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Fishing out my back door and beyond

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The pond that we dug when we built our home is not very large but it has been the source of many hours of fun.

When we converted a wet tractor-eating area into a pond, there were no great plans for a fishing pond, but it was soon filled with insects and enough frogs to keep three boys busy for hours. A bit later, a few minnows left over in a bait bucket were added. These were joined by a few bullhead from a Scout fishing day. Soon we had a fishing pond.

To be fair, the catches are not trophies, nor edible, but they made up for that in their willingness to trade a few moments of freedom for a bit of food. I felt we were making out the best in these trades for all that they taught:

  • Fishing skills – How to tie a knot, bait a hook, cast and retrieve. The basics soon give way to the skills testing. How close can you cast to that weed? Who can cast farther? Snag the largest fish? Or the smallest fish? There are no concerns about scaring the fish. Or wasting time. The goal was just have fun. Even the adults got some practice casting. Minnows on a #16 dry fly are still fun.
  • Patience – Sitting together watching a bobber is not as fast-paced as a video game but delayed gratification is an important skill to learn. This is also a great time for conversations ranging from deep and meaningful to utter nonsense. My granddaughter loves good stories as much as I like telling them. Unfortunately, she has become adept at knowing when I may have strayed too far from the truth (also an important skill to learn).
  • Biology – Observing leads to questions. Tadpoles turn into frogs; dragonflies lay eggs in the water; where did the water chestnut come from? How do fish breathe in the water? If I can share my knowledge – or have to say I do not know, let’s look it up – we are learning.
  • Respect for nature – We practice catch and release. To make this easier we flatten the barbs or use barbless hooks. Using a larger hook also help makes it easier to release them.
Teaching children how to fish is about more than simply reeling in a big one.

Before very long a fisherperson will want to pit their skills and luck against larger fish. These opportunities are easy to find. Local ponds, lakes and rivers offer the challenge and adventure of using what we learned about habitat and biology for finding the “good spots.” The fishing skills and patience translate well and the first “big fish” is a lifetime memory for both the student and the teacher.

If you want to try fishing without too much of an investment, fishing gear shows up at garage sales at bargain prices, or a good quality beginner fishing kit is available at any sporting goods store. (They often can offer advice on where to go and what baits or lures are producing.)

Check on your local laws – a fishing license may be needed for adults. Kids often do not need one. The license fees go toward improving fishing for everyone through stocking , habitat improvement, education and enforcement of regulations. The season and size regulations are in place to protect breeding fish and to ensure that fishing remains viable into the future. Many states offer “free fishing days.” You can see a list at Give it a try.

Tight lines,

Dan Wren

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