The Learn to Fish program at Mackenzie Camp is a great way to introduce kids to fishing and the outdoors. (File photo)

Column: Privileged to help kids learn to fish

Great Outdoors/James Murray

This past summer I had the privilege of taking part in two separate sport fishing programs that took place at the Kingfisher Interpretive Centre located along the banks of the Shuswap River near Enderby.

One program involved teaching young people how to fish at MacKenzie Camp on Mabel Lake, and the other was the annual Learn to Fish Program sponsored by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC.

Let me explain why I used the word “privilege.”

For the past four years, I have conducted a series of one-week workshops (Fishing Camp Program) at MacKenzie Camp where I teach young people how to fish. Along with other camp activities such as swimming, kayaking and archery, program participants learn about entomology and the eating habits of fish, where to find fish and how to cast both spinning and fly rods.

They also learn to tie a number of basic, essential fishing knots and how to tie flies and then, the best part of all, they spend a day at Kingfisher catching fish on flies they tied themselves.

Assisted by me and several trained camp counsellors, each step along the way, participants learn all the basic skills required to catch fish. Not only that, they get to put those skills to use. By the time they’ve spent a week learning and practising those new skills, they have also acquired a new understanding and respect for the great outdoors.

Each year the program gets bigger and better.

Started in 1927 on the shore of Mabel Lake’s Dolly Varden Beach, MacKenzie Camp has since given more than 7,000 young people a chance to spend part of their summer experiencing the outdoors and taking part in camp activities.

Related: Column: Peaceful riverside living at its best in Ashton Creek

In the late 1940s, Rev. Guy MacKenzie, a minister at St. Andrew’s United Church in Enderby, showed campers how to make fishing rods from branches from local maple trees, tie flies and catch fish.

Back then, meals were prepared on a wood stove in a log house, and there were separate camps for boys and girls. A lot has changed over the years, but one thing that has not changed, however, is the expression on a young angler’s face when they catch their very first fish.

I also volunteered with the Learn to Fish Program held at the end of July. Each year, members of the Kalamalka Fly Fishers and the Freshwater Fisheries Society, along with a number of volunteers, provides first-hand fishing expertise for young anglers, which includes casting instruction, fish identification and handling practices.

They also got to cast a line to fish in the centre’s holding ponds.

The Kingfisher Interpretive Centre is a non-profit, volunteer-driven, community-based salmon hatchery and environmental education centre that was established almost three decades ago in response to the near extinction of salmon stocks in the Shuswap River system. At the centre visitors learn about salmon and the habitat in which they are reared.

Related: Column: Nocking arrow with anticipation

“Fishing brings people and families together,” says Shona Bruce, Kingfisher Interpretive Centre executive director. “It also teaches them patience and, more importantly, it helps get our youth outdoors and into nature, creating life-long memories.”

Bruce goes on to say, “All of the programs and activities here are guided by our mission to reunite people with the natural world…Even throughout the summer months, we have staff available to share the ‘magic of salmon’ with visitors from around the world as well as provide specialized programs and child-friendly educational activities.”

The Kingfisher Interpretive Centre is more than a fish hatchery or place to get information on salmon and fish habitat, it is a true learning centre where kids can actually have fun while learning.

Part of me wishes I was a kid all over again. Another part of me really does feel that it is a privilege to be a part of both the MacKenzie Camp and Learn to Fish Programs.

For further information on the Learn to Fish Program and other programs offered throughout the year at the interpretive Centre, contact the Kingfisher Interpretive Centre Society at 250-838-0004. For information on the Fishing Camp Program at MacKenzie Camp, phone 250-838-6727.


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