Crazy Times, A fly angler’s guide to riding out Covid 19

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Photo by Louis Cahill

By Justin Pickett

I know it’s only April, but dammit I’m calling it…. COVID19 wins the “Biggest Asshole of the Year” award. 

As the latest news headlines roll across the bottoms of tv screens and are perched at the top of social media feeds, our country sits in a semi-paralyzed state as we wait to hear the latest steps to address this pandemic from our local, state, and federal governments (however strict or lax as you may perceive them). There are a number of differing opinions, models, and predictions about where our country is headed given varying levels of response to this bug. Some are confident we are overreacting, while some are certain the world is circling the drain. As a healthcare worker myself, what I can tell you is that this virus is eerily different from many of the outbreaks that I’ve experience in my career in emergency medicine. From the virality and transmissibility to the overall response thus far, it is certainly like nothing we have seen. One of the quickest things many of us can and have done to help quell the spread of this virus is to practice better hygiene and distance ourselves from one another. Taking these steps can help ease the strain on our hospitals and protect those more susceptible to infections, but with that, of course, brings other problems. The closing down of businesses have already caused a huge strain on millions, and even the businesses that remain open will likely experience a drastic decline in revenue. The fly fishing industry is certainly an industry that will be negatively affected by the measures we have taken in an attempt to save lives. During what is typically the beginning of the busiest time of the year for many fly shops and guides across the country, we are instead seeing closed doors and cancelled trips. With the uncertainty that lies ahead for our health and economy, which both need to be taken seriously, the best thing we can do is support each other. I have seen some amazing displays of kindness and gratitude during this trying time. Let’s keep that going. We’re going to need it. The isolation alone can be maddening enough. Add the loss of a job, a failing business, or illness to the pile and things can go dark quick. Below are some things you can do to help pass the time and keep your spirits up during the days ahead.

Brace For Impact

Let’s go ahead and get the bad news out of the way. This is going to change A LOT of the fly fishing landscape as we know it. Fly shops, manufacturers, offices, and distribution centers have had to shutter their doors to comply with executive orders. Unfortunately, some of them may never open back up. This is extremely disheartening considering the growth we have been experiencing in the fly fishing industry as of late. Even the shops and companies that do survive this economic plunge will look much different on the other side of this disaster.  I urge you to help support these companies as best you can during these challenging times so that when the dust settles, they might still be around. 

Support Your Local Fly Shops

Many shops have had to close their doors due to “shelter in place” orders issued by local governments. However, some shops are still able to operate and fulfill online orders. Some shops are offering “curbside” pickup of online and phoned-in orders, as well. I have seen several shops offering incentives and giving generous discounts on gear and apparel. They still want and still need your business. You’re going to have some time to restock those fly boxes, so call them up and order some tying supplies. Re-stock those leader wallets, fly boxes, and gear bags! 

Support Your Guides

I know many guides are probably getting calls to cancel trips due to travel restraints or folks that fear they’ll catch the wrong kind of bug on their trip. Or worse yet, local governments shutting down public lands, making some trips impossible. Many guides charge a deposit up front that helps cover this type of thing, but it’s not meant to live off of and pay bills. If you are thinking about cancelling, consider offering to re-schedule the trip once things ease up. Many guides also tie flies, typically for their guide service, but in a time like this they may be happy to spin up some flies for you. You can also offer to purchase gift certificates or pay up front for a future trip. Every little bit helps.

Practice Your Casting

We can all benefit from a little more casting practice. Many parks and reservoirs around me have closed their gates to everyone, leaving me with very few fishing options without traveling hours away, which isn’t exactly the greatest of plans right now. However, when this mess does pass, I don’t want to be flogging the water with my whippy-stick. So, I’ll be in the yard throwing loops at hula-hoops, dogs, and small children in an attempt to keep my form in check. 

Restock Your Box

A lot of folks have been tying all winter in anticipation of hitting the water this month to chase those first trout of spring. Well, as it turns out, a lot of us are going to have some more time to tie more flies. Spin ‘em up! Tie some new stuff. Try some new patterns. We’re all going to need flies to sling once this blows over. Don’t have the want and fortitude to tie your own? Refer to the above point I made about supporting a local guide, or two, to tie up some flies for you.

Get Organized

This is a great opportunity to get reorganized. My garage is a frickin’ mess! I have fly boxes, and boots, and tippet spools everywhere. And I don’t dare walk into my garage barefoot. There are way too many lost flies hiding amongst the clutter to risk it. My fly tying desk is also in dire need of attention. Sort through those hooks, feathers, and beads. You may also get inspired to tie something new with a once long-lost material. Dive into some hands-on projects and maybe build some fly rod storage. There’s usually plenty of these types of things to help keep us busy.

