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Make Your Kid's First Fishing Trip a Success

From the pages of Camping Life Magazine

More than 130 years after we first met Tom Sawyer and his buddy Huck Finn, American boys and girls who have tried it still appreciate one guiding principle of those youngsters' lives: Fishing is one of the most pleasurable ways to spend an afternoon. You'll be lucky to find great fishing spots near campgrounds too.

Getting kids into fishing means helping them catch fish first and foremost. For those first times on the water, the experience has to be about "catching", not just "fishing." That means matching gear suitable to the kids involved, and waters that are fish-rich.

A kid's first gear should almost always be spinning or perhaps spin-casting gear. A child of 4 to 6 years old needs the action simplified to the basics to begin. Shoot for a short rod (not more than 5 feet) and a simple flip-bale spinning reel.

For these kindergarten-class anglers, a simple combo outfit works well. Though kids might be drawn to rod/reel combos branded with their favorite movie characters, you'll be paying more for the licensing rights than for the fishing gear. Better to stick with an established brand, offering its own combo outfit.

The Ugly Stik Junior Spinning Combo from Shakespeare ( puts a 4 foot 6 inch rod and simple spinning reel in your youngster's hands, for under $30. With this rod/reel combo, your kids are ready to go. Get them to practice casting for an afternoon in your backyard, or the campground field, before hitting the water.

As for the water, try to find a local pond or slow-water river that boasts a strong population of pan fish. Pan fish (bluegill, crappie, sunfish, pumpkinseeds, etc.) inhabit waters throughout the country and tend to be easily caught near shore with a simple jig and bobber set up. Get your kids on them first, since catching makes the fishing more enjoyable for kids.

Once kids have caught fish on a few different outings, you can introduce them to more advanced angling experiences. One popular next step takes them into fly fishing.

Jennifer Gish of Redington says introducing kids to the outdoors in general, and fly fishing in particular, not only helps support the future of fishing, but also helps the general health and well being of those kids. Active, outdoors kids enjoy better health, and less stress than kids who lack those outdoor experiences.

To ensure youngsters appreciate their first fly fishing adventures, outfitting them with appropriate gear is important. offers a couple of gear combos of note. The Minnow, for kids aged 6 to 12; and the Crosswater for those 12 and older.

The Minnow, a great option for youngsters looking to move beyond their basic spinning rigs, combines a smooth to medium-action 8-foot rod with a tough, but simple reel. The two-piece rod handles 5- or 6-weight line with ease, though Gish suggests going with 6-weight line on the Minnow. The slightly heavier line on the light rod helps kids fully load the rod during the casting action, making the learning process easier.

"When choosing a rod and reel for kids you want to find a combination that is going to give a kid success when casting," Gish said. "The worst thing you can to do is give a kid a rod that they are unable to cast. Kids don't want to do activities that are frustrating or hard. You want them to have success the first time out so they will want to pursue the sport in the future. And you want them out there with you too!"

Once kids learn the basics of casting a fly, make sure you get them on a lake or river that is well stocked so they can quickly experience the joy of hooking into a fish. Then when their catching skills have matured they can move on to more challenging waters and as you grow into your angling lives together.

From the pages of Camping Life Magazine