The sun is shining at Elk Lake and in one of the sheltered picnic areas people are stirring great pots of bubbling chili on a series of portable stoves. There are salads under wraps, the fixings for hotdogs are assembled and a Bundt cake along with other desserts waits alongside the plates, cups and napkins. While the tempting food is prepared, some members of the Victoria Golden Rods and Reels Club sit in the sunshine and enjoy lively conversation, others are making their way up from the nearby lakeside and some are still hauling their boats out of the lake. Now and then, there’s the glimpse and gleam of a fresh caught rainbow trout and some snatches of conversation: “I had two in the boat and I made a fisherman’s mistake and put them back in - never caught any more.” And, “I don’t eat fish.” And, “if the fish don’t come, then it’s not that exciting, but I love the fresh air.”
But what has a chili cook-off competition or an evening’s presentation about a trip to Antarctica, have to do with fishing? Everything - ask any members – there’s more to fishing than, well, just fishing.
Back in 1977 the Victoria Golden Rods and Reels started out as a fishing and social club with a goal, amongst others, to encourage retired people to enjoy outdoor recreation. As a result, members pour equal amounts of energy into the fishing and social aspects of the club. Combining a love and respect for the outdoors with social activities ensures all members can participate and get involved. As their Web site indicates, “the club has a multi-faceted approach. Members include fresh and saltwater fishermen and women, stream fishers and fly fishers. Fishing techniques and ideas are shared. Fly tying techniques are taught in a social context, with good food and wine, at a member’s house.”
The story of how Sandy and Art Raven joined the club is typical: “We liked to fish and were looking for something interesting to do and found this club. We just love the people,” they say. “Everyone is active and supportive - as far as clubs go, you’re lucky if you get one-third of the people out, but with this club, everybody goes to everything. And, we make sure they are okay if we haven’t seen them for a while,” says Sandy, who is on the social committee and manages the club’s website; Art is president of the club.
Dennis Gedney, the current vice-president, used to hear all about the club from his neighbour. He was working, at the time, but his neighbour was retired.
“I really envied my neighbour,” he says, “he would tell me about the companionship within the club and the fishing, and how great it was. As soon as I retired, the first thing I did was join.”
Others heard about the club by way of pamphlets, the newspaper or from a list of local clubs. Many arrived from out of the province or out of the country to take up retirement in the Victoria area and wanted to get back in touch with the outdoors, with the fishing they’d enjoyed years ago, or simply to become involved in an active and varied social group.
Shirley has been a member for two years and through her husband, Ray, a 19-year member, she participated in many of the club’s activities. “I came to enjoy the social part of it,” she says, “we have a nice Christmas dinner, there are potluck suppers and going on trips - so I joined too.”
The club meets each Tuesday at the Silver Threads Hall on Douglas Street, Victoria. “As part of the meeting, there is almost always a guest speaker or film. We have a vast range of speakers,” says Club Secretary Barry Proud. They include members sharing their interesting life stories, local experts on fly tying techniques, estate planning, representatives from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, university professors covering topics of general interest, travel and the outdoors.
While Elk Lake is a popular local spot for club members, organized camping is another way the group appreciates the outdoors. Each spring and fall a small group heads out to Buttle Lake for five days of camping. Other popular destinations include Langford Lakes, Sooke River, Salmon Point and China Creek, and Cluxewe. And there are always opportunities to expound on past fishing experiences while waiting for the fish of the day to cook over the campfire.
The more serious side of the club has them tackling various projects, involving themselves in education and participating voluntarily in a broader range of conservation and wildlife activities. In previous years, the club helped clean up O’Donnell Creek, which flows into Elk Lake. And they helped build a sanitary station and wheelchair accessible dock for fishing at the lake. More recently, club members were in Sooke at a Cub Scout camp. “Eight of us tried to teach over 200 cubs how to fish,” says Barry Proud. “We were going all day with three stations taking about eight cubs each at a time. At times, utter chaos reigned with lines in trees and rods all tangled up. We are all now recovering, but the cubs had lots of fun.”
Today, before eating and then voting on their favourite chili, the official weighing of the day’s catch is undertaken; long-time member John Edge’s 1 lb 6 oz [680 g] catch nudged out two contenders. Back in 1988, friends told John about “this great club,” so he went to a meeting. “I would never have been a person to join a club, but I joined this one,” he says. “Within two weeks, I was heading up a fish feeding project in Goldstream,” he laughs. John later became president for five years and was on the executive until this year. He says there are open companionships in the club, “people say ‘anybody want to go with us’ and anyone really is welcome. People help one another out.”
With hundreds of years of combined fishing experience, the Victoria Golden Rods and Reels is the perfect place for everyone to learn how to fish or hone their skills. As their Web site says: “whether one comes to learn fishing techniques, or to find a fishing partner, or to enjoy the camping trips, or to participate in the conservation activities, or to listen to the inspirational speakers, one is sure to find friendship, companionship and a further enriched lifestyle.”
As the sun-kissed, well-fed, cheery group deliberate on the merits of various chili recipes, the words of Dennis Gedney might well sum up the satisfaction that comes from being part of the Victoria Golden Rods and Reels. “I like the companionship. I like the serenity and the quiet of the lake. It is complete wilderness. The solitude. When I am fishing, there is nothing else on my mind and the cares of the world are gone.”
New members are welcome and for more information:
Art Raven 250-478-9444
Arlene Darlington 250-658-4987
JULY 2009 SENIOR LIVING VANCOUVER ISLAND
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