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Learning to fish like a kid again

Blog by: Bill Prater , Colorado 1/6/2019
Part of Series: Fishing for Beginners
Truth be told, I was a much better fisherman at age 11 than at 30 or 40. 

I wasn’t so much an adult on a downhill spiral as an adult distracted by grown-up responsibilities. As a long-time retiree, I have evolved beyond all those, if you catch my drift. As others in the Loveland Fishing Club can attest, over the course of 15 years or so I have regained many of the remarkable angling skills of my youth. I also regularly meet new club members who long to get back into fishing, but can’t quite remember how. It can be frustrating, but not demoralizing, if you go about things with a youthful, sporting attitude.

At 11, I had no idea what was supposed to attract fish, and my brother and I were limited to whatever questionable gear Mom and Dad made available. We were blessed with free time, though, and willing to try just about anything to trick a fish. I chose to use that invaluable free time to hop on a bicycle and go fish. As an equally eager grown up, just remember that you, too, have an enviable amount of free time. And hopefully, a more generous allowance. 

WHAT TO DO FIRST. First, invest the time and a little cash in multiple types of modern equipment. You will be amazed at the sensitivity and expense of modern rods, and the joy of casting the latest braided line. No. Wait. Forget the cash thing for the time being, and just borrow stuff, until you learn what you like. When I first joined the fishing club, a charter member loaned and eventually gave me everything I needed to get started in ice fishing. I have since passed along many a rod and reel and bait myself, and have other perfectly workable equipment gathering dust. (I once gave novice ice angler Dan a nice little sled to haul his gear. One chilly trip to the wind-blown Laramie Lakes and he was back polishing his bass boat). 

The point is, as our interests evolve, many of us have way too much serviceable but neglected stuff accumulating in the garage or basement. Ask if you can see it sometime, and then finagle a way to borrow some. (I personally bring along at least 3 or 4 ice fishing outfits on an outing, for example, and way too many jigs, just in case we have newbies. Or wind knots.)

With gear in hand, practice casting, and practice some more. Invest more time practicing to tie a variety of fishing knots. (This is probably one of the most bewildering changes in fishing from the basic knots of ‘50s and ‘60s. Even the clinch knot has been improved.)

Now, having done all this so you won’t totally embarrass yourself on the water, secure a buddy or two; skilled or novice, doesn’t matter. Explore possible fishing grounds in your area together, or ask someone if they’ll show you around. This is a great way to get a foot in the water. Old timers love lingering field trips and long-winded conversations. And we might wind up taking you fishing in the bargain. (If some old timers seem cliquish, it’s not deliberate neglect of newbies. We just enjoy one another’s familiar company, or at least grown accustomed to one another’s quirks. Just keep hanging around asking naïve, admiring questions about our fishing skills and preferences.)
After you’ve done all that, you’re ready to be 11 again and go fishing. (As you get older, you don’t even need to pretend as much). Here are some pointers:

Before puberty you faced few distractions from the opposite sex; don’t go getting distracted now.
When I was a lad, my equipment was pretty lousy. But I didn’t know that and neither did the fish. So don’t worry too much about outfitting yourself like a bass pro; your spouse will find you accumulating all that gear soon enough. Just fish. And remember, every species has its charms. 
Resist the temptation to find more hobbies in retirement; like golf, ferchrissakes, and remember, most boyfriends and girlfriends won’t make you a better angler. 
There is one more crucial thing retirees have in common with the prepubescent:  my own late Mom and Dad – and most responsible adults of that era -- had zero expectations of responsible behavior from their kids until about the time we started to date and drive. Similarly, loving spouses may quibble or even whine occasionally. But they don’t really expect grass to be mowed or laundry to be folded when spawning season is upon us. Think of that “honey do” list as a mere suggestion, meant to keep us out of the way.

One last bit of advice:  like my grown-up children today, I suspect Mom and Dad watched us heading for the nearest pond and wished their own lives weren’t so damned complicated. So put down the TV remote, cell phone or golf club, and just go fishing. 

Blog content © Bill Prater
Blog Comments
skiman, CO   1/6/2019 5:44:05 PM
Bill,, Right on with your assessment of “learning to fish like an 11 year old!” Growing up in a rural area I can’t count the number of times I dug a can of worms, jumped on my old Schwin, and peddled my butt out to my favorite fishin hole. Thank-you for reminding me just how important those days were in helping to make me the fisherman I am today. Ski
bron, CO   1/6/2019 7:12:49 PM
Very good read and I totally agree.
Bill Prater (fishthumpre), CO   1/6/2019 7:29:09 PM
Hey, thanks for the kind words fellas. Kidding aside, it can be a lot of fun getting someone back into fishing after a long hiatus.
bron, CO   1/6/2019 7:42:57 PM
I have a friend named Greg that I always fished with in the 90s and Ive got him back on the water a few times last year and he wants to keep going. Havnt got him on the ice yet.

Other Blogs in the Fishing for Beginners Series

Thank you, Mr. Watson, for taking me fishing by B. Prater 11.25.20
Nearly 60 years ago, I got my fondest wish for my 14th birthday, a fiberglass fly rod. I hadn’t a clue how to fish with it, though neither did Mom or Dad. Fortunately I lived across the street from Mr. Watson.
Making the most of a small pond Part Two: gravel by B. Prater 06.25.20
Even before bulldozers, settlers along Colorado streams quarried rocks and sand for construction of roads and buildings. Surprisingly, many resulting holes in the ground hold decent populations of fish, and some are open to the public.
Fishing local lakes and ponds by B. Prater 06.23.20
Options for fine fishing do exist in our gravel ponds and irrigation/water storage lakes, but anyone who tells you to just pull up to a given pond and start fishing doesn’t really care whether you catch anything.
Tips on Getting your First Fly Fishing Gear by M. Snider 06.22.20
This is an intro to beginners wanting to get into fly fishing and have no gear. Here is a list of the basic essentials, and some tips on what to look for.
Intro to Beginner Fishing Series by M. Snider 06.22.20
Introducing a series of blogs designed for beginner anglers since a lot of people are now getting out for the very first time or picking up the sport again.