Fly-fishing and coming out of COVID-19
Masks or no masks?
Special to the Daily
The progress is happening rapidly.
Vaccinations are working. Businesses have re-opened doors for clients. Restaurants that embraced take out as normal are transforming back into table-side service. And fly shops too have adjusted.
We are coming out of COVID-19.
Speaking with Emily Dmohowski at the Vail Valley Anglers fly shop in Edwards, the changes in behavior were apparent. Some clients in the shop wandered about maskless and unmolested by staff conditioned to covered faces. Some clients still wore masks snuggled up tightly.
The plexiglass shield separating the client from the cashier disappeared overnight. Hand sanitizer is still a prevalent amenity that seems available everywhere including the fly shop. But the gentle harassment shop employees needed to impart when asking people to adhere to mask mandates is gone.
So the masks are gone?
Do people feel more relaxed? Not yet. The anxiety developed over a year of hiding from COVID contagions won’t wash away easily. But anglers are ready. Guides are ready. We all are ready.
Navigating through the next steps this pandemic delivers will take some work. Fly fishers restricted to their home waters since last March are ready to travel. Saltwater beckons fly rods and flats boots. The intricacies of travel will be the next steps these anglers negotiate.
Locally our river is seeing the natural emergence of anglers from a long winter. A winter made longer with the addition of COVID. The health precautions we have so diligently practiced for months are beginning to fade. But don’t let your guard down just yet.
While guides have been given the go ahead to transport clients to and from the river the decision is still up to the client. Driving separately has its advantages. Clients can easily maintain their distance and remain maskless in their own vehicle.
Boat ramps however are a different story. Boat ramps fall under the umbrella of the Bureau of Land Management, BLM. As of now the BLM requires masks to be worn when at the boat ramp. So don’t be surprised to see your guide mask up as you pull into the ramp. BLM Rangers will be inspecting boat ramps.
Once a trip has left the boat ramp it is up to the guide and the client to discuss mask use while on the river. I expect to encounter the entire spectrum this summer from clients that still wear masks and clients who will celebrate a maskless experience on the river. Communication is the key. A good guide will have that talk.
Myself, it was a difficult habit to form, wearing a mask. I will probably maintain the habit. While I have a proclivity for wearing a mask it’s not really to protect myself as much as those around me. My friends have commented before that I could eat roadkill and be fine. The reason I use a mask is to prevent inadvertently spreading the disease unknowingly.
Transferring to a whole new paradigm when it took so long to work through the first Covid driven change in perspective may take some time. And there is no better place to spend that time than on the river. And while I’m not quite ready to sprint into the new normal, I will wade into it with a fly rod in hand and a mask. But maybe I’ll start keeping it in my pocket.
We are coming out of COVID. Stay safe out there on the river.
Michael Salomone moved to the Eagle River valley in 1992. He began guiding fly-fishing professionally in 2002. His freelance writing has been published in numerous magazines and websites including; Southwest Fly Fishing, Fly Rod & Reel, Eastern Fly Fishing, On the Fly mag, FlyLords, the Pointing Dog Journal, Upland Almanac, the Echo website, Vail Valley Anglers and more. He lives on the bank of the Eagle River with his wife, Lori; two daughters, Emily and Ella; and a brace of yellow labrador retrievers.