Ebb & Flow Week 13: August 28, 2015
August 28, 2015 | 2983 Views
The West Coast Fishing Club’s 10th annual Fishing for Kids Tournament is now in the books and the wow factor was extreme from kick-off to close. Let me try to walk you through it friends.
Last Saturday night, Reflections Lounge in Vancouver’s Rosewood Hotel Georgia was beyond doubt the swankiest reception venue I’ve ever seen – opulent and open aired on the hotel’s fourth floor, with the city’s towers looming overhead under a cloudless summer sky. And there on a stage sat a baby grand piano and acoustic guitars belonging to Los Angeles-based singer, songwriter and recording artist John Ondrasik (AKA Five for Fighting) whose lyrics and storytelling revealed a deep and stirring connection to children and to the plight of Autism, which today affects an estimated one of every 68 children.
The MC’s for the pre-event kickoff were three of the greatest modern ambassadors in the National Hockey League; Dan Hamhuis, Manny Malhotra, and former FFK tournament winner Willie Mitchell, who didn’t have to try particularly hard to convince his friend Ondrasik, a died-in-the-wool hockey fan, to lend a hand to the Canucks Autism Network (CAN) and wet a line with like-minded folk at Langara Island. By the time the evening was over, CAN was already close to a hundred thousand dollars to the good, by my rough calculations, thanks to the generosity of the evening’s sponsor, Delta Group, and of live auction bidders who paid a premium for sponsor-donated items and the many guests who purchased raffle tickets for a brilliant cut diamond cluster pendant courtesy of Minichiello Jewellers.
On arrival at The Clubhouse the following morning, the usual welcoming brunch was served along with a short briefing on tournament rules. And then it was down to the boats for the afternoon warm-up, where the 46 participants scouted the usual spots, and some unusual ones too, practiced their hook-sets and got accustomed to long hours on the water for the competition ahead. Among the tournament veterans were Ian Smith from Santa Fe Metals and Scott Lyons from Ledcor who have scored perfect attendance through 10 years of FFK. Vancouver chef and restaurateur extraordinaire David Hawksworth was back for another crack at a tournament title and for his 10th year as guest chef, accompanied on this trip by Chef Robert Bartley from Rogers Arena.
Day one weather was consistent with all areas of the island open for fishing and a mixture of cloud and sun all day long – perfect Haida Gwaii fishing weather. After a day of many radio calls for weigh-boats, Mons Kapoor finished at the top of the leaderboard with his 30.60 pound fish. Later that evening, Scott Hilderley was our special guest speaker that presented to participants and sponsor guests with his son Owen, this year’s Ledcor Champion Child. A former steely-nerved RCMP officer and military serviceman, Scott’s heartfelt first-hand account of the challenges of families living with autism elicited many a tear among a suddenly hushed gathering. With hearts wide open among those in attendance, Rob Giroux and Doug Olive from Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers then opened their wallets through another live auction, an easy task that saw tournament proceeds soar. But as the contestants turned to their beds, the winds could be heard picking up, pointing to a challenging morning ahead.
When everyone collected down on the dock for the shotgun start on day two, there was a hard wind blowing through Parry Pass and a big swell that made for a choppy ride to the fishing grounds. When the first weigh-boat headed around the corner to Gunia Point it was evident that net transfers were going to be difficult, so tournament master Derek Nyrose and Clubhouse head guide Screamer got on the radio and determined there was no other option but to shut down Gunia and keep everyone on sheltered waters. As winds eased later in the morning, Gunia was reopened and contestants were free to move to whatever spot they hoped lady luck might await. In the meantime, every type of weather had its way through the morning session, until about noon when the sun broke to reveal a perfect afternoon for the final hours of competition.
The weather held into the lingering twilight, which made for a spectacular evening on The Clubhouse deck where guests enjoyed food stations featuring exquisite fare artfully presented by an all-star team of chefs, including the Clubhouse’s own Shaun Snelling, Chef Robert Bartley, Liam Paul from North Island Lodge and the rest of the talented members of The Clubhouse cuisine crew. John Ondrasik then served up a melodic dessert by performing acoustic versions of his hits along with his 14-year-old soulful-beyond-her-years daughter Olivia, who sang an ode to The Club that she composed earlier in the day on the clearly inspirational waters of Haida Gwaii. It was quite a night.
Oh, one other thing, the little matter of who won the tournament. Well, I can tell you friends that it wasn’t Willie Mitchell, but for a moment it looked like he was on his way to picking up his second FFK title by battling what might have been a near forty-something fish. The goal was waived off, so to speak, by the referee – a patrolling sea lion.
In fact, it was early in the morning of day two that Bob Wallis caught a 34.12 pound Tyee off Pop-off Point that proved to be the derby winner and earned him a $200,000 cheque that he returned to the cause in what has become a time-honored FFK tradition in support of BC families like Scott and Owen Hilderley’s. (As a first-time contestant, I think there should be something akin to the Calder Memorial Trophy that Bob could take home as FFK Rookie of the Year.) Andrew Purdey finished second with a 32.28lb Tyee, for which he returned a $35,000 prize along with Mons Kapoor, who similarly contributed his $20,000 that he was awarded for his third-place fish.
And though I try to avoid clichés, it’s accurate to say that “the real winner” was CAN and the 2,000 British Columbians and their families currently living with autism the organization supports throughout the province. The West Coast Fishing Club should be mighty proud of its Fishing for Kids tournament, which now contributes roughly one-third of CAN’s annual budget.
And just how much was raised this year? Looks like another cool million bucks, and that friends brings the 10-year total to just under seven million. Not sure quite what to say about that, except to send a Tyee size thanks to FFK vice president Courtney Hatfield; West Coast Fishing Club’s founders and co-presidents Brian Legge and Rick Grange; Club director Brian Grange, who cooked up the whole idea to stage Canada’s most benevolent sport fishing tournament back in 2006, and to the all-star staff at The Clubhouse and North Island Lodge for providing vital support year in and year out.
Hats must also go off to the tournament sponsors, without whom this doesn’t happen in the way it has for the past decade, including our long-time friends and major sponsors Macquarie, Helijet, Delta Group, Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, Ledcor Group Of Companies, Helly Hansen, Silver Wheaton and of course…“Your Vancouver Canucks!”
And finally, to those of you who took part both this year and in any and all previous, thank you. You guys are the best, truly.
Until next week friends, tight lines!