A few years ago my daughter and I were in Dick's Sporting Goods when she spotted a pink fishing rod. Bella asked me if she could buy it. I'm guessing she was three at the time and her interest in a rod, despite the color, was enough for me to consider making the purchase.
After a quick inspection I was unimpressed. I tried to explain to her that the rod was less than desirable and would likely be a bad investment. Anyone with kids knows how that conversation played out. However, she eventually understood I did not want to buy a fishing rod just to buy one. I promised if we ever saw one I thought would work well for her we could purchase it.
A few days later I was in another store when I saw a different pink rod. This was an Ugly Stik, which right away made me confident that it could stand up to whatever punishment Bella could dish out. While I do not think Ugly Stik rods offer the best feel, they are as tough as they come and perfect for a new angler.
The next day we went to the store and I pretended to let her find that pink rod. She was excited when I said that it was a good one and we could purchase it. It came with a pink plastic reel, so we quickly purchased a better spin-casting reel for her to use. It wasn't pink, but she trusted my opinion on the reel.
My plan for this rod and reel combo was for it to be used at a lake or farm pond to catch panfish or bass. While the rod was not small like the Barbie or Mickey Mouse rods I constantly see at along trout streams in the hands of little children on the opening morning, I knew it was not going to be good for casting at less than 4 feet long and with little flexibility.
That plan went out the window later that night when we were in the mountains catching wild brook trout with worms. I would flip the bait into the water and hand the rod to her to hold and reel in the fish. The holes we fished were fairly open and near the mountain's dirt roads. Despite not being able to cast very well, we still caught plenty of spruce trout.
Fast forward to the opening morning of trout season the following year. I had packed two of my Cabela's rods for her to use. I always take two in case one breaks or gets a big tangle. Bella was upset when she got to the stream later and could not find her pink rod.
I was once again playing toddler psychologist trying to explain that her short rod would not be a good choice for the species we were trying to catch and the location where we were fishing. Once the trout started to bite she forgot what rod she was using and had a great morning quickly catching her limit of rainbows.
Once my son River was big enough to start fishing, Bella insisted her brother get a rod just like hers. She helped him pick out a red version of the same model. I bought another new reel to replace the subpar one that was included with the rod and the two Knepp children were both equipped with their own setup.
We fished in ponds with the Ugly Stik rods, but once it was time to fish for trout I had to once again try to convince them to keep their own rods in the garage on most trips. Sometimes I would take the pink and red rods along, but would get upset at the lack of casting and hook-setting ability.
Recently I thought it was time to once again go on a family fishing trip to a local lake. This time we took along only their rods. The goal was to let them fish and simply enjoy the warm, sunny weather.
Bella and River both had a great time landing plenty of sunfish, bluegills and bass.
I am a pretty hardcore angler when I am fishing by myself. I like to use the equipment that best helps me be successful and maximize my time on the water.
But when I was taking off sunnies reeled in by my kids, I could do nothing but smile as I realized that pink fishing rod was doing exactly what I had purchased it to do. That was not to catch fish, but to create family memories though time spent together.
Zach Knepp writes about the outdoors for The Sentinel.