As a professional involved in the fly fishing world I often hear worries from others that there are not enough children and young people involved in fishing and fly fishing in particular. Firstly I commend those who have given up their time and money to get young people involved, it’s a strategy that needs to continue. Here are a few minor thoughts that occur to me when I think back over my own childhood and introduction in to fishing.
Firstly we have to take a deep breath and realise that fly fishing (on average) is an older persons pastime. I can confirm that the average age of participants wanting to learn is certaining in the 50’s. There are a number of reasons for this which I won’t get into but want I do want to say is that this isn’t a cause for concern for me. Fly fishing is more often than not a result of many decades of interest in the outdoors, country pursuits and fishing. It’s often something that people read about and watch for years before finally giving it a go.
What is important is that the seed of fishing (in general) is planted early if children are interested. It’s that early experience of the wonder of fishing and nature that is important. It is often the case with many people I teach that they were taken fishing as a child by a family member just once or twice and then there has been a gap of decades before they have wet a line again.
But that early magic, that seed was planted and somewhere it has remained all those years. In the interim period it will often manifest itself with a longing look from a bridge or a river walk to stop and look at the rising fish or the reading of fishing books and watching programmes about fishing.
With me the early seed was not always with fish but with crabs. Every visit to the seaside as a child some bacon fat was tied to a piece of string and dangled off a pier or rock. A bucket duly filled with seawater and then crabs. At the end of the day , after a quick inspection they were released to scuttle across the rocks back in to the sea. Sometimes we even caught a whopper!
An experience that I now love to share with my seven year old who as you can see loves catching them too.
Sometimes I feel that society has become so detached from nature that we need some BBC programme or other to tell us what to do. Springwatch, Countryfile, The Big British something or other. These programmes present nature as something to experience by watching or the rules of participation seem to be stringent and choking.
Children need to participate in nature on their own terms not be continually told how to participate by others who can sometimes have their own agenda to promote and this includes anglers. We need to open the door but then let get on with it and discover the magic of the outdoors themselves. Some may get in to fishing some may not but in my view it’s not so important what they are doing but that they are doing something. Those that discover fishing will have that seed planted that manifests itself in various forms over time but never leaves them.