As we enter the new year I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the changes in our outdoor hunting and fishing pursuits that can take place during the space of time covered in one father-son transition period.
The case I will use is the time span from when my father was born in 1885 up to 2015. This is a space of 130 years of outdoor activities covered by father and son. When we observe the staggering changes that have evolved in our sports it is sobering to look at what the future holds for modern day father-and-son time periods.
Initially my father passed on to me and my brothers his primary skills of recreational fishing. My father was born in Walden, Vermont, USA, made famous by the great American naturalist Henry David Thoreau. I suggest there was a connection of a large pool of outdoor knowledge and skills part of this community’s resource base that was passed on to the next generation.
We started our fly fishing careers with a three-piece metal fly rod, that was heavy and cumbersome. Our fly lines were kept afloat with the application of deer fat. The leaders were made of gut and had to be soaked before use. Our flies were traditional British patterns.
As teenagers we quickly graduated to split cane rods, popular American made fly reels, tapered lines and nylon leaders and tying our own flies. This technology was soon followed by fibreglass rods and Hardy Reels loaded with floating or sinking lines.
The next change was graphite rods, and a large choice of new fly reels, along with the specialization of fly lines to meet virtually all fly fishing situations. We were also experiencing a parallel change in our bait casting outfits. The new technologies went a long way in making our recreational fishing a challenging, skill-oriented sport to catch fish.
Our lake fishing careers started on a large northern lake with a simple clinker built boat and oars. It graduated to outboard motors and compasses. To begin with we used hand-lines, that were followed by simple single action trolling reels. These simple beginning tackles graduated to all the modern lines, reels, rods and lures.
At first we fished from wharves, shorelines and rafts; from these we progressed to boats made of fibreglass and aluminium that are part of modern fishing. We started on easy-to-catch species such as perch and pike. As time passed we graduated to challenging species such as trout, steelhead, salmon, lingcod and halibut.
Compasses are now back-up tools for Gravitational Position Systems (GPS). To protect us from the weather we have sunscreen and waterproof clothing that is comfortable to wear. Our flotation devices vary from collar-like devices to full-fledged survival suits for marine waters.
Hunting has not seen the major changes in rifles and shotguns that we experienced in fishing tackle, primarily because modern powder and centre fire rifles and shotguns had been invented. Modern archery has followed a pattern of new materials and inventions. Oh yes! there have been the magnum firearms; however they are basically the same as early firearms.
There have however been some tragic changes in the wildlife species we hunt. As an example, the last passenger pigeon died in a zoo in 1929. Their numbers were once so great that their flocks are said to have darkened the sky. Also within my father’s life span the last of the plains bison were rescued and placed in parks. The huge runs of salmon on our coast have been greatly reduced.
We are 15 years into the 21st century. I suggest the single generation transfer of knowledge in fishing and hunting from parent to child will cover a century. Applying this concept to our current century means that changes in the next 100 years may be witnessed and adapted by simple transfers of knowledge from one generation to the next.
I also suggest that rapid changes in climates and uses of renewable energy will be profound. These changes will dictate the species we harvest from a rapidly changing natural world. When viewed as a single generation transfer of knowledge and skills, a century is not a very long time. It is the life span of two humans – parent and child. Rapid climate change in our century will challenge how they adapt.
A happy and prosperous new year!
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.