As a parent with young kids, I am often concerned about the next generation.
I know that children are not getting outside as much anymore. They don’t have as much unstructured play in parks, around trees, or in muddy marshes.
I have many childhood memories living in the lower mainland where we were set free in the morning to build forts in the forest or just explore the surrounding hills and creeks.
When I go back to Burnaby, I can see those areas within which gangs of us roamed wild are now houses, condominiums or highways.
While we don’t have the same level of urbanization in the North, there are significant factors still pulling Whitehorse kids away from the natural environment. Whether it is organized sports, both parents working, full-time kindergarten or the role of technology, kids are not as capable and comfortable outdoors as they used to be.
This is why programs like the Yukon Fish and Game Association’s Outdoor Education Camp for youth aged 13 to 16 years old are so important.
For one week in July, these kids are immersed in wilderness fulltime. Away from all of the distractions they learn about hiking, hunting, shooting, camping and — this is where I come in — fishing.
It was for this camp that I was asked to teach the 13, 14 year-olds how to fly-fish.
I have taught people how to fish before, but most of those were women or parents with children. I will admit that I was concerned about this audience. This pre-teen group might not be attentive, engaged or just plain disrespectful.
The plan was for an hour talk, then rig up the gear and finally spend the evening fishing at Jackson Lake.
I gathered the kids around the shelter at the Vista Outdoor Leaning Centre and asked each one of them what they like about fishing and how much experience they have had. All of the kids, except for one, had fished before.
With Wolf Reidl’s delectable Moose Goulash waiting, we adjourned the talk to fill our bellies.
Within an hour, we were all rigged up and fishing at Jackson Lake. Many of the more experienced kids jumped on the gear and spread out over the lake applying tactics they already knew.
One boy in particular, Dustin Grantham, was what I would consider wired for fishing. You could tell by the look in his eyes that he was already dissecting the lake and mapping out his strategies for catching fish that night.
The remainder needed some help applying knots, refreshers on casting, or encouragement of how to catch fish in this lake.
Within a little while all of them settled into a nice rhythm and found their groove.
I found myself with a couple of spare minutes so I grabbed a fly rod and began to fish beside a boy named Hal Schulze. I coached him along and chatted casually about his experience with the camp.
Hal was also the only kid in the group who had never been fishing before.
As he was waving the rod back and forth, I could tell that he was trying almost too hard to make a nice cast.
I made a couple of casts beside him and managed to get a Grayling on the line. I passed the rod over to Hal.
Here is a kid who has never fished before and I handed him a line full of life.
If you have ever caught Grayling, you know that special tug, tug, tug, feeling.
I could see him relax and manage this fish with a priceless smirk on his face.
As an educator, one wants to “reach” kids with a lesson. I believe that this fish “reached” Hal.
We fished beside each other for a while and he managed to catch another Grayling. It was very special for me to see this kid turn on to fishing.
I really enjoyed spending that evening with those kids and can honestly say that I have never been so optimistic about the next generation. They were all incredibly energetic, curious, positive, polite and, through their actions, taught me a thing or two about being outside.