British Columbia·Photos

Fishing reel connects Vancouver Island carver with Royal Family

Kwagiulth artist Jason Henry Hunt followed in the footsteps of his elders when he took up carving. Now, he's the latest member of his family to have a connection with the Royal Family.

Handcrafted reel carved by Kwagiulth artist selected as gift for William and Kate

Jason Henry Hunt, a Kwagiulth carver and artist, working on a Peetz reel. The reel in the wooden box is a gift for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Kwagiulth artist Jason Henry Hunt followed in the footsteps of his elders when he took up carving. Now, he's the latest member of his family to have a connection with the Royal Family.

Hunt carved one of his designs into the face of a unique wooden fishing reel handcrafted by Peetz Outdoors in Victoria.

The mahogany reel was selected as a departing gift for the Royals as they wrap up their Canadian visit. 

Peetz wooden fishing reels are handmade in a Victoria workshop. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

The choice is fitting for several reasons. Peetz reels have been treasured by generations of West Coast sports fisherman and were used by Prince Andrew during a fishing trip to Vancouver Island in 1977.

The Hunt family has also been part of royal gifts in the past.

In 1958, a totem pole that was carved by Hunt's grandfather, Henry Hunt and his great-grandfather Chief Mungo Martin of the Kwagiulth First Nation, was gifted by Canada to Queen Elizabeth II as part of British Columbia's Centennial celebration.

"My grandfather met the Queen back in 1958," Hunt said. "In my aunts' and uncles' houses, there are photos of grandpa meeting the Queen."

The 30-metre pole was placed at Windsor Great Park in England and a matching pole was installed in Vancouver.

Jason Henry Hunt's grandparents Henry and Helen Hunt meeting the Queen in Victoria in 1958. (Jason Henry Hunt)

Orca, Salmon and Moon

Hunt's reel carving was commissioned as part of an artists series. A portion of the proceeds from the reels go to fund salmon enhancement projects in the Pacific Northwest.

The design on the royal reel depicts an orca on the hunt for salmon under a moon of abalone. It is meant to bring attention to the way the whales depend on healthy salmon for their survival. 

"This year wasn't such a good year for fishing up where I am from," Hunt said. "These reels, with the salmon enhancement projects, I hope they change that tide a little bit."

The reel that will be given to the Royals features depicts an orca on the hunt for salmon under a moon made of abalone. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

West Coast reels

Peetz reels started with Boris Cecil Peetz back in 1925. The master jeweler from Victoria loved to fish and combined his art with function to design the first reel in 1925.

"It's really about how they feel and how they sound. They have some interesting acoustics when you've got a fish on the line," said Marc Hoelscher, a partner at Peetz Outdoors.

Other fishing companies started to use metal for their tackle, but Peetz stuck with wood and is now known for the handcrafted reels. The original mechanics of the reel are also still used today.

"We call them functional art," Hoelscher said. "The reels last for decades."

Marc Hoelscher from Peetz Outdoors in the Victoria workshop. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Gift from the Monarchist League

The reel was selected as a gift for the Royals to commemorate their B.C. visit by the Victoria branch of the Monarchist League. The group contacted Government House and received permission to present the gift.

"We were looking for something that was unique to British Columbia," said member Bruce Hallsor.

"We knew when we saw the royal itinerary that there was going to be some fishing. It all seemed to come together."

Kwagiulth artist Jason Henry Hunt followed in the footsteps of his elders when he took up carving. Now, he's the latest member of his family to have a connection with the Royal Family. 4:32