In the three years since I became a father, I’ve had to redefine some terms. “Sleeping in” does not mean what it used to for example, nor “big night out” for that matter. “Free time”… I seem to recall using that phrase as a younger man, but the concept is fuzzy now. Most of the changes are obvious, but I’m occasionally still shocked to realize that something I once considered fixed and immutable has shifted its meaning. A recent recognition that “good fishing water” looks significantly different to me now left me puzzled enough to make a list.
5 Qualities of Good Water for Fishing with Kids
Gradual Bank Grade and Manageable Current – My kid hits the deck pretty frequently. Please don’t tell his mother. So long as likely consequences range from scuffed palms to skinned knees I’m ok with it. In fact, I think learning how to manage risk and deal with a little adversity is important for kids. When a misstep means sudden contact with deep water or heavy current though, neither of us are going to have as much fun fishing. A gradual grade and lighter current also make wading with a kid on your back much less dicey. They can even afford the squirt an opportunity to wade some on his or her own.
Gravel Bars – Are really just a specialized version of the first one, but they’re good enough to warrant their own mention. A gravel bar is like a riparian playpen. Your kid’s on an island, where’s he gonna go? What’s more it’s an island that, lacking vegetation or any other tall structure, features long sight lines. This extended visual range allows the tot to get enough elbow room to feel adventurous, and lets you send them up or down stream far enough to avoid flying hooks and spooky fish, all while keeping an eye out. As an added bonus gravel bars come chock full of high quality chucking rocks, interesting bugs and small wildlife, and are composed of mostly rounded materials (nice for all of the above mentioned deck-hitting).
Project Water – As a bachelor fisherman I preferred water where the fish were spread out and likely to be found in varied types of structure. Constant, undifferentiated fishing can grow tiresome for a little kid though. Project water – habitat with distinct holding areas broken up by unproductive stretches – is a nice compromise. You get to focus on fishing in the likely spots, and to hopefully catch some fish. This type of terrain keeps you moving though, which means your partner gets enough variety – hiking, fishing, backpack rides, new scenery, swimming holes etc. – to stimulate his or her goldfish-like attention span.
Limited Tall Grass or Underbrush – It’s admittedly a personal hang-up, but I really don’t like snakes. The only thing I like less than snakes are snakes near my kid. I just can’t relax when he’s tumbling through the tall grass with rattlesnake sounding hoppers crackling everywhere. Luckily buzzworms and high hay are mostly a pasture problem and thus easily avoided in favor of front-country fishing holes less prone to serpentine surprises.
Given my druthers, I’d rather fish wild country anyway. Around here that means big wild animals like bears, moose and lions. I love knowing they’re around and our occasional sightings are real treats. I’ll love it more though when my son is more aware of his surroundings. Until then we’ll frequent back country haunts with unobstructed banks and fewer opportunities to come upon a critter unawares.
Plenty of Fish – This seems like an obvious one, and not kid specific. But while no one likes not catching fish… not catching fish with a tot whining about it in your ear all day is particularly tough to swallow.