Article written by Fishwest Ambassador, Jeff Faulkner.
Kids. Kids. Kids. What to do with kids? The majority of us have them in our lives whether they are our own children, siblings, nieces, grandkids, friends, etc. There are kids everywhere. Nowadays it seems most of them are glued to screens on the wall, screens in their hand, or so committed to a singular sport that they are incapable of doing anything else. All of this BS aside, youth need to get outside and I think on the water is the best spot.
Kids are notoriously difficult to wrangle. They whine a lot, have to pee constantly, possess limited attention spans, and need way too much food when on adventures. That disclaimer aside, some of the best days I have had on the water were with kids in tow. I have three kids and a lot of nieces and nephews that I love to hit the water with. So enjoy this Jeff Faulkner Presents: How to Make Your Own Fishing Buddies
Their experience matters.
My daughter taught me this. Years ago I took her, then 6 years old, hunting on a local landowner’s property to address some coyotes that were posing a threat to their cattle operation. I was hesitant to take her, fearing it would harsh my buzz if you will, but confident that we would have a good time. We got her all camo-ed up and headed for the property, she would not stop talking the whole way. I knew I was in for it. We hiked in, setup the calls, and got our spot all set. We built a little ground blind and turned the call on. Just then I hear a loud “klang! Klang! Klang!”. Confused, I turned my head to see my sweet, darling coyote hunter throwing rocks at a 1lb propane can. I felt both extreme pride in her accuracy and intense frustration at the racket she was making. She then went and picked up the can and proceeded to bang it on the ground. At this point, Wiley and his friends were aware of our presence and what we were trying to do. I tried to rationalize with my young daughter and explain to her that we needed to be silent to get the coyotes and protect the calves. But as I talked to her and saw how excited she was to be outdoors and to have my attention I realized her commotion was coyote control at its finest. Once we wrapped up our efforts, she proceeded to tell me how fun she had and that she couldn’t wait to come back out and see if we couldn’t protect a few more calves lives.
To this day she talks about how much fun it was and how she learned so much and had a good time. I realized that really teaching her what it takes to successfully lure coyotes was not what that trip was about. It was about getting her excited to be outdoors.
The loudest hunting partner I’ve ever had. She was so stoked off the last trip she even joined me in the snow. This time she was quiet and determined to learn.
Leave them wanting more
The same daughter of mine always wants to go with me. She is down for an adventure at the drop of a hat. One beautiful spring day I took her to my secret spot in the Middle Provo. As we were fishing that spot with 200 of our closest friends and fishing buddies, we had the privilege of witnessing an amazing hatch. She was throwing one of my favorite flies, the Mother Shucker (tied by my friend and mentor Phil Bair), on a 7’ fiberglass rod I had built. She was struggling with patience and timing her casting stroke when, SLURP, it happened. He first fish on a fly rod. She was hooting and hollering and was on the adrenaline high we are all familiar with. I showed her how to let it run, then take up some line and get it on the reel, because “line management” and spastic 9 year-olds are not meant to be. We got it to the net took a few pictures and release it to rise another day. I saw the cue, it was time to go when the stoke was on super high. We walked off the water and headed back to the truck. She left with so much love for the sport. Had I let her she would have gone back and stayed on the water the rest of the day chasing that feeling, but would have undoubtedly fizzled out and left frustrated, sunburnt and a decreased desire to get back out. Even though the hatch was still going in full force, we had achieved the goal and hit the road. We spent the drive home listening to the Grateful Dead, eating snacks, and recounting the catch.
My middle fishing buddy with her first fish on a fly rod.
Read the Room
As we progress as anglers the vast majority of us have a change in mindset. The adventure, the comradery, the peace, and the time with loved ones are what we are chasing. It’s less about numbers and more about the craft and experience. Ask any addicted steelheader if getting “skunked” ruins their day and you will get some perspective on their motivations. Henry David Thoreau famously penned, “Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” Until your newly formed fishing buddies can grasp that, assuming they ever do, it is your job to help them go down the path towards that conclusion. When creating your best fishing buddies keep this in mind: if your sidekick is distracted by the muskrats playing in the river or the marmots pushing rocks down the hill, stop and explore it with them. Take them in to the entirety of the outdoors. If fishing becomes a byproduct of your time together, let it happen. In their mind they are on an epic fishing adventure.
If all else fails, cheat a little
My little guy wanted nothing more than to catch a fish. A 4-year-old on the river is quite a lot of work and honestly causes me so much anxiety I rarely enjoy it. So I did what any adult would do to fuel the stoke, I cheated. We went to a private pond here in our community and paid to play. I helped him cast out a streamer and hook this absolute monster of a bow. As a result he only wants to throw streamers and, thanks to the Fishwest staff education, the young man has curated an impressive fly box that would make most grown anglers I know jealous. Here is where the tip turns. I have never taken him back to this pond. He got the first one free and now he knows that he needs to work for it. Every cast he makes he hopes there is one of those monsters lurking below. I haven’t had the heart to tell him how big that rainbow actually is and that it may be a long time before he brings another one like that to the net.
He asked me to print this picture out and it hangs on his bedroom wall. He tells everyone that will listen about time he caught that huge trout on a Snot Rocket.
A Living Legacy
I was raised in a family of adventurers and anglers. My dad was the master of making his own buddies, which in turn made all of his kids eager to experience life together. This spirit has carried into adulthood and though we are not all within close proximity to each other, I still talk to them multiple times a week. Uncle Johnny, pictured below, is my go to fishing buddy. This is the living legacy of our father. He got us out together to make memories and bond and this forged relationships that last forever. Getting your kids on the water will yield positive results that will carry on for generations. Sharing these memories and fostering these relationships with the kids in your life will make them the best fishing buddies ever.
Forgive the spinning rods, but 3 anglers under 11 with fly rods in a 16’ boat is far above my paygrade and patience.
Fishing with kids is difficult, frustrating, and sometimes downright not fun, but you can make excellent fishing buddies out of the children in your life if you can apply some of these tips and persevere through the inevitable suck. I promise it will pay off and the lives of everyone involved will be much richer for the experience. If someone took the time out of their life to make you their fishing buddy, please pay it forward. Fishing is good for the soul.