Garden Hackle

“Dada, Dada I got a big, BIG one! Look!”

“Sweet. Don’t lose him.”

“The red breasted robin wants to eat him, but I won’t let him cause it’s mine and the trout’s gonna eat him when we CATCH it and he must be real yummy cause everyone wants to eat him cause see Dada?”

“I guess so. Do you want to eat him?

“Um…. No thank you…um… I’ll just put him in the can with his friends.”

I’ve talked with more people than I can count about introducing little kids to fishing. Lucky for me, I’m surrounded by folks who are both more experienced parents and more accomplished anglers than I am. Almost to a person, their advice includes something along the lines of “Swallow your pride and do whatever it takes for the kiddo to catch fish. Worms… treble hooks… dynamite… whatever it takes.” I’m not quite ready to employ high explosives, but organic, free range, hand-harvested annelids fit comfortably between my ethical bookends.

“That one’s just a little baby one so I put him in the grass to find a home. Oh no he pooped on me!”

“That’s ok Bud. It won’t hurt you.”

“Yeah… I know… Worm poop is always real gentle.”

What I didn’t count on when deploying this age old trick was all the bonus activity. Much like firewood heats you 10 times (felling, limbing, hauling, loading, unloading, bucking, splitting, stacking, carrying and burning) Worms, it turns out, come in handy long before they go on the hook. Sure, catching fish is fun, but sometimes it requires a little patience. Worm hunting, by contrast, is all non-stop action and immediate gratification. We can’t go fishing every afternoon. I can however send him into the yard with a garden spade and coffee can, rain or shine. With hopper season still some weeks away, this new found quarry is proving priceless.

“This one looks kinda lively, but not for real Dada cause it’s just a part worm. I think you got him with the shovel.”

“Yeah, that happens sometimes huh?”

“He’s not um… not looking too healthy so we’ll just leave it be. K Dada? Oooo a ant, a big red ant, look it Dada!”

The subsurface safari that is our backyard helps keep the squirt in the sun, off the couch and out of our hair. Our obliging little invertebrate neighbors are engaging his curiosity, grounding him in his natural surroundings, making him more observant and teaching him about the ways of the world. And wouldn’t you know it… there’re even helpful for catching the occasional fish.



15 Comments on “Garden Hackle

  1. I bet he’d love a night time night crawler hunt with a flashlight after a rain.

  2. That’s so awesome. Can’t wait to get our 6 month old on the water in the next couple years. I always enjoy what I read here. Keep up the great work.


    • Thanks a bunch Ben. If your photos are any indication, she’ll have her pick of beautifully tied imitations to choose from as well. And congratulations BTW on your recent Gink and Gasoline shootout. Well deserved recognition.

  3. I’m not quite ready to employ high explosives, but organic, free range, hand-harvested annelids fit comfortably between my ethical bookends.

    Teaching them the boundaries sometimes necessitates a chaperoned trip beyond them (though munitions, perhaps, is territory best avoided). If they don’t know what’s on that forbidden ground, the temptation to find out on their own is often too great.

    Great stuff, Matt.

    • I think your point of a chaperoned trip beyond the wire is spot on. Yet another example of my good fortune at being surrounded by more experienced parents.

      Thanks Mike.

  4. Worms are an important starter bait. Didn’t we all start with live bait as kids. I know I did. Our TU chapter teams up with a local orchard/fruit store (Mercier Orchard) for old fashioned farm pond fishing from their irrigation ponds which are full of bass and bream. We teach families how to take their kids fishing and basics on keeping kids interested in fishing. Our first session this year is tomorrow 9am-2pm, and I loaded a dozen Zebcos in the car. We also have 65 cane poles. We have a ton of worms. Fishing is free and lots of fun. We will have 20 volunteers and we will need every one as we usually put poles in more than a hundred hands over the day.

  5. Fabulous -you discovered the best way to keep him learning and interacting will everything that moves! As the immensely fortunate son of an Ichthyologist and an Arachnologist, I totally relate! When he’s a little older you can help him create his very own wormery. The benefits are too many to list here… Best regards – metiefly

  6. Before both my boys became accomplished fly anglers, they dangled worms and cheese/marshmallows beneath the ol’ red/white bobber. Had a great time, Then, one day they said, “We want to fish like you, Dad.” The progression to flailing the water with a WF5F line attached to a wooly bugger they had tied on a Thompson vise had begun. An epiphany.

  7. Pingback: Core Curriculum | Stalking The Seam

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