As we breach the 21st century the numbers of youngsters coming into the sport are steadily falling. We can of course blame our media obsessed society for this, the gentle art does not exactly sit easily with a culture obsessed with satellite communications, mobile phones, computer games and all action Playstations. But it goes deeper than that.

Fishing is, by its very nature, a quiet gentle pursuit requiring a fair degree of skill, a deal of patience and considerable magnanimity in coping with failure, i.e. blanks!

Many youngsters today want dead cert adrenaline fixes and find the uncertainty of angling, especially by fly, difficult to relate to. Why struggle with the elements of wind and rain trying to coax uncooperative fish from their lair when you can sit in comfort and play computer games in which you pulverise enemies, save the universe and talk on your mobile all at the same time? Sadly it looks like fishing is missing the spot in the techno age, its pace is too slow and its image is no longer cool.

So how do we go about reversing this decline in popularity? The obvious answer is to introduce more youngsters to the sport and this way forward is at present being pursued in formal training courses run by governing bodies like the STA and SANA. However there is no substitute for family initiation, even if fishing is only participated in during holidays or occasional day excursions. Even if your beloved offspring either feigns being bored silly (teenager) or shrieks with joy at the capture of a stickleback when you are after salmon (7 years approx), he or she WILL remember the experience. And what's more they may well return to fishing when they too are older, stressed out execs in dire need of some tranquil hydro therapy!

I spend a good deal of the summer out guiding fishing parties and you would be surprised how many of my clients tell me their first angling days with Dad or Mum were the spark which lit the fishing flame. Indeed, the passion with which I now pursue trout angling stems directly from my late Dads (semi!) patient encouragement. What we parents do now is fundamental to the survival of the sport and as one who has reared two sons on a diet of fishy tales and moderately successful angling outings, there follows some salient tips on encouraging youngsters into the sport.

When you first initiate kids into fishing, remember to set basic targets rather than aiming too high too soon. Those vital first steps in fishing should always be governed by that familiar motto 'Fishing is Fun'. All my tuition and guiding work (whether for adults or children) is done following this ethos. Take things in easy bite-size stages and avoid making angling seem so difficult; only a university professor can cope with it. Open your mind as to how it was when you were as small as the child standing in front of you. Did you really want to spend hours learning knots, analysing the difference between a weight forward or a double taper and looking at rod parabolas? - Not likely - you wanted to be in there fishing and trying to catch something.

Do emphasise the different simple joys of fishing. I started with a jam jar collecting minnows in a local burn and 'fished' in rock pools with a net on the end of a long cane. From there I progressed to worm fishing for tiny burn trout and then some sea angling with a spinning rod. By the time I was about 8 or 9 I had a small fly rod and floating line and, after a deal of difficulty, managed to ensnare a small river trout on the fly. The rest as they say, is history.

First steps in fishing should be as uncomplicated as this, a natural unhurried progression. Personally I think if you introduce kids to catching big fish, be that hefty rainbows or Atlantic salmon, first thing AND they actually catch one, their expectations of fishing are going to be set at unrealistically high levels. Instant achievers i.e. those who capture a huge fish first go may very well see the challenges of angling (of which there are many) in a diminished light and are not so likely to keep the interest going.

When selecting your fishing venue, strike a balance between productivity of the water and degree of difficulty. If you want your introduction to fishing to go well, choose a FERTILE water with small to medium sized free rising fish. Pick a day with good overhead conditions and make it a bit special with a good picnic lunch or a promise of chips or McDonalds on the way home! Keep any explanations on casting light and with humour. At all costs don't embarrass your youngster by being over-critical of fluffed efforts or missed fish - they are likely never to want to go with you again if their first attempts are belittled. But at the same time you must remember your offspring will want to catch something and may feel miffed if they come away with nothing. If all their attempts at hooking fish fail, a useful tip is for you to cast the line out and let the beginner retrieve it back. Stay beside them at their elbow and if you see the trout take simply lift the rod to set the hook. The fish is then on and the kid can enjoy the fight. Takes a bit of practise this, because the moment your attention strays a fish will splatter at the fly, but it sharpens everyone's concentration no end!

Competing with the dubious attractions of satellite TV and mobile phones is not going to be easy but for the sake of the sport, parents will have to try. As long as you err very much on the side of 'doing' rather than 'saying' (youngsters attention spans are remarkably short) and making it all fun and a big adventure, then you should be successful. Kids have a natural affinity with water and are fascinated with it in many different ways.

Work on making fishing part of that equation and you are half way to developing the angler of the future.