How the Outside Won

These days you’ll find that kids are more apt and happy to sit inside on a nice day and play computer and video games rather than experience the outdoors. It’s astounding how normal this has become these days (my kids included). Sure they still may go outside once in a while and go for a bike ride or something but from my own experience, they’re usually inside playing Fortnite or some other popular game online. It’s a bit disheartening to realize because I have skills that I want to pass on to them but they don’t seem genuinely interested the least bit. I can’t force them because that will not resonate well and they may have an adverse reaction to the teachings.

Well there’s hope just yet. While my girlfriend is away at school for her doctorate program I am watching her 15yr old son. The other day I was working from home and I asked him if he wanted to get out of the house. He said sure and I gave him two options. Go mountain biking or go kayak fishing? He quickly replied kayak fishing. I was like, really? He’s one of the computer kids and he surprised me with this sudden interest. He’s been around me for some time now and knows that I fish a lot but never asked me to go with. I’ve just learned that you have to wait for a kid to be genuinely interested and then the conversation can begin. We got the gear together and then we grabbed a kayak. This time out I wasn’t sure how he’d like the experience of fishing while kayaking because it can be quite daunting for some just due to the coordinated effort of managing the kayak while you cast and retrieve. It can really be a chore 1st time out and some, including adults, believe it to be too complicated and then refer to their old ways of getting on fish and end up going back to what they know and are more comfortable with. I put him in one of the cheaper kayaks we have that you can buy at a big box store. It’s actually a nice $150 sit in kayak and I’ve used it in the past but more importantly I knew it would be stable and easy to manage for a kid.

Before leaving the house I had asked him what kind of poles he liked to use and his answer was “the push button kind”. Well we all know that’s the typical newbie rod and reel combo of the closed face kind similar to a Zebco 202. We all started there and I was more than happy to dig out some of the kid poles for him to use. Since he was obviously a novice and he would be using bait on a bobber I tried to think what we had in the house that could be used as bait. We had nothing for the most part so I grabbed some ham for him. Looking back I probably should have grabbed the bread as well but I digress. We made it to the lake and I got him all set up. I was in my Jackson Kayak BigRig FD and he was in the cheaper kayak. I threw a few casts but was watching him most of the time. I saw that he was using too big of a bait (ham) and we downsized it quite a bit to fit on his small hook. I continued to watch him and saw the bluegill tearing at his hook as the bobber danced on the surface never completely submerging. I saw him miss a bunch of fish but I think the fish were small and the hook was too big. This continued for a while and I was already finding fish with the good ole wacky rig. I yelled over to him, “Do you want to try using my setup?” I kind of knew that his answer would be yes because he saw me land a couple bass already. He came over to my kayak and I gave him an impromptu spinning reel / wacky rig 101 lesson. He practiced out in the deeper water and them moved closer towards the shore and started casting. He had some struggles at first but quickly became acclimated and told me he was starting to get it. I was coaching him on where he should cast. I saw some sunken timber and knew there was grass ahead of it and I told him to cast right by the lumber. He made a pretty close cast and was dealing with some slack line as the Crabby Bass Whacker worm sank. I was talking to him watching his line and I said, “Hey, your line is going out. You have a fish. Reel in the slack and then lift up and load up the tip of the rod”. He listened and did exactly what I said. I watched him fumble through the awkwardness of learning how to reel on a foreign rod/reel set up with a fish on the end of the line. I then saw the rod bending quite a bit and he was excited but didn’t know how to land the fish. I pedaled over there and helped to guide him in his actions and so I wouldn’t end up with a hook in my hand. We landed the fish which turned out to be a 17in bass which looked to be full of eggs still. It’s the beginning of the spawn up here in the North so this is when the big girls are out. I gave him the fish to hold and explained how to hold it. We go a few pics of him and he was so happy. He was literally hooked from this point on. We fished some more and he ended up catching another decent sized bass and was happy with himself. He told me what his process was and what he did to work the area. It was impressive to hear a young mind wrap his head around the idea of the sport that I love so much. I felt great of course because I put him on the fish and he truly appreciated it. He’s even talking about the next trip that were going on to Michigan and already asked if he can fish there too. That is exactly the reaction that I was looking for and I will definitely be putting this kid on some more fish. It really is an amazing thing to see the pure enjoyment that came from this experience in his face.

 

Outdoors – 1 / Video Games - 0

 

By Jay Randall