Tying flies through the outbreak
Like a lot of anglers who endeavor to tie their own flies, either out of economic necessity or simple hubris, I tend to overdo it sometimes.
I was scheduled to take a trip at the end of the month to the marshes and beaches of south Alabama (yes … check your map—Alabama is, indeed, a beach state). That trip to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach is on hold, thanks to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and the recent advisory against non-vital travel.
The redfish may have to wait until later in the summer, or perhaps fall.
But I’ve been busy at the vise, anyway, largely because, like a lot of Americans, I was lulled into thinking that this whole ordeal wasn’t going to be nearly as bad as some doomsayers were predicting. I tied a couple dozen Clousers, some of Norm Ziegler’s famous Schminnows and a few Lefty’s Deceivers. I sifted through the remnant of fly boxes for surviving flies from previous visits to the salt—crab patterns, spoon flies, shrimp patterns … I plucked them all from their fly-fishing purgatory within a mishmash of fly boxes and got them ready for another visit to warmer environs.
I’ve been lucky over the years, in that I generally squeeze in at least one visit to the flats each year, be they far-flung Mayan outposts or just Gulf Coast sweetspots that I can reach fairly quickly. These trips are as much for the warm and the sun as they are for the fishing, to be honest — winter in Idaho is a real thing, in case you wondered, and it’s worth escaping a time or two each season. Before I head off to the sticky southern climes, I tie, I gather and I assess.
The assessment before this trip? I likely have more saltwater flies than I’ll ever need. Yet I keep tying. I keep overdoing it.
Reality sets in
Then I read about the Italian lockdown in response to the virus a couple of weeks ago, and I started to have some concerns. Shuttered storefronts. Shut in citizens. An astounding number of infected people and a heartbreaking number of lost lives.
“Is this what we’re in for here?” I asked myself. I began to consume the news like my life depended on it. Then, I opted out of a group trip to Salt Lake City to see a tribute band—a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the virus, and the “avoid large groups” advice seemed pretty smart. Then most major sports leagues closed up shop. The concert we were all going to attend was cancelled anyway, so my decision was moot. Finally, advice from the government became less conflicting and more consistent (depending, of course, on who we listened to). Restrict large gatherings. Stay home. Wash your damn hands. A lot.
My concerns, of course, had gone from smarting about a lost fishing trip to the Gulf Coast in search of salty fish and warm, sunny weather to worrying about my aging parents and making sure they’re following the advice of health-care professionals, not just those who take credit or share blame as we navigate social waters that most living Americans have never navigated before.
Then, of course, I revisited every single event over the previous weeks where, had I been more astute to the events happening around the globe as soon as I should have been — gatherings of hundreds at the Elk’s Lodge, the pub golf event a couple Saturdays ago … having friends over for a birthday get-together — I’d have much less to worry about today. And I realized that all I could do now was hope that I’d washed my hands enough and that my friends had done the same.
And I could stay home, of course, and do my best to limit my exposure to others and visa versa.
Keep tying … and be safe
So, I’m home. And, even though I don’t need to, I keep tying. I keep overdoing it at the vise. It’s cathartic. It’s therapy.
As the weather slowly shifts from winter to almost spring (Idaho springs are fleeting—sometimes, winter hangs on like an annoying relative who comes for a weekend and stays much longer), I sit in my home office, freshly disinfected with Clorox cleaner. I’m lucky that I work from home much of the time, anyway, so it’s not a huge change, nor is it particularly inconvenient. But it feels forced … as if the choice isn’t mine any longer.
And, honestly, it’s not. It’s a choice I must make to ensure that exposure to the coronavirus remains as limited as possible … to do my part to “flatten the curve” and give our country’s health-care workers a fighting chance to beat back this scourge as soon as humanly possible.
But the vise is in its stand right behind me, and it beckons idle hands. I can tie. And, when I can’t stand it any longer, I can take a handful of freshly tied flies and venture out, alone. There’s nothing wrong with practicing “social distancing” on the water, no less than six feet away from anyone else (although … this is Idaho—most of us who live here know exactly where to go to be well away from people). If that’s something you choose to do, do it wisely. In other words, don’t book a guide trip with anybody else. Don’t confine yourself in the truck with three other fishing buddies and drive for two hours to the river. And, it’s probably best that you not get on a plane and head to Alabama. At least not yet. Just go fishing close to home. Enjoy some time alone.
Above all, be safe. Be smart. Be considerate. That big trip? I bet it can wait.
And, if you’re like me, you’ve overdone it, and you’ll have a lot of flies at your disposal. Might as well put them to use.
Chris Hunt is the digital editorial director for TROUT Media. He lives and works in Idaho Falls.