Training a Fishing Partner

by Samuel Shiels
photos-courtesy of the author

Above, three generations of anglers in the Shiels family gather in 1969 around a nice-sized striped bass. Left to right are Andy Shiels (age 6), Jeffrey Shiels (age 9), Samuel Shiels Sr., and Samuel Shiels Jr. (the author).

The author, right, with son Andy in 1992 with Elk Creek steelhead catches.


At left, opening day of the 1999 trout season, Bald Eagle Creek. (From left) Roxanne Shiels, her husband Andy, and their 2-year-old daughter, Meghan. Above, Lauren Shiels, age 5, and Jessica Shiels, age 9 (daughters of Jeffrey Shiels), on opening day in 1996.

I have trained a couple of excellent fishing partners over the years. Initially, I knew the background of both individuals. I was acquainted with their mother and father. The choice was simple because other family members fished. Both of these future partners were good readers at an early age. I provided many outdoor magazines for them to read. I would take them on alternate fishing trips from the age of 2 years. Little fishermen need your undivided attention--you don't want them to get hurt.

Having their own rods at age 2 was a big help. On rainy days they could cast in the house for practice. By age 5, they knew many species of fish, both fresh and salt water. The oldest would look in the fish buckets on the docks in New Jersey and tell the fishermen, "Mister, you have some very little fish in the bucket." It was not long before a lot of people covered their buckets when they saw him coming along the dock. In fresh water, we went to places where they could catch sunnies. Both of these guys wanted action. It takes action to keep their attention up.

At age 5 years, the eldest went trout fishing with me. At age 7 he caught his first striped bass--I was in my early 30s before catching one. When he turned 8, the younger one wanted to tie flies. Back to the reading again. He got a vise and materials and he was off and running. His mother was more involved--he now needed transportation to faraway stores to get things she never heard of. He needed moose mane, peacock herl and feathers!

Things moved along and we fished together every weekend and on vacations. By the time they were 10 years old, they knew what good equipment was. I provided everything. They had rods, reels, hooks, lines, boots, lures and vests. Both of these guys were now serious about fishing. They were able to tie their own knots and snell hooks for me. They would tell me what was the latest in lures and techniques. They were always told, "If you are not catching fish, try something different. Watch another fisherman--it can be a very simple difference, and every day you should learn something."

One rule that stood fast was that you have to do well in school, because poor students didn't fish. A good report card got them a very good rod of their choice. They were better equipped than I at their age!

My partners were on the fast track. Time was flying. They were now able to drive and were off to places I had never seen. They would come back with some amazing fish stories. I was even convinced I should go with them. The students started me in ice fishing, salmon and steelhead fishing, and tying flies.

Many hours have been spent in 37 years of fishing with my two fishing partners. I think the effort has paid off. Both partners are training new ones of their own, having started them at age 2. My father started me at age 2, also.

During this whole process, I missed out on the following: Having a problem with drugs, having to spend days or weeks in courts, or being called by the police to go to the police station.

The best benefit to me is when these two guys call and say, "Dad, how about going fishing with me?" So there I go having a good time and usually learning something.

Picking partners is important--don't put it off!

.pdf file of this article

January/February 2000 Angler & Boater

Copyright notice

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Web Privacy and Security Policies