The Best Short Hikes Near Calgary

These scenic hikes are all 4 km or less round trip and less than 1 hr from Calgary.

The Ultimate Car Camping Pack List

Everything you need for an awesome camping trip!

Tips for Fun Family Backpacking

Family Backpacking 101 - what to pack, where to go...

Discover Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site

Go back in time and live like a trapper at Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site, only 2 hours from Calgary.

Why you should visit Writing on Stone Provincial Park

Hoodoos, beaches, and paddling! Need I say more?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Squeaky Wheel Doesn't Get the Grease (Tips for raising a spirited child)

"Hang on, Baby!” I pleaded anxiously. “I need to help your sister.” Why I was negotiating with a newborn was beyond reason, but as it turns out, I was completely and totally whipped. My big girl had conditioned me to give her what she wanted, when she wanted it, or suffer an epic tantrum. Was it critically necessary for her to have the big box of blocks right now? Of course not! The fickle whims of a toddler are not the same as the needs of a newborn. Diaper blowouts should always trump toy schlepping! What I needed to say at that moment in time – but didn’t know it – was “Please wait." 

I kicked myself, then started to think of how not to shortchange the newest member of our family. How could everyone (including me) get what they need and be happy? How would I manage two kids under two, when one is extremely spirited and vocal? 

To see five tips on raising a spirited (aka willful or demanding) child, please check out the full version of the article, on BonBon Break.

Our happy place: the great outdoors
Do you have a spirited child? What do you do when she acts up or melts down?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Nutcase Street Sport Helmets Review & Giveaway

The rule in our house is "no helmet, no ride" and at the beginning it was a bit of a battle to get the kids to put their helmets on. You can imagine how much time was wasted since we ride almost daily! Finally, a relative hooked us up with some new bike helmets and our helmet wrangling days were over. My girls couldn't resist smiley face and shiny red ladybug head protectors! If you want your kids to love wearing helmets, get cool ones! (P.S. Nutcase makes helmets for grownups too!)

My girls have been wearing Little Nutty Nutcase helmets since they were one and a half, and now have Nutcase Street Helmets (Size 1) protecting their noggins.

Nutcase "Watermelon" and "Daisy Pink" Street Helmets
Nutcase "Watermelon" Street Helmet

What We Love

We tested the Size 1 Street helmets, but all of the features below are available in all sizes of Little Nutty and Street helmets, so cyclists of all ages can get the same quality and comfort in their helmets.

Our kids' favorite things about Nutcase helmets are the stylish designs and glossy finish! Since helmets only protect your child's head when they are worn, we appreciate the cool designs too! Having helmets our kids will actually wear without putting up a fight is awesome. There are a variety of designs to please even the pickiest fashionista from polka dots to houndstooth. Be sure to check out the Artist Series too! 

The anti-pinch magnetic buckle is a unique feature that has saved our kids' necks more than once. It is EASY to pinch a squirming toddler's neck in a buckle (we've done it), but we've never had an issue with Nutcase's magnetic buckle. It's also easy for the kids to fasten and unfasten by themselves! Further, the neck strap has a soft cover so the strap doesn't chafe sensitive skin.

As far as safety goes, Nutcase street sport helmets provide a lot more coverage than typical bike helmets (which only cover the top of the head) and can also be used for skateboarding and roller skating. They have a durable ABS shell and protective EPS foam inner lining. "Crumple zones  in EPS... disperse energy in the event of a crash." (Source: Nutcase Helmets) Reflective logos on the front, back, and sides and reflective straps provide 360 degree reflectivity.

Eleven vents in the front, top and back allow for good ventilation - important because we ride every day in the summer!

The spin dial system makes for quick adjustments. A quick turn of the dial tightens or loosens the helmet. Parents of girls will appreciate this most as different hairstyles require adjusting of the helmet (I always have to loosen it slightly when the girls have ponytails). You can also optimize fit by changing the foam pads - three sets of removable foam pads come with the helmet, so you can start with thicker pads and change to thinner ones as your child grows. 

