The term life skills suggests skills that we do throughout our life time. This column is primarily about fishing, hunting and the outdoors in general. Childhood is when we develop many of the complex skills of living that we take for granted such as walking, running, swimming, jumping and so forth.
Childhood is also a time when we develop many of the skills that lead to a lifetime in pursuing outdoor activities. Simple skills such as rowing a boat, paddling a canoe, can lead to a life of exploring and associated water skills. They are also basic skills in many types of angling.
Fishing can be a many faceted recreational skill that is dependent on the successful combination of many of the above skills. The simple challenge of fishing with worms and a spinning outfit can lead to the more challenging skills of casting lures and trolling a variety of tackle and baited hooks.
The summertime is when many children get the opportunity to be outdoors in water settings where they can lay the foundations for lifetimes of outdoor pursuits.
The other day I was in a small boat on Comox Lake at the Courtenay and District Fish and Game Club campground and what impressed me was the large number of children playing and swimming in protected waters along the beach.
These types of skills lead to a psychological comfort in being near water. They are also good times to teach the precautionary skills of safety in the outdoors and in aquatic environments. A lifetime career as an outdoors person is contingent on the development of a myriad of operational talents, abilities, aptitudes and experiences that are consolidated in activities such as recreational angling.
One of the basic skills of successful angling is a combined love of nature and the exciting systems that make it work. For the balance of this week and into next week there are a series of midday low tides that expose large areas of tidal foreshore and inter-tidal pools. These are golden opportunities to spend time on the beach with your children and let them explore the complicated life systems in our exposed beaches.
These biological miracles in our local tidal pools and beaches can lay the foundation for love and respect for nature. Time spent in turning over rocks to see who is living there is a thrilling lesson in the school of natural life. Little crabs and small fish are always exciting to put in a pail for awhile before releasing them back to their home territory slightly confused, but hopefully not injured.
These basic examples of the complexity and interconnectedness of natural systems may be getting a start in these childhood explorations on the beach. In talking with my grandchildren (who are in many cases parents), they remember fondly our beach exploring trips that included much nature study with the process of digging some clams.
In a freshwater setting we find with many small camping areas there are exciting discoveries to be made in turning over few a rocks or water logged pieces of wood. There are many types of snails, leeches, salamanders and small aquatic nymphs that are insects in various stages of development. Frequently there will be small snakes and frogs along the shoreline.
While some of these creatures may have direct application to angling activities, they are also examples of the complex world of nature. When the child actively participates in digging worms for bait or catching grasshoppers, they are adding a whole new dimension to their fishing experience.
Throughout all of the above activities it is incumbent on the parents and adults to teach the children that the creatures must not be mistreated, and when disturbed they should be returned to their home environment as soon as possible. It is also important to teach the child to disturb the environment with care and caution and to always try to return areas that may be dug up as in clamming or digging for worms back to a natural state.
As general rule I am not a great fan of promoting children in serious saltwater fishing; however pink salmon are relatively small fish that can give a child a real thrill (as are flounders and bullheads). Avoid emotional outbursts when a perceived valuable fish gets away. Let them enjoy the experience.
Ralph Shaw is a master fly fisherman who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1984 for his conservation efforts. In 20 years of writing a column in the Comox Valley Record it has won several awards.