Being brought up at Anglers Paradise - where I now help my Mum and Dad, Rose and Zyg Gregorek - I was fortunate enough to be taken fishing as soon as I could walk. The rest, shall we say, is history!
I’m no pro-angler, but simply a girl who loves to go fishing and see more mums and kids like me enjoying it too. The mental health benefits for kids fishing are endless and that is one of the many reasons I am so passionate about getting more youngsters fishing and taking advantage of benefits that the sport brings.
We live in a digitally dominated world in which it’s too easy for kids to stay in their rooms with their eyes glued to a computer screen. Don’t get me wrong, being a mum of two boys there are days I let them have a limited amount of time on a computer. But if I’ve got a chance to take them fishing, then fishing would win every single time. It is without doubt the perfect digital detox and I highly recommend it to all families. Not only does fishing get them outside in the fresh air to top up on their natural vitamin D, it keeps them calm and takes their mind off typical pressures such as school work.
Trust me, you’ll notice completely different kids to those that would play on a computer for hours!
It’s a great time to start
We’ve seen a real boom in fishing over the last 12 months and the Angling Trust is now pushing for fishing to be promoted as a mental health therapy by the NHS. It is so true how it can help so many battling the daily pressures of life, especially now when anxiety is sky high for adults let alone their kids.
Fishing is escapism. It gives people time to reflect and the vision of wildlife is an instant remedy of insightfulness. I use fishing not only as my natural therapy in life but for my kids too. I see an instant change when I take them – almost like I’ve given them a bowl full of jelly and ice cream, but without the E numbers!
Informing my boys we are going fishing tomorrow is like telling them it’s Christmas the next day. And that’s what kids need, something to look forward to and fishing is the answer. Fishing is not only exciting when they catch, but it also teaches them patience, about nature, watercraft, it’s good for their motor skills and very good for their busy little minds!
My sons are very different. My eldest, who is 10, is very patient but my seven-year-old has to be continually occupied, entertained and has OCD but fishing seems to help him massively. He’s a different boy when we are out there, and I’ve heard many stories of fishing helping other children with either mental health problems or learning difficulties or disabilities to overcome those problems. It really is amazing what a pole or rod can do to bring so much happiness to families across the world. It’s fantastic to see more and more getting it and taking advantage of the benefits that this sport brings.
Prepare for action
Being a parent that takes her kids fishing, I’d like to share my top tips and experiences to help get kids into fishing – the right way...
Before you go Things you need to consider
Keep it as simple and uncomplicated as you can and ensure you only take what you need (trust me, the idea that kids will help carry all your gear doesn’t always go to plan). So assume that you will be transporting the bulk of your tackle to the lake. Before you head off to your chosen fishery, try and ascertain what sort of swims they have – all-weather, stone, woodchip etc – so you know what sort of ground you’ll be fishing on and what footwear you’ll all need.
Make sure you all have a chair. Realistically, you won’t be doing much sitting, but they will be. As well as being comfortable to sit on, try to get chairs that are lightweight and easy to carry.
If it’s going to be raining, make sure they have waterproof trousers, coat and wellies. Ensure they are warm. If they get cold, it’s game over and you’ll have to go home. Woolly hats, extra pairs of socks and suitable winter clothing to keep them snug are essential. If it’s going to be hot and sunny, make sure they wear a sun hat, sunglasses and sun block because water reflects UV rays twice as strong and you do not want them to get sunstroke. If you have a brolly or shelter, take that to use as a shade.
Always start with short sessions and break these up with other activities. This depends on their age, but remember an hour is quite a long time for a small person, so initially an hour or two is enough. When you go for longer sessions, try to take breaks in between, whether it be for a walk or a mini adventure doing a bit of wildlife spotting!
Try float fishing and don’t over complicate things early on, otherwise you’ll lose their attention. Kids don’t have as much as us!
A short pole set up is perfect as you get fewer tangles and kids love watching a float. Size doesn’t matter in the early days. DON’T target bigger fish right away, just concentrate on getting bites and catching the smaller stuff.
Remember, size doesn’t matter – it’s about showing kids how much fun fishing can be. Plus, you don’t want to spoil them at an early age. They should build up to catching bigger fish gradually so they appreciate the challenge and anticipation for that day when they catch new personal bests.
Fish care is so important! As any kid starts their journey, it’s down to us to show them how to look after their catch. Always use a suitable net and unhooking mat, and show them how you unhook the fish and release them safely. Repeat lessons like using wet hands and lowering the fish back rather than throwing them. Show them how to kneel down over a wet unhooking mat and hold a fish correctly. Before long, these things will become second nature.
Take lots of snacks and liquids to keep everyone hydrated. Trust me, this is another biggie! The last thing you want is for them to be hungry and for your session to be cut short because of this. Plus, if the bites slow down, food comes in handy to keep them happy and stop them from getting bored while they wait. Be careful to not take too many sugary snacks, or you may have to deal with the sugar rush which can sometimes be challenging when you’re fishing!
Make it fun
Play games and take in the beauty around you. Whether you play I-Spy, or count birds or dragonflies, there’s always something fun to try. Go on a nature hunt to see how many different birds, insects and animals you can spot – our favourite is to spot is those beautiful kingfishers.
Younger kids might even like to bring a toy or mascot – it sounds silly, but little ones might like some comfort or a lucky mascot. Above all, mix your day up with other stuff. The saying that fishing is not just about catching is so true!
There’s never a dull moment fishing with kids, and there are times it all goes wrong! If it does, don’t worry, keep calm, have a break or use those times to go for a walk. From tangles to tantrums – we’re all human and we all make mistakes and there’s plenty of mistakes we’ve all made during our fishing sessions.
Don’t force things
Every kid is different and not all take to fishing like ducks to water. My eldest son, Zaine (10), was a natural born angler from only 2½ years old. My other son, Zeejay (7), however, isn’t as patient and is quite a live wire. Some days he’ll want to go and others he won’t, so I’ve realised it’s best not to push kids because you want them to enjoy fishing and not turn it into a battle. Over years of taking Zeejay for short trips he is now so excited every single time we go.
Make sure you take lots of pictures as these are all memories you’ll want to treasure and look back on. Also teach your kids how to take pictures and think about the background, the presentation of the fish etc. You may want to frame them so you want to make sure they are good quality (it’s good practice for us adults too!).
So much to enjoy
My most important piece of advice is to simply enjoy making memories as a family. Don’t overcomplicate your fishing set up – go light, have the right fish care equipment, and have fun targeting any species – and always remember size doesn’t matter. It’s about the enjoyment that you get from every single fish that you catch, irrespective of size or species. It’s about the memories made and shared with loved ones. There’s so much more to fishing than just catching. Take in and enjoy the elements around you. We live in a beautiful world but we just need to open our eyes to see it and cherish the beauty around us. Happy family fishing adventures to you all!