New generation Nutcase helmets come with a sun/rain visor. My youngest prefers the look of the visor and my oldest prefers to go without. It's easy to install or remove the visor, but I prefer a visor on my own helmet when mountain biking so I don't get whipped in the face with branches!

Nutcase "Watermelon" Street Helmet

Gen 3 Nutcase Helmet Improvements

The Gen 3 helmet shape has been modified and is more oval than round and fit our girls perfectly out of the box. (Our 2010 Little Nutty Helmets are quite round and didn't fit snugly at first, but as our girls grew into them, they fit quite well.) If Nutcase helmets didn't fit in the past, give them another try! We are very happy with the new shape! 

The Little Nutty and Nutcase Street helmets now have 11 vents instead of 9 for better ventilation and are lighter too!

Nutcase helmets now come with a detachable sun/rain visor and extra sets of foam pads to customize fit.

Little Nutty "Smiley" Helmet (discontinued) 

The Verdict

We loved Nutcase helmets before, but love them even more now that they fit so well! I would recommend these to anyone who is looking for a high quality, stylish helmet!

Little Nutty "Ladybug" Helmet


Nutcase Helmets generously provided free samples of the Nutcase Street helmets for review. As always, the words and opinions expressed are my own.


For the chance to win a Nutcase Helmet for you or your child, please enter the Rafflecopter form below. Contest open to Canadian and US Residents.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Where to Buy

In Canada, Nutcase Helmets are available at Mountain Equipment Co-op and select bike stores. 
In the USA, order direct from

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Backpacking the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail with Kids

The Juan de Fuca Marine Trail is a weekend warrior's paradise, but also makes a desirable family backpacking destination. With suspension bridges, rope swings, caves, beautiful beaches, whale watching and waterfalls, there is fun for everyone. Further, various access points make it possible to choose your own adventure. Instead of trekking 47 km, you may start at China Beach Day Use Area and do an overnighter at Mystic Beach (4 km return), or do a longer hike to Bear Beach (18 km return).  The accessibility of the trail is a definite advantage over the more popular West Coast Trail. On the Juan de Fuca Trail, you do not need to take a ferry to the trailhead, drive hours down a rough logging road, make reservations months in advance, or take a mandatory orientation (though some hikers could benefit from one).

Our adventure took us to Mystic Beach, Bear Beach, Sombrio, and Botanical Beach. In total, my girls (4 & 6 years old) hiked over 20 kilometres! We look forward to doing the whole trail when they're bigger. 

Juan de Fuca Marine Trail Trip Report

China Beach Day Use to Mystic Beach (2 km hike)

The trail to Mystic Beach (2 km) is in great shape as this area gets a lot of foot traffic. Once you hit the beach you'll see why this is such a popular dayhike and overnight camping spot! The suspension bridge was our favorite part of the hike.

Mystic Beach (just past the 2 km marker)

This gorgeous sand and pebble beach has a cave, rope swing, and two small waterfalls. Either waterfall makes a great shower! Collect some drinking water while you're at it!

Our most memorable moments of camping at Mystic Beach include swinging on the rope swing, seeing a pod of orcas frolic through Juan de Fuca Strait, and checking out rock art in the cave.

Arrive early to get a good spot as there are limited sites on the beach (and there are no forest sites).

Mystic Beach
Mystic Beach Cave
Mystic Beach Rope Swing!
View from the Tent on Mystic Beach
Beachside Breakfast

Mystic Beach to Bear Beach (7 km hike)

This part of the trail was a little rougher and had more challenges and hazards - cliffs, slippery wooden structures, and a couple sketchy, steep sets of "stairs". We kept the kids close as there are many things to fall off of! The trail was a bit sketchy in the pouring rain, but when we hiked out two days later (after a full day of sunshine), it was far easier. It's amazing what a difference the weather makes. The trickiest part was the descent down to Bear Beach, but we took our time and made it down safely.