Get Outside

Staying home doesn’t mean staying inside all day, every day. If you’re like me, you are most happy when you are outdoors. Yes, The Tiger King is an amazingly glorious train wreck that’s hard to look away from, but try not to get pulled into the TV and sucked deeper into the couch. Try not to get hypnotized by your phone. Step outside at least a few times during the day and get some fresh air and enjoy the sunshine. Open the windows. Go for a walk with your dogs, kids, or your significant other. Or hell, just go on a walk by yourself. Sit on the porch and enjoy a beverage. Holler at your neighbor from across the street. If you’re in a place where you can get to some water while maintaining your distance from others, then do it while you can. DO SOMETHING. The longer we sit inside, the quicker those morale-destroying demons can start to creep in and grab hold. 

Involve Your Kiddos

Many of us have been and will be at home with our little ones throughout this whole ordeal. My daughter is already complaining of being bored on an almost daily basis, despite the ungodly number of toys and dolls she has to play with. I’m finding that it is not the toys she wants though; it’s the social interaction with her friends that she is certainly missing the most. I’m trying my best to fill that gap with schoolwork and by trying to come up with fun activities at home. Fly casting lessons are coming. I plan on introducing her to fly tying as well. Things are likely to get frustrating when it comes to parenting, and I certainly understand the challenges. Try to be patient and give them some grace. Many of them are way too young to understand and are just seeking normalcy. 

Stay Connected

Thankfully, we live in a world of technology where keeping up with our friends and family during times like these requires nothing more than the tap of a finger. Create group calls and chats for you and your fellow anglers and friends. Live Instagram streaming and IG TV is already popular and being used for fly tying demonstrations and Q&A sessions. Keep an eye out on social media as it seems new contests, raffles, and social hours are constantly popping up. Apps like Zoom and Google Duo offer free video calls, and of course there’s Facetime for iOS and users.

Plan Your Post-Pandemic Fishing Outing

It doesn’t have to be to some exotic destination, but make some flexible plans to hit the water once this blows through. Plan to hit the water with family or friends. While many of us still may be able to hit some water close to home, others are being shut out of public lands and their access to fishing. Planning a future trip gives you something to think about and talk about with friends. It’s something positive to look forward to when we come out on the other side. 

Hang in there. This situation will continue to evolve over the coming weeks. In the couple days that it will take me to write, proofread, and get this up on the site, there may be more changes and more newly developing situations that have occurred. It’s going to get worse before it gets better, but it will get better and that is what we need to look forward to.


Certainly, easier said than done, I know. It can be easy to get sucked into those feelings of dread instead of staying upbeat and looking at the brighter side. Choose to look away from the negativity on social media. I myself have had to do the same thing. Staring at the constant social media scads of doomsday prophecies, conspiracy theories and projections of where we are headed, both health-wise and economically, as a nation will likely only leave you with more anxiety than answers. Of course, we all need to stay informed, but by all means get your news from a reputable source. Yes, I know there are differing opinions as to what qualifies as “reputable”.  Some of you reading this may have been furloughed or lost your jobs. With the escalation of state and federal restrictions on businesses and travel, no one is immune to this nasty reality. Businesses and people are struggling. And with so much uncertainty, this is the time when we need to support each other more than ever. Referring to one of my points above; stay connected. Call up your friends and family and check in on them. Some of us may just need someone to allow us to vent our frustrations, or someone to help calm our fears. Be there for one another.

Y’all be safe, stay healthy, and keep it fishy!

Justin Pickett
Gink & Gasoline
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7 thoughts on “Crazy Times, A fly angler’s guide to riding out Covid 19

  1. Justin…well said…some good reminders … my fly tying bench is receiving many more visits these days…which often includes buying some new materials and tying some new flies… that hobby remains a good to activity on a daily basis…be well, stay healthy, embrace the distancing as our current calling as neighbors…

  2. Good read. We are in for a BIG overhaul. Businesses and people will be forced to change modus operandi, I hope the benefit is we can see beyond the trivial things that separate us. Stay Home, Stay Safe! Trout will be there when this is over. PEACE.

  3. Asshole is right!!!!

    This was the Year, 2020, I was going all in with 4 Booked Trips to show permits of the world my flies.

  4. Justin…great thoughts…some nice stay-at-home suggestions…ramped up my fly tying…trying to mail order supplies with local fly shops… but am suspending any fishing outings–for now…

    hope all are respectfully staying home and safe…

  5. Justin, thank you for this. A lot of people needed to hear what you’ve said. One of the best quotes I’ve seen on the COVID-19 situation reads “Don’t pretend you’re doing everything you can to avoid getting this virus. Pretend that you already have it, and don’t want to pass it on to your only child.” Wise words..

  6. One of the finest narratives about this dismal economy and downturn on what makes life enjoyable for a lot of us.
    No bones about it, don’t stick your head in the dirt and pretend it’s all a bad dream……….it’s here, it’s real, and life is not what it used to be. In the words of a pioneer theologian, “best of all, God is with us”.
    “This” writer/angler ought to be commended on his practical, salt of the earth, approach to how we can handle this crisis and still keep our sanity.

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