Family traditions are part of that mysterious glue that keeps families together as the societal units that have much to do with how we live our lives.
Depending on the family background it could be horseback riding, dancing, golf, gardening, painting, hockey, soccer, swimming, or any of the vast arrays of sports and hobbies that cut across generations and encourage family participation.
It will be no surprise that fishing is one of the traditions that runs through this branch of the Shaw clan. Elaine and I have three daughters, two of them are grandmothers and the youngest has three sons who offer much promise to their mother. In other words they are part of the current baby boomer generation.
In all of their families, fishing has played a significant role in family vacations and pastimes and continues to do so. Not all of the new generations are fisher folks, but about 80 per cent of the current young adults spend considerable time in various fishing activities throughout the province. In other words, fishing is an established tradition of this family.
This brings me to the main theme of this column – fulfilling a family tradition with our eldest daughter Melanie Luciak of Prince George. She has been visiting with us for the past week and expressed a desire to go fishing off Tribune Bay, where we used to fish with her children about 20 years ago. Melanie was a very athletic young woman who played competitive sports during her high school years. She was also an accomplished fly fisher who at one time tied trout flies on a professional basis. Her fly fishing skills cost her a boyfriend one time, as she embarrassed the young blade with her casting and catching skills when he was very set on his own abilities.
When Melanie and her family visited us during the 1980s one of the major attractions was fishing and assorted beach activities such as clam digging or turning over rocks to see what lived underneath them.
Back then we were almost exclusively drift fishers with Buzz Bombs and Zzingers, and in the process everybody caught a lot of coho, chinook and assorted bottomfish. In the ensuing years I have passed my Boston Whaler on to my grandson Tyrel Bandet. So when Tyrel learned his aunt was coming down for a visit and wanted to do some traditional bottom fishing he volunteered to host her and see that she got some action in the old familiar family Boston Whaler.
On Saturday we launched at Union Bay and three generations of the clan took off for a day of nostalgic fishing in the waters around the Chrome Island lighthouse and Hornby Island. The goal was to take Melanie over the same waters she fished with her family in the past. The new captain of the boat, Tyrel, was about to show the clan patriarch that he knew quite a bit about the waters we planned to fish.
As we approached our fishing destination the captain quickly zeroed in on an appropriate pile of rocks that may be home to a lingcod. Melanie hadn’t had a fishing rod in her hands for over 20 years, but the skills were still there in handling a level wind bait fishing outfit.
I am never certain how the fishing gods look at who will catch a fish, but on this occasion they must have been suitably impressed with Melanie. In her second drop of her lure she caught a prime 68cm lingcod. A short time later she hooked and landed a large brown rockfish of about five pounds. It was a hard act to follow and Tyrel and I had trouble living up to the standard Melanie set for us. In fact, Tyrel took a large blue lingcod as the day progressed and the patriarch of the clan went without – so much for supposed skill and experience.
Family fishing is a positive tradition that allows much knowledge and skill to be passed from one generation to the next in an atmosphere of mutual respect and common goals. Age is no barrier and the skills can be practised at many levels of competence, yet all the while there are easy goals of success for appropriate levels of the tradition.
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.