Can you remember the first fishing experience you ever had? Did you start young, or come to the sport later by accident I wonder? Was it a eureka moment or did it take more patience to convert you?
The first memory I have of anything in my life, full stop, is of a fishing trip. Or more accurately, sitting in the back seat of my Dad's silver car and crunching up mints, the pieces dissolving smaller as the river got nearer. Why this moment I'm not sure. For some reason I remember putting the fish back (my favourite part of the trip as a small boy), better than actually catching them in these early trips.
But if my own first casts are all but lost in time, the kids who I take fishing these days will have a better record. As can be seen with young Luke and Zack (5 and 7), who I took to South View Farm with their dad for a first ever try at fishing (above). I love this picture. Just look at that expert, double handed grip by Luke, and the look of fierce concentration glued to both faces. Perhaps true anglers are born, not made?
Easily said, but what is the best age to start a child fishing? This is not always an easy one. Fly or sea fishing take greater levels of coordination and safety awareness, and tend to suit older kids of ten or more best I think. But take the simplicity of a pole on a small lake and you have a light and largely tangle proof way to have some fun.
Setting the lads up with a top 3 pole kit each, it didn't take long to start learning and catch some fish, starting with a cute perch (above) for Luke. "It's called fishing, not catching" is wisdom you'll often hear from old heads. But when you're very young the catching part of the deal is vital. It gives you that taste of success- and after even a small early fish you'll find even the biggest fidget finds the patience to wait for that feeling again.
Luke was next, with a perfect and not-so-little gudgeon. Is there a more appropriate small boy's fish? And from these humble beginnings we began to refine things; like striking before your float has travelled half way across the pond, and bringing the fish in steadily and gently rather than giving it a flying lesson.
A few things begin to dawn on me the more I take kids for fishing lessons in Devon. Firstly, that all children are naturally interested in water and fish. We talk as if it's a battle to get kids fishing, but actually you just have to get them out on the bank. I have yet to meet a boy or girl who didn't ask loads of questions or didn't want to inspect, hold or release their first fish. The other notable thing is how meticulously they will count and record what they catch. Kids love to compete with each other and to loudly announce "that's ten now!" or "That one was the biggest wasn't it?"
Sometimes they have a case too. Because on this trip Luke seemed to catch the most fish, but Zack took the biggest between them with one or two really nice roach (above). You can tell kids they're "about the same" in the catching stakes and they don't believe you; you can also tell them the size doesn't matter. And it doesn't, until younger brother catches a bigger one.
Here's a news flash: kids want to go fishing. There might be more distractions these days, but they are no different to kids ten or thirty or a hundred years ago; curious and fun-loving if you can only give them your time. Or maybe it's the other way round and they give us their time, because it's one of the most fun things you'll do in a season and worth every minute.
By the close of play we had ticked just about every box for a first fishing session, apart from the runaway monster. Matt, the two boys' dad, nearly provided this in dramatic style as he tried the same margin the boys had been fishing and spent a full ten minutes playing a ghost carp that looked eight pounds or so. Eventually, after we had formed a little rogues gallery of spectators, the hook came out sadly. But perhaps it doesn't hurt to have something to aim for next time? I get the feeling Matt will now feel like he has unfinished business with carp.
In other news, there is little fishing to report just of late, largely because "Tangles With Pike" has been in production at the expense of everything else. In fact, without the expertise and assistance of my designer Garrett Fallon I would most likely have lost the plot. Anyhow, suffice to say that on cold days so far, the closes to fishing I've got has been a spot of fly tying.
Perch are always popular, not to mention fun to tie. The above is a future addition in my current "Predator Fly of the Month" series for Pike and Predators magazine.
Such things will have to suffice for now, because most of my recent fishing has been done in the recesses of my memory. It is only when I look back at all the many pictures, articles and notes that I realise just how much work has gone into my stories- and by "work" I mean perhaps a minority of actual fishing time. To any of my friends who wonder what I'm doing buggering around with a tripod, tutting to myself and switching lenses while you're happily fishing, perhaps the new book will be enlightening.
Not long now until "Tangles with Pike" will be ready to order at www.dgfishing.co.uk, but in the meantime, here are four of my favourite pike fishing "selfies" of all time, achieved using a tripod, a timer switch and usually several attempts separated by bad language. I tell you what, if any blog readers can successfully name all four of these waters (answers in the comments box please) I will put your names in a hat and the first out will win a copy of "Tangles with Pike". Over to you:
Here's a hint: They're all in south west England