Munchkins in the Mist
Hiking to Bear Beach, Juan de Fuca Marine Trail
Descending to Bear Beach

Bear Beach (at the 9 km marker)

Bear Beach is a long, rocky beach with a stream, waterfall, and opportunities for wildlife viewing. While we never saw Bear Beach's namesake, we did see several seals and otters in the kelp beds. I imagine there must be some amazing fishing in the area! 

Several campsites are spread out over a long area and there are also a handful of forested campsites near the creek. If the weather is foul, camp in the forest to take shelter from the wind. 

While there are a few patches of sand, the beach is mostly rocks, so it isn't the best sand castle building beach. Nevertheless, we had plenty to do and spent most of our time beachcombing and splashing in the stream. Since the stream flows quite quickly, you do not have to walk too far upstream to get drinking water. If you need to clean yourself up, the stream is the place (but do it close to the sea / downstream of people collecting drinking water) as the waterfall is surrounded by deadfall.

Bear Beach
At the 9 km marker! So proud of my girls!!
Rosemond Creek

Sombrio Beach

The stretch from Bear Beach to Sombrio is the most strenuous section of the trail, so we hiked back to our car and drove to the Sombrio Beach Trailhead. 
Sombrio is a popular surfing spot and has three camping options: West Sombrio, Main Sombrio, and East Sombrio. Since the girls were tuckered out from the 9 km hike back from Bear Beach, we opted for the West Sombrio, the closest campground, 500 metres from the parking lot. Sites were in the forest on tent pads. Beach camping is available at Sombrio Beach East.

Highlights of our stay included swinging on the rope swing and watching a humpback whale cruise through the strait and "wave" at us. For a fun day trip, hike to the Loss Creek Suspension Bridge, the longest bridge on the trail (about 100 feet long and 100 feet high). We plan to do this next time!

Sombrio Beach Rope Swing

Botanical Beach

After a restful day at Sombrio, we headed up the highway to Botanical Beach. Known for its rich intertidal life, Botanical Beach is a popular tide pool viewing location. Be sure to go at low tide for the best viewing opportunities and avoid touching or stepping on little critters. There are some pretty hikes around the bay, and if you get hungry, pop into Port Renfrew for a bite at the Coastal Kitchen Cafe, Tom's Home Cooking (THC Diner), or Port Renfrew Hotel. There is also a general store where you can restock provisions. 

If you have time, check out old growth giants at Avatar Grove! 

Botanical Bay
Botanical Bay

Planning Your Trip

  • All campsites on the JdF are first come, first served. Self register at the trailhead - be sure to keep one payment stub on your dash and one with you.
  • Weekends tend to be quite busy, especially at Mystic Beach and Sombrio, so get an early start to ensure you get a campsite. If your schedule is flexible, start midweek. 
  • When camping on the beach, ensure you pitch your tent above the high tide line. In the forest campgrounds, you must use the tent pads.
  • Peak season is July and August because the weather is best then. Some hikers have had success in September but outside of these months, expect a lot more precipitation.
  • While there is no age restriction on the Juan de Fuca (JdF) trail, I advise section hiking the moderate sections if your children are under the age of 10. 
  • According to parks information posted in the outhouses, Vancouver Island has the highest concentration of bears of cougars in the world! For tips on being bear aware, please see this post.
  • Bring a lot of treats for motivation! 


Tides - be sure to camp above the high tide line and observe tides when hiking along the shore. Buoys mark trail access points, but where there are cliffs, there is no way off the beach. Plan your route accordingly.
Cliffs - no fences to prevent falling
Wooden structures such as bridges, logs, and ladders are slippery when wet. Wear good footwear and hold little ones' hands.


The Juan de Fuca Marine Trail is located on the southwest side of Vancouver Island between French Beach Provincial Park and Port Renfrew.

The Juan de Fuca Marine Trail is doable with kids if you stick to the easy sections! Choose your own adventure and stay one night or many!

