Learn to Fish
Credit: Kevin Callan

We all need a reason to get out of our normal routine, pack up and head into the woods.

Fishing has always done it for me. My father had me digging for worms and wading down trout streams the moment I could walk. Of course, back then it seemed quite normal to skip out of school early, meet up with some buddies and ride our bikes to one of our fishing holes. My parents didn’t have a clue where I was most of the time. I don’t think they cared either, as long as I was back for supper.

That’s why I was a little more than shocked to see the amount of families gather at the Learn to Fish Program held at Ontario's Sandbanks Provincial Park last week. I helped the staff out, introducing a mixed-bag of cultures to the world of angling. Most participants were mid-thirtysomething parents who had grown bored of hanging out at the beach. None of them had ever fished before!

The parents had it made, really. The staff, comprised of three incredibly enthusiastic and knowledgeable youth, gave a quick lecture about rules and regulations and then handed out rods, reels and juicy worms. Countless panfish were caught off the dock. It reminded me of that old carnival game where you catch fish in a trough, equipped with a bamboo rod baited with a magnet.

Yes, things have changed. Becoming an angler has gone from a time when a parent simply had to buy his son or daughter a Daisy casting rod and a used bicycle, to a government-run initiative to teach people how to fish. It achieves the same result, however. At the end of the Learn to Fish Program, when all the worms had been used up and the hot sun made all the parents want to escape back to he beach, a large group of kids asked to stay and fish some more.

It was one of those Stand By Me moments, like going back in time when even the Walkman wasn’t invented yet. New friends were made, fish stories were told and bets about the biggest fish and most fish were laid out.

Parents allowed their kids some freedom—and at the same time created a reason for them to go back to the woods.

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