Take Me Fishing! Five tips for teaching a newbie to fish

By Diana Rupp

When we think of beginning anglers, we often think of kids. But there are also plenty of adults who are interested in learning to fish, but don’t know where to start. You might be surprised at how many of the people you know would go fishing with you if you asked them!

Mentoring a new angler, whether a youngster or an adult, is a rewarding experience. Helping someone catch their first fish is every bit as much fun as catching one yourself. Spending time helping new anglers learn to love fishing also helps ensure that there will continue to be people who care about our waterways and fish resources in the future. 

an angler with a fish
Stocked ponds are great places to work on basic angling skills such as landing and unhooking fish. Image credit: Trail’s End Media

Here are five things to consider when you decide to help someone learn to fish. These tips apply to both kids and adults.

1: Choose a fishing spot where the beginning angler is likely to experience success. As we all know, fishing is a lot more fun when you are actually catching fish. If you’re an experienced angler, you probably focus your own fishing on places where you can catch “big ones,” but for a newbie, any fish, even a small one, is a trophy. Small ponds and lakes full of bluegills and panfish, or stocked trout ponds, are great places to start. Catching a few fish right away (no matter how small they are) allows the new angler to learn basic skills like landing and unhooking fish, and it’s almost guaranteed to get them interested in fishing with you again.

2: Remember that you’re not the one fishing. When I started taking new people fishing with me, this was the hardest lesson for me to learn. When you’re fishing with a newbie, you may not even get a chance to wet a line yourself, and that’s OK. You should be spending your time helping them learn the basics, tying knots, baiting hooks, showing them where to cast, and helping them land any fish they catch. It’s all about them, not you!

a fish doesn't have to be big
A fish doesn’t have to be big to make a new angler happy! Image credit: Trail’s End Media

3: Make sure your new angler is comfortable. It’s hard to have fun, or focus on learning something new, if you’re cold, wet, or hungry. This especially applies to kids, but trust me, adult anglers can get pretty cranky if they haven’t dressed appropriately or eaten a good breakfast. I always bring extra stuff along—hats, jackets, water, and plenty of snacks. If your new angler is getting frustrated, take a break and suggest they eat or drink something. It’s amazing what a difference it can make.

4: Focus on the whole experience. Although catching fish is important, we all know that there are many other reasons we fish: seeing wildlife, enjoying the scenery, and just being out in nature. Take time to help your new angler appreciate these things. Kids are amazed and fascinated by things like minnows swimming in the shallows and bugs crawling on rocks—things that we adults often forget to notice. Don’t discourage them from trying to catch frogs or digging a shell out of the mud; let them have fun, even if you think they should be fishing. Whether it’s a kid or an adult, spend time with your new angler talking about wildflowers, birds, bugs, and the many wonders of nature that surround you. 

5: Finally, and most important: Be upbeat and encouraging. Fishing is supposed to be fun! Things may not go the way you’d hoped when you decided to bring your new angler on the water with you, but that’s fishing—and life. You can still have a great time if you decide that whatever happens, you’re going to enjoy and embrace the experience. After all, you’re sharing your favorite pastime with someone you care about. What could be better?

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