Related Links 

All The Small Things (How we made the most of the pouring rain on the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail)
Family Backpacking 101
10 Tips for Backpacking the West Coast Trail
Leave No Trace Fails & Remedies - how to dispose of dishwater properly & more

Thursday, September 17, 2015

How to Get a Good Night's Sleep When Camping

I've always been jealous of people that can sleep through anything, no matter where they are. I'm the one that wakes up when someone two tents over coughs in the night! As a light sleeper, getting enough sleep while camping has always been a challenge (unless I'm at a backcountry campground - bliss!). Babies, partiers, scavengers, and road noise all work together to ward off sleep.

Since ample rest is vital to having the energy to pursue adventures day after day, I've been testing different strategies to optimize camp sleep. These methods work well when I am consistent, but don't talk to me if I've forgotten my earplugs. Just pour me another cup of coffee.

Are you a light sleeper? Try these camping sleep tips and let me know what worked best for you!

  1. White Noise: Camping near a stream, waterfall, or beach is one of the best ways to get a good night's rest as the water sound drowns out all other noise. It is the best white noise! Natural white noise not an option? See tip #4 or play wave or raindrop tracks on your phone/iPod.
    Takakkaw Falls, Yoho National Park
  2. Enforce Quiet Time: In the event that fellow campers are being too loud after Quiet Time, don't hesitate to call the Campground Operator. If you are being kept up, it is likely others are too so you'll be doing them a service. Same deal if your neighbor's generator is keeping you up (though if possible, ask them first). 
  3. Go to Sleep Early: At large and busy campgrounds, expect to be woken up by a murder of crows, chattering squirrels, or screaming toddlers. Since the noise is unavoidable and shooting the birds isn't allowed, the best you can do is turn in early each night to maximize your zz's. 
    Cute, but loud! Don't feed the little buggers.
  4. Use Ear Plugs: Traffic, barking dogs, trains, slamming outhouse doors, and car beeps can be muffled with a good set of earplugs. Get the waxy or soft foam kind that can be molded to fit your ears and test them out before you go. While they can't eliminate all noise, they block enough that they minimize night wakings (I notice the difference when I forget to put them in).
  5. Use an Eye Shade: An eye shade is fantastic for letting you sleep in past sunrise in the event that critters or kids don't wake you first. 
  6. Be Prepared for Lower Temperatures: Ensure you have the correct sleeping bag for where you are camping. If anything, err on the side of too warm as it's easier to unzip than search for extra clothing in the middle of the night. Keep a down sweater near you just in case and consider wearing a toque and thick pair of socks to sleep in colder weather. Research shows you sleep better when your feet aren't cold! To learn how to select a sleeping bag and sleeping pad/mat/cot, see this post. 
  7. We use -7C sleeping bags.
  8. Get Comfy: A poor sleep system is often to blame for a rough night. Try out different air mattresses or sleeping pads before your trip to make sure you are comfortable. My tips on selecting camp bedding are here. If you usually sleep with a pillow (who doesn't?), bring one! There are all sorts of mini compressible pillows that will fit in a mummy bag but have enough loft to trick your head into thinking it's at home. I love my Therm-a-rest pillow! This year, I also discovered the Thermarest LuxuryLite Ultralight cot! There was a learning curve in determining the number and types of supports to use, but now I can't camp without it. 
    Thermarest Compressible Pillow
  9. Treat Injuries: If you have an injury that is bad enough to prevent sleep, take care of it! Ice it, take a couple Advil (with a snack so you don't irritate your stomach), massage it and wrap it if need be. For some soreness or stiffness, gentle stretching may help. I like to do stretches for my lower back and hamstrings after a long hike.
    Stretch it out! 
  10. Avoid Liquids Close to Bedtime: I am guilty of indulging in late night tea or cocoa and end up waking up in the night to use the loo. Stop all liquids a couple hours before bedtime if possible and always visit the bathroom before bed. If you or others in your family frequently wake in the night to use the washroom, purchase a headlamp/lantern with a red light on it. Red light is less disruptive to tentmates and doesn't make you as alert as white light so you can go back to sleep easier.
  11. Visit the can before you hit the hay!
  12. Tell Soothing Bedtime Stories: While bigger kids may enjoy ghost stories, young children cannot handle scary stuff before bed. Stick to light and fun bedtime stories.
  13. Little POG sure can sleep even when it's hot!
Bonus: Keep a bare site! Be bear aware and put away all food items, coolers, cookware, and items with a smell before bed and any time you are away from your site. We had a bear sniff around our tents last month and it was terrifying!!! I awoke at 4 am and never went back to sleep. We didn't leave food out, but the people in the next site did. :( To learn more about bear safety, please see this post.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sustainable Forest Schooling

