The question of whether or not it’s okay to go fishing during these times when stay-at-home and social-distancing rules are being enforced around the country has been the subject of much debate. In most cases, outdoor activities have been exempted from restrictions, on the theory that being outside is balm for the soul. That said, there are angling situations that are clearly not safe: crowded boat ramps, fishing in small watercraft with folks you don’t live with, traveling long distances to the water. So where do you draw line?
For a company like Orvis–which is founded on helping others discover the awe and wonder in nature–this is an important question, and we’ve thought about it a lot over the past few weeks. Engaging our network of endorsed guides, lodges, and outfitters, we listened and learned. There is a lot to process. Ultimately, we believe that responsible fishing is not only okay, but is to be encouraged–with certain caveats:
1. Safety First
Any fishing trip must account for your personal safety, as well as the safety of others. If you can’t maintain proper social-distancing, rethink your plans. Go alone, with a family or roommate, or make sure your destination is a place where you can stay far enough away from other people.
2. Stay Local
Traveling to fly fish does not make sense for a lot of reasons. Travel means contact with more people and places; it increases the possibility of an accident, which could engage medical services needed elsewhere; and may lead to further spread of infection. Many states, such as Vermont, now prohibit crossing borders to fish. Fish as close to home as you can. You may even discover that you’ve been missing some great waters nearby.
3. Observe All State Laws and CDC Recommendations
Know your local rules and abide by them. (See the map below.) We are all in this together and we must play by the safe rules for the good of the community.
4. Support Your Local Fly-Fishing Community
This pandemic is tough on everybody, and that certainly includes your local fly shop and guides. Whenever possible, think about ways that you can help. Many shops have online sales or curbside pickup, and even small transactions can go a long way toward keeping a business afloat. If you can afford it, think about booking a future trip. Even a few deposits will help a guide weather the storm.
Many of these idea were summed up quite powerfully in an article in Angling Trade, written by my friend Kirk Deeter, who argued,
Fishing is great, done alone, or with household members. We encourage hyper-local fishing, whenever possible. Social distancing is a must, and every angler should adhere to exactly what their state and the CDC advises, without question. We don’t think people should drive far to fish, and we don’t think guides and shops should invite people from affected urban areas to rural areas to fish. We encourage E-commerce, community, and the broader exchange of information and ideas. We’re in it for the long haul, and lives matter most now. We’re going to throw our strongest support on the other side of this to those who act most responsibly now.
Tom Rosenbauer will be talking with Kirk on the Orvis Fly Fishing Facebook page live on Wednesday night, April 15, at 6 p.m. Eastern. They’ll be discussing the current situation across the country and how anglers can best navigate the ever-changing landscape of Covid-19.
This will eventually pass, and we can return to our regular fishing spots and styles in the not-too-distant future. It’s okay to yearn for great days to come, but it’s important that we anglers play our roles in flattening the curve and helping our neighbors get through this as quickly as possible. So fish safe, fish close, and fish fair. We look forward to meeting you on the river during good times to come.
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Given the ever-changing state of things, it can be difficult to keep up with every state’s rules and regulations for anglers. The folks at Take Me Fishing™ have created a useful tool for checking the latest fishing and boating updates from your state. Click on a state to find out everything you need to know about the latest updates, changes, closures, and more for fishing and boating related activities.