The lure of the outdoors in Pacific Northwest summers is irresistible. One of the best contexts for getting “out there” can be fishing. Introducing kids or grandkids to this great pastime can lead to some real magic. Imagine making memories on the plentiful lake, river, stream and saltwater fisheries just a short drive from Bellevue. You don’t need to be an expert to get started; you can be on the water in no time!

An experienced angler can be one of the most valuable resources. Most avid anglers love to share their skills and play a role in getting newbies — especially youngsters — on the water.  A fun and memorable first fishing experience for kids requires lots of smiles, enthusiasm and patience.

Trout Unlimited is a great organization that has beginner classes and organized activities for young anglers. You can also find many TU members who are willing to help you figure out how to get started.

Want to do a lot on your own? The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fishing websites cover regulations governing all state fisheries, tutorials, videos and even where to find a good fishing spot nearby.

Getting geared up is the first challenge, and perhaps the most intimidating. The fishing department of the Sportco & Outdoor Emporium in downtown Seattle, for example, can be overwhelming. Here you’ll find gear for virtually every type of fishing. Where to start?

Let’s assume for simplicity, that you’re looking to fish for trout in the local lakes and streams from Lake Washington to the west slopes of the Cascades. These sites provide a pretty good list of the basics: Learning to cast a spinning rod is pretty straightforward. The first experiences are usually on small lakes and ponds for rainbow trout. Watch a YouTube video or two on casting and basic trout fishing. Practice with the kids in the backyard for an hour. Pack your lunch and head out. I recommend “Fishing for Beginners” by user Flukemaster or “How To Rig Up Your Trout Spin Rod for All Water Conditions & Fishing Styles” by user Twig ‘N’ Timber Outdoors.

Fly fishing requires a bit more study. Casting a fly rod is more challenging, and the rod, reel, line and flies (the lures of fly fishers) are quite different. Learning together with your youngsters is a great bonding experience.

The best way to start is some lessons. Creekside Angling in Issaquah is a great fly shop and a good place to build your relationship with local fly fishing. They offer classes that introduce all the equipment and basics of casting in a nearby park.

Next, take a guided fly fishing trip. Talk to the gang at Red’s on the Yakima River. They will set you up with an experienced guide for beginners. Spending a day with an expert picking flies, tying knots, casting and getting coaching on the spot really shortens the learning curve.

We are rich in accessible fisheries. For short outings with the kids in the early stages, try one of the many juvenile-only fishing holes nearby. The Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River is accessible, beautiful and productive. Rattlesnake Lake is another great option, but it is best fished from some sort of small boat or raft. 

Check the regulations on all fisheries before you go. Kids 14 and under do not require a license, and some fisheries are restricted to just kids.

The payoff comes with years of magic moments — camping along rivers and lakes, trips to catch the big ones in Alaska or Montana, all with those you love. It doesn’t get much better.