When I think of Forest School, I imagine babes in the woods getting dirty, loving Mother Earth and learning how to care for her. I envision child-led learning with an emphasis on being kind to nature and all its creatures. With the recent movement to reconnect children with nature, forest school activities are popping up all over social media. Some suggested activities are genius, and others are frighteningly unsustainable. While planting a tree seems like it would be good for the environment, planting a Russian Olive tree would be detrimental to the forest (it is an invasive species). And as much fun as it is to catch minnows, after being handled and kept in a bucket in the blazing sun, many of them will die. Like the old saying goes, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." How then can we get on the path to sustainable forest schooling?

1. Look But Don't Touch: The best way to view wildlife is in its natural habitat.      
  • DO encourage respectful wildlife viewing. Bring a monocular or pair of binoculars for looking at animals in the distance, and discuss how you can speak so as not to scare the animals (hint: Shhhhh).
  • DO look at bugs under a magnifying glass.
  • DO encourage the kids to take photos are draw pictures of what they saw.
  • DO look for signs of wildlife (pine cone middens, nests, scat).
Happy marmot
  • DO NOT catch butterflies, frogs, and minnows or touch tide pool creatures. Capturing and handling many animals and bugs can stress, injure, and even kill certain them! Butterfly wings can be damaged in capture and amphibians' back legs can be dislocatedmaking them easy targets for predators. Fish are very susceptible to stress, temperature changes, and having their slime coat removed (it acts as a barrier to bacteria and fungi). Sunscreen and bug spray on our hands can harm starfish and sea anemones.
  • DO NOT feed wild animals. By feeding animals, we not only make them dependent on our handouts, we also endanger them (and people!). Animals that are used to being fed can become aggressive when they don't get what they want! I don't know about you, but there is nothing cute about a vicious squirrel scratching at my legs (super scary now that there have been a few rabies cases in the province). Now picture a larger animal doing this... 
  • DO NOT bring animals and bugs home with you.
I spy a nest!
Pine cone midden (made by squirrels)
2. Respect Park Rules: There are reasons why we aren't allowed to collect deadfall for firewood or cut green branches for marshmallow sticks. Even if you do these things in the name of education, if every park visitor violated the rules, the park would lose the very characteristics that make it a protected area. Trees would be denuded and unhealthy from the lack of forest litter rejuvenating the soil. In the firewood and marshmallow stick example, one could instead teach the importance of nurse logs, show children what kind of wood burns well (but not take it), and practice some stick whittling when when you are pruning the trees in your garden! By respecting the rules, we lead by example and preserve the park's wildness for others to enjoy. 
  • DO learn what the rules are. This summer, I learned you're not allowed to collect seashells in BC provincial parks! Did you know that? 
  • DO explain why certain rules are in place or look it up together. Parks staff are quite happy to oblige.
  • DO pledge to follow the rules.
  • DO NOT break the rules! 
We left the shells alone and made a sand castle instead!
3. Leave No Trace: Learning to Leave No Trace is as easy as 1 to 7! To learn the seven principles, please visit Leave No Trace Canada or see my post summing up some common leave no trace mistakes and how to fix them.  

