While fishing a lake, when it comes to entertainment out on the water most people rely on the fish or the act of fishing itself, practicing flawless casting while observing your surroundings so you can pick out the perfect fly or just enjoying the day and watching the world float by. For me, the entertainment comes from the other people, specifically, if I’m lucky enough to have some present. I like to indulge my inner voyeur and spy upon male/female couples also out for a day of fishing. No, I don’t creep around the campsite peering into tents with night vision goggles, get your mind out of the gutter please. My favourite pastime is watching men try to teach their spouse how to fish.
Please understand as I enter into this that I do not for a moment believe that women are bad fishermen or that they are hard to teach. I know woman fisherman that make me feel like a first-timer with a branch and a bent safety hook. When it comes to my own life, I learn far more from the women in it than I manage to impart to them. I’m talking about the woman who has never fished before but wants to try it and the man who fishes all the time but has never tried to teach a beginner how to do it. For my purposes, the longer they have been together the better, watching people who are still all googly-eyed for each-other is dull as dirt. Nope, you want the couples that have no more secrets, the ones who can’t be bothered to sugar-coat things anymore, in other words, you are looking for people that interact like reality TV contestants.
There are a number of ways you can teach a newbie how to fish. Some of them work better than others. Some of them work very well with your co-worker from the mill and go over like an incontinent dog at a backyard BBQ with your wife. Here are a few examples, from bad to best.
#1 – The “park-em and forget-em” method:
This is one you can get away with if you are out with a buddy. You don’t care if he catches anything and he understands that and he will watch you until he gradually figures it out. Either that or he will stop after an hour and drink beer until he gets drunk and passes out in the back of the boat. This, however, is not the desired result when teaching a spouse to fish. In fact, this method should only be used by men who really like sleeping on the couch and have mastered the art of ordering pizza. Leaving your wife sitting in the rear of the boat holding nine feet of unfamiliar rod and 100 feet of about-to-be tangled flyline while you fish merrily away as if she was invisible is a sure-fire recipe for a quiet ride home and a good healthy dose of “the look”. Never abandon your lady-student to their own devices, put a little effort in, you love this person remember?
#2 – The “set up their gear, cast it out and tell them to lift the rod if something pulls on it” method:
Well OK, you took the time to get them all fixed up and ready to fish but you forgot that this person doesn’t have the slightest idea what to do should a fish actually take their fly. They have no idea what to expect, how hard a fish can pull and they do not understand the concept of “letting it run” or “bring it to the net”. Screaming these things at your wife when she has a five pound fish dangling three inches from the tip of your second-favorite graphite rod while said rod does its best Canuck logo impression is not going to do you any good. You may as well be speaking Klingon.
It also isn’t going to score you any relationship points if you just do everything for her. You might just as effectively put her in a kiddie seat and cut her lunch into bite-sized pieces. She is not going to take this well, don’t ask me how I know. Using this method is going to result in your broken second-favorite fly rod spending the rest of eternity at the bottom of the lake along with whatever shreds of self-esteem you have left after she gets done “discussing” the days events with you. Again, don’t ask me how I know.
The “only technique that actually works” method:
For this one to work you have to remember what it was like when you first started fly-fishing. Think back to your first efforts at casting, your first birds-nest of too-long leader, all the lost fish due to not letting it run, standing on the line, jamming your fingers into the reel and creating tailing-loops that a bull rider would be proud of. She is going to do all these things and more. But, she has an advantage you may not have had; she has someone willing to be there with her and walk her through the difficulties as they arise. She has her patient husband who is going to watch what she does, who is going to offer helpful suggestions in a nice tone, who is not going to bark orders she hasn’t the background to understand and who is definitely not, under any circumstances, going to criticize her performance. Every effort, no matter what the outcome, is going to be praised for the milestone that it is. There is a fine line between constructive criticism and badgering, you don’t want to be anywhere near that line, you don’t even want to be able to see it from where you are.
Take her out to the park with a fly rod and teach her to cast and not just once you lazy husband, go out a couple of times a week until she feels comfortable. Show her the contents of your fly-boxes and explain what everything is and when and where they are used. Teach her to tie knots. If she wants to tie on a deer-hair frog while the mayflies are hatching, let her, what’s it going to hurt? Eventually she will take an interest in using the right fly for the right conditions but who knows, she might catch the biggest fish of the day on that day-glow pink bass bug. I’ve seen it happen often enough that I’d see no harm in letting her fish whatever she wants to fish. Lastly, leave your rod in the truck, at least on the first day. When she feels comfortable and is having fun and maybe caught a fish or two, then you can break out your gear, not one second before.
So that’s all there is to it really, follow these steps and you just might end up with a fishing partner that doesn’t smell like old cheese and drink all your beer while telling you tasteless jokes that your racist grandfather already told you 20-years ago.
Stick with me my friends and another time I’ll tell you all about my second-favorite spectator sport at the lake, watching the guy with the 30-foot trailer try to back into a camping spot surrounded by trees while his wife shouts directions from a spot where he can’t see or hear her. Now that’s entertainment!