By Kirk Deeter, Editor of Angling Trade
Ironically, 2020 is “The Year of the Rat.” Given how 2020 has unfolded so far, I actually consider that to be an insult to rats.
But we are seeing some lifting of the pandemic fog where I live in Colorado and in many other places around the country—and fishing definitely stands to be affected… for better or worse.
On the “better” front, while we are in the throes of runoff in my area and river fishing is at least a few weeks away from normal “game on” in many places out West, every time I pass a local pond or lake, I cannot help but be flabbergasted by the number of folks I see fishing. And not just individual anglers … families. Moms and dads with kids of all ages—socially distanced in little familial pods on patches of green grass or docks along the water. Some are casting Snoopy rods, and some are even fly fishing. And catching! Bass… trout… pike… I’ve seen more lit up small faces in the last two weeks of hiking by water than I have in the past several years.
I thought about that for a bit, and it all makes sense. After all, there are no T-ball or soccer leagues here. No concerts, no rodeos. Nobody’s going to the movie theater, and the possibility of heading off to summer camp is still very much up in the air. Healthy outdoor family activities (and outdoor is an operative word, as science is learning that the risks of virus transmission are substantially lower outdoors than they are indoors) boil down to things like hiking, and biking, maybe frying a few ants on the sidewalk with a magnifying glass… and fishing! I don’t know about you, but when I was 11, given the choice between a march through the wildflowers or fishing, I chose fishing. Or frying ants.
Surely, there must be a way to tap into this, both short term and over the long haul. I don’t know if any of you are selling Snoopy rods… are you? I assume some of you are selling flies. And tippet. Maybe even guide trips?
Which leads me to the “worse” discussion. I know, I’ve heard, I bleed, and I understand that guide trips are way down, and in most places, people are only starting to catch up. And it might be a “way low” season or even a lost season for friends of mine in the Keys or elsewhere.
I do not know, in the age of COVID-19, whether things will ever return to the “norm.” Particularly not in terms of boat trips, in the age of social distancing, and what-not. We’re (meaning AT) not going to drop our CDC-based counsel on six-foot distancing until the CDC drops the six-foot guidance. That spells hard times for drift boat guides, and skiff guides. Where your states allow flexibility, we support that.
Wear a darn mask. It’s not for you. It’s for your sports. And it’s for the sport as a whole, so fishing doesn’t get shut down on a rebound of COVID-19 traced to someone taking a chartered fishing trip.
Another obvious “worse” observation is that the boat ramps—at least in Colorado—are now absolutely flooded with do-it-yourselfers, and day-trippers on stand-up paddleboards, flamingo inflatables and a circus of day trippers who do not give a rip about fishing, but just want to get away.
How do we possibly endeavor to get loose from that phenomenon? While we might bitch about the impact this might have on fishing… how do we find some moral high ground to move beyond the circus?
I come at all of this from a conservation and “make fishing better” context (via TU), as well as a “keep the industry afloat” context. I’m all about conservation, and healthy water. I’m also all about fly fishing as a vehicle to keep many of my friends and colleagues prosperous, and at least in business.
I want to hear from you. If we agree, we agree. If we disagree, we’re family, and we’ll talk. How do we turn the “what is” situation into something that benefits our beloved sport for the long haul?
What’s happening now will indeed change the course fly fishing is on… I think for the better.
But we must be smart. All those things we’ve talked about for the past month or so matter more now than ever. Fish hyper-local. Keep a rod length apart. Wear masks—not for you—rather, for the people you fish with. Masks aren’t about you, they’re for the people you care about. This isn’t over.
The greatest service all of us in the fly-fishing world can deliver upon right now is to be respectful and protective of the people who so desperately want to get out on the water and fish. And find ways to let them do exactly that. But responsibly.
Don’t, for a minute, discount the front-line healthcare workers, and all the stuff they are going through now. Vow to take some of those people fishing, free of charge, whenever they can. They’re still fighting a massive battle, and we’d seem like insensitive jerks if we merely fished through this pandemic without at least paying a little homage and respect to the people who really made a difference. That’s just common courtesy.