Low profile rock art
4. Use Common Sense: What will the long term effects of my actions be? Picking dandelions on the soccer field and making dandelion chains is a far cry from picking alpine flowers in a fragile environment. I let my kids do the former, but never the latter. We also collect leaves in city parks since they get raked up anyways. There are plenty of opportunities for forest schooling in our cities and backyards, but if we venture out to protected areas, let's do our best to keep them wild. 

Take only photographs!
By pursuing leave no trace principles and stewardship mandates, forest schools can teach children how to appreciate nature gently and tread gently on the Earth. No more buckets of minnows, hacked trees, and starfish jewelry! 



Related Posts

Thursday, September 10, 2015

8 Tips to Get Your Kids Hooked on Fishing

Fishing is fun for the whole family if you know how to catch fish! Failing that, it can be boring or downright frustrating. After many casts and no fish, I started talking to people on the shore and in shops, watching Youtube videos, and reading about trout fishing. When I tried again, I caught a beautiful bull trout and went on to catch some rainbow trout on a later trip. While we still have lots to learn, we've fixed some of our biggest mistakes, and can only get better! 

Here's what you need to know to get your kids hooked on fishing.

1. Decide What to Catch

First things first, you need to know what you would like to catch so you have the right gear, use the right techniques, and go to the right places. For example, most trout lures can be clipped to a snap swivel, but when pike fishing, you need to use heavy wire leaders so you don't lose your lures (pike have strong jaws and big teeth that can easily sever your line). 

I like to go after trout because they look nice, fight well, and taste really good. 

Beautiful bull trout caught and released at Upper Kananaskis Lake, Alberta

2. Know Where to Go

  • Go fishing with a friend who know what she's doing, so you will have some success. I went to a few places on my own that old fishing forums said were good, but recent flooding had changed the river's profile and the fishing was no longer good there.
  • Try a stocked pond in your area. Your luck will be best shortly after the pond has been stocked, but most of the fish will be quite small. Alberta Stocking Reports with detailed information regarding the number, size and species of fish stocked are available online here.
  • In ponds or lakes, good places to cast for trout are off of points, the mouths of bays, where the shoreline drops off, and stream outlets (where streams flow in). Around bridge pilings is another popular place to fish.
The mouth of this small bay is an awesome fishing spot!

3. Pick the Right Time

  • If conditions are right, you can haul in fish all day long, but in most places, around dawn and dusk are optimal. 
  • Fish when the fish are feeding. When the water is calm, look for telltale circular ripples formed by fish coming to the surface to feed. You may even see fish leaping out of the water! One calm night, we had constant strikes, and a few escapes before reeling in a couple rainbows (more on how to avoid that below).
  • Right before it rains is often a good time too, but seek shelter if it looks like an electrical storm is brewing.
Sunset fishing is amazing!

4. Know What Lure/Bait to Use

  • Check fishing regulations before you use bait. Bait includes any food item (corn, marshmallows, cheese) and is different from bait fish. If there is a bait ban, you may only use artificial, unscented lures.
  • Ask the people around you what they are using. The fishing community is amazingly friendly. Most fishermen I've met are super keen to share information (except their favorite fishing holes).
  • Try worms. I wasn't keen on putting live worms on hooks, but the worm and bobber method (put the bobber about 1-1.5 feet above your hook, then put a worm on the hook) is extremely effective! After our camping neighbors told us they had caught 10 trout with worms, we gave it a try and caught 6 fish this way. If there's no bait ban, dig up or purchase some worms. We will probably dig our own as it was $5 for about 10 worms.
  • Check your hook size. Although I was using attractive lures and getting lots of bites, I couldn't land fish because I was using hooks that were 10 sizes too big (I have a little ocean fishing experience and bought everything big at first). In Alberta, stocked ponds are typically stocked with fish that are 16-20 cm long (but there is a lot of variation, so check the fish stocking report), so size 12 or 14 hooks would be preferable. 
Worms - they work if you can make yourself put them on the hook.

