Ray Pendleton Water Ways

Ray Pendleton

Saturday, October 4, 2003

Instruction is key
for new anglers

Hawaii's peculiarity of having fewer registered boats than any other state in the U.S. (largely due to its lack of facilities) has been a frequent subject of mine.

Still, I'm reasonably sure our state has more than its fair share of anglers. And, I'm also sure that most of those anglers learned how to fish, as I did, from a family member or friend.

That's why an article on a Web site called caught my eye. It began by pointing out that while many golfers and tennis players learn the fundamentals of their sports with instruction from teaching professionals, most anglers learn from people who may unwittingly pass on ineffective techniques and bad habits.

To counter this problem, a number of teaching pointers were then offered to anyone who may want to help a friend or relative learn to "catch the big one."

For those of you without Internet access, the following may help you with the basics.

The first tip for any teacher is to have plenty of patience. You will have to field many questions that will seem simplistic or even silly and you will have to untangle numerous reel backlashes and snarls.

Second, a teacher must be sure to familiarize the student angler with the tools of the trade. Even though clicking a reel into gear, flipping over the bail, or setting the drag seem simple, they may be confusing for the beginner.

It's also important to start any novice out using a rod and reel combination that's easy to use, like a spinning or casting outfit.

Next, it's best for a student to practice the basics of reel operations, casting, setting the hook and cranking in a lead weight "fish" in a place like a park, without the distractions of wind, waves, the cramped conditions on a boat, or a perilous perch on a sea cliff.

Once the basics are mastered, then the student can take a shot at the real thing.

Whether on a boat, at a lake or stream, or at the seashore, if you are using live bait, the student will need to know how to select, handle and hook a bait properly.

If lures are used, how long to let it sink, how fast to crank and how to "work" it correctly on the retrieve must be taught.

Also, the article added, a teacher shouldn't expect to do any serious fishing while instructing. Even if you get into a "hot bite," you must be prepared to set down your rod and help the novice.

"In most cases, you will serve as the angling coach, walking the beginner through the various stages of hooking, fighting and landing the fish," it noted.

And, it is important that the advice is coming from only you, rather than from multiple instructors. Too many orders tend to confuse the student.

With some luck, the novice will land the fish, but even with the proper technique, there is never a guarantee.

"If the fish is lost, let the student know this is simply a part of the game," the article said.

But once a fish is caught, "be sure to show how to remove the hook and either release or store the fish properly ... and (eventually) how to clean, fillet and cook it."

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Ray Pendleton is a free-lance writer based in Honolulu.
His column runs Saturdays in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at


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