North Delta resident Mike Falconer and his son Blake waited at the edge of the pond, hoping to catch a fish.
“Blake, you’re supposed to keep them in your mouth to keep them warm,” Mike said, a writhing collection of dirt-covered worms in his hand.
“No,” Blake said, disgusted. “It probably tastes like poop.”
Blake, a Grade 5 student at Heath Elementary, was one of 181 people who had registered to take part in 2017’s Fishing Forever, held June 3 and 4. As it has in previous years, the event took place at the Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C.’s ponds in Abbotsford and gave people with disabilities a chance to learn how to fish in an inclusive environment.
Blake said he likes fishing because of the fish he catches. He hadn’t caught any that morning — “we had one right to the shore but he snuck off,” Mike said — but the Falconers weren’t giving up hope.
Blake has autism spectrum disorder. He’s in a regular Grade 5 class, Mike said, “but he’s just developing a little slower than the other kids.”
That comes out in sports especially.
“He doesn’t have the physical skills to keep up with kids his own age,” Mike said. “He’d have to probably compete with kids in regular leagues a couple years younger. Because he’s a big kid, that wouldn’t go so good.”
Through the Special Olympics, Blake has been able to take part in a number of sports over the past four years, including baseball and bowling.
“First time we’ve done this though,” Mike added. “We didn’t even know this existed.”
This was the fourth year the event had been held in Abbotsford, organizers David Oliver and Mark McDonald said, but it has been around for about 30 years more than that.
They try to get 100 people registered each day, although they fell a little short of that goal this year. It’s important to register, Oliver said, so they can provide accomodations for the differing abilities of the participants. This year, there were many people in wheelchairs, as well as some people on the autism spectrum, like Blake. On Sunday, a three-year-old child with muscular dystrophy was registered to fish.
The event is run by the Lower Mainland regional association of the B.C. Wildlife Federation, the Ridgedale Rod and Gun Club and the Ladner Rod and Gun Club, in association with the Freshwater Fisheries Soceity of B.C.
For Delta MP and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities Carla Qualtrough, who took part in the event alongside her husband and two of their sons, the whole event was “pretty cool.”
“I think it’s another really good example of keeping it simple,” Qualtrough said. “Of community led change where groups get together.”
“For some of us we take for granted, even if we don’t do this sort of thing, that on any given day we can walk down and fish,” she continued.
“But for some people it’s really difficult … so to have the opportunity to do it, and maybe to watch your son or daughter do it, and you never thought your daughter would fish … It’s pretty cool.”