5. Buy Decent Tackle

  • Kids' Gear: When I went to look for fishing rods for my kids, the only short fishing rods I could find were basically toys. You know those Princess fishing rods? Don't.even.bother. While you CAN catch fish on these (my youngest got her first trout on one), they don't last. One reel was broken right out of the packaging (the tension dial didn't work) and the other reel wouldn't release line. I managed to fix one, only to have the rod break on our next outing. My mom's solution was to buy an ice fishing rod! An ice fishing rod is extremely tough (you can bend it in half, but I don't recommend doing that repeatedly) and is short enough that your kids can cast with it easier than with a full sized rod. Plus, you can use it year round if lakes freeze over where you live. 
  • Parents' Gear: If you want to keep things simple, get a spin casting (push button) combo; if you'd like to learn something new, try a spinning reel combo. There are lots of videos online that can teach you how to use either. (Don't start on a baitcasting reel as they are the trickiest to learn). Whatever you choose, research before you buy to ensure you get something that works and don't buy the cheapest set out there or you'll regret it. You can catch fish on cheap rod/reel combos, but the cheapo stuff tends not to last.
  • Fishing line: Get the store to spool your reel to ensure it is done correctly.  It isn't too difficult to do yourself, but if you do it incorrectly, you'll be untangling snarls all day instead of catching fish! They will also ensure you get the right type of fishing line for your reel. 
  • Snap swivels, snaps, leaders, what? Get high quality components, but only what you need. Read the instructions on your lure to see what the recommended set up is. I like to keep a snap swivel on my line so I can change lures easily. The snap is easy to open and close, and the swivel allows the line to not get twisted up when my lure is spinning. If you are not using lures with a spinning action, you may not need a snap swivel, but could still benefit from using a snap (again for easy lure changes). Leaders are good to use when you are going after large, aggressive fish that can bite through the line. Some hooks and bobbers are good to always have on hand too (for trout, I used balsa floats and size 12 hooks).
  • Accessories: While you're at the store, buy a case for your fishing rod and a tackle box to keep lures in order. It's easy to break the tips off of light rods. 
Toy rod/reel combo vs. Ice fishing rod/reel combo
You can catch fish with both, but the ice fishing set up is far more robust!

6. Watch your retrieve speed 

  • I used to cast, then reel the line in (retrieve) as fast as possible. Someone watching us said, "The fish aren't gonna be able to catch that!" and then I paid more attention. Looking into the lake, the fish were able to keep up, but by the time they got almost close enough to bite, I was lifting the hook out of the water. You need to go quick enough that your lure's action is attractive to the fish, but slow enough that they have time to investigate, then strike. The only way you'll know is by trial and error. If you're in a fish-rich location, you will see fish following your lure in. Observe what happens when you change your speed. By slowing down my retrieve, I finally landed a fish.
One of the rainbow trout we caught with a worm and bobber.

7. Don't Overdo It

  • The key to a new activity is to ease into it and stop while you're ahead (stop before the kids hate it/lose interest) so they'll want to try again another day. We squeeze in a bit of fishing at the beginning and end of day so we can fish at the best times of day and hike or bike in between! After our last camping trip, my girls said their favorite part of the trip was fishing; it made all the line untangling and hook pokes worth it. 
  • Exception: If you keep catching fish and the kids are having a blast, keep on fishing! ;)

8. Plan Ahead

  • Since little kids' attentions spans are so short you might miss them, learn some basic knots and get as many things ready in advance as possible. The knot I use most is the improved clinch knot as it is easy, quick, and secure. Tie on snap swivels (if you will be using lures) before you head out to avoid line twist and allow for quick lure changes. 
  • If your kids are old enough, teach them the knots so they can tie their own lures on.
  • Bring extra layers and extra clothes as kids will at some point go in the water, intentionally or not. Snacks and extra water are always great.
  • Be sure to talk about safety (look behind you before you cast) and spread out! I like to wear a cap and sunglasses to protect my head from stray hooks. 
"Today was the best day of my life, Mom!"
Big POG and her Brook Trout!
I hope these tips help you and your family catch some big ones! Let me know how it goes!