you're both here. You can't bear the thought of being near the water without casting...but you can't fish and focus on your child having a great time.
This experience is all about them. They need to have fun. They need to feel like it's no big deal if they can't cast or if they reel the bait in once it hits the water. This is another type of play.
Save yourself the temptation of dividing your attention by leaving your gear at home. Think of yourself as a guide, only instead of trying to put the client on fish, you're creating a fun and memorable experience that they'll want to come back to in the future.
You think this is a fishing trip.
If you define success only as catching fish, you may be setting a bar that they can't meet. There's a possibility you won't even get a bite. To a kid, fishing is a chance to have an adventure with one of the most important people in their entire world. Make it fun and focus on them, not the fish.
Take pictures. Make them a big deal. Bring snacks and drinks. Make them comfortable. Maybe that means bringing chairs to sit on or spraying down with bug repellent so they don't get eaten up by insects. They'll be more likely to want a repeat performance if they're well taken care of.
Let them do as much as they can. Will you get frustrated at times? Probably. Will they learn and grow from the independence? Absolutely. Will you have a lifelong fishing buddy? Hopefully!
You've outfitted them with crappy gear.
Why do we give our youngest fishermen, who have the least dexterity, the worst equipment? You've seen it. The kids fishing combo kit blister-wrapped onto cardboard with Barbie or Transformers all over it. Barbie wouldn't be caught dead fishing and a Transformer would vaporize the pond before he fished it.
That aside, most of those kid's reels feel like they come pre-installed with sand in the gears and the line has more memory than an old phone cord. Bad equipment adds another barrier to your kid enjoying the experience and hooking into a fish.
If you can, spend a little money and get them a micro-light reel from a reputable manufacturer. A few options for quality, kid-friendly reels are the Zebco 33, the Diawa SilverCast MC40, or the Abu Garcia 276Ui.
Maybe your son or daughter will end up loving fishing or maybe they won't. Regardless, give them the best opportunity to enjoy the adventure by avoiding these mistakes. Now let's do it right by tossing some Goldfish crackers and juice boxes into your tackle bag for your next fishing trip.