It is a massive understatement that COVID-19 has changed the landscape for the traveling angler. From the spring creeks of Montana to the giant trevally flats of the Seychelles to brown trout haunts in Patagonia, traveling to fish has been changed for an entire generation of anglers.
Change, by definition, means to make or become different or the act or instance of making or becoming different. Around the world as life with COVID-19 becomes a reality, it is crucial we understand what this “new different” is for destination fly fishing lodges and outfitters in these uncertain and changing times. Just as The Golden State Freeway/Interstate 5 between downtown and Burbank seems eerily quiet, or the airspace above western Long Island is now empty, destination fishing lodges are facing the new reality of how they are going to make it through this and what will life look like on the other side?
The past few months have brought out the very best in people, and also the very worst. Luckily, kindness and understanding in our community of fly fishing anglers seems to be the norm, and lodges and outfitters are beyond grateful for the extreme thoughtfulness and generosity of many of their guests. A lot of anglers have reached out to inquire as to how they can help lodge staff members and guides, and what can be done right now to support their favorite fishing operations.
While we all hope for a return to normal and a resumption of life-as-we-knew-it before COVID-19, the reality is that some activities and industries will be very slow to recover. While we all want to fish RIGHT NOW and would love nothing more than to flip a switch and to have things open and operational, most lodges cannot simply turn on the lights, open the gate, and go back to business as usual. People will need to be re-hired, equipment updated, food and fuel re-purchased…the list to start-up can be long.
Most international fishing lodges have kept small crews on-site throughout this entire situation to work on maintenance, deep cleaning, and beautification projects all while maintaining proper social distancing. Apart from small on-site crews, however, most other staff and guides have been sent home to be with their families and to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
This commitment doesn’t come without a cost—the lodges are still paying staff and guides despite the lack of paying guests. Because of this, many lodges have been forced to adjust their cancellation policies and fees. Caught in a difficult place during even more difficult and uncertain times, by adjusting these policies, lodges are then able to take care of their staff and guides and their families. Taking care of the staff is crucial for two reasons: first, it is the right thing to do; and second, it ensures there is a staff to serve guests and guides to take anglers fishing when it is time to once again travel and go fishing. If the lodges, outfitters, guides, and the overall infrastructure that we depend on and need as destination anglers goes away, what happens next?
During these times, we’ve heard from several lodges who have said concerned guests have inquired about the safety and health of lodge owners, staff, and guides. These thoughts and prayers are positively wonderful for those in remote places dealing with these unforeseen and unprecedented times. We’ve even had repeat clients send in their “tip” for the week: the amount that they likely would have paid their guide while there, even though they could not make the trip. Talk about an incredible gesture!
Despite the uncertainty of international travel, the ability to venture forth and fish the world will resume soon. When the time comes and you are ready, take a look at your calendar and start reserving dates and booking your future trips. Second to understanding the plight of the destination fishing lodge during these times, committing to another trip—when you are ready—is paramount.