Fishing is Fun – Stay Safe!

Staying safe & healthy on the rivers – Montana Trout Unlimited photo.

Kiri, our Labrador retriever, and I practiced social distancing along the Madison River last week. We were quite successful, having a conversation with just one other angler. I was heading back to the access point parking lot, and he was just heading out.

He noticed the St. Olaf College decal on my truck window and asked if I’d gone there and after I said yes, he asked what year I graduated. “Boy, you’re really old!” He laughed and added, “I’m about 7 years behind you.” 

It turned out that he hailed from Duluth and had friends who had gone to St. Olaf, though he’d gone to the University of Minnesota-Duluth. 

Our conversation was at a distance of about 15 feet, so we enjoyed a good conversation at a safe distance.

I like to think that fly-fishing is a good way to enjoy life while we go through this time of plague. There’s abundant fresh air and at least there’s the chance of encountering fish.

Nevertheless, during this period we’re going through, a day of fishing carries risks, especially when other people join us in the outing. Appropriately, Montana Trout Unlimited sent members a list of suggestions that I’m borrowing, with some of my own.

If you’re with other people, a long drive in an enclosed vehicle exposes yourself and others to risk. You might want to drive separately to an agreed destination. 

If you’re going on a day of guided fishing, drive to the launch point and meet your guide there, and you may also want to pay for a shuttle for your vehicle. If your vehicle was shuttled to a take-out point, wipe down your steering wheel and door handles. If you’re a guide, carry disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer in your vehicle and on the boat and wipe things down before and after a trip.

One of my rules for fly-fishing is to go to the bathroom before putting on waders. Of course, after taking waders off, a trip to the bathroom is usually in order, as well. But, have you considered how many people use those fishing access outhouses? One good sneeze in an outhouse could fill that little space with virus-laden aerosols, and those viruses can exist for a surprisingly long time on a hard surface. I don’t have answers for all the many possibilities, but a disinfectant wipe on the door handle and toilet seat is most likely in order, and washing hands with a sanitizer afterwards should be mandatory.

MTU suggests that if you didn’t stock up on disinfectant wipes, moisten a small batch of paper towels with a bleach solution and keep them in a jar in your vehicle for wiping down handles, steering wheel, and gas pumps, as well as outhouse doors and seats. Dispose of them properly. 

Bring your own gear and avoid sharing supplies with other members of your party. Lubricate your knots using river water instead of saliva. If you’re trimming a knot, use a nipper. Don’t bite that tag end off. Your dentist will endorse that, also.

Bring your own water bottle, drinks and food. Don’t share lunches or drinks. 

If you’re feeling sick, tired, or worn down, stay home and rest. If rest doesn’t help, or you get worse, consult your health care provider. 

Trout Unlimited concludes that fishing is a great way to get away from the stress we’re having now, and by following some simple guidelines we can relax, have fun, and keep our friends and ourselves happy, healthy and safe.

As for my outing on the Madison, I’m sorry to report that I never had a bite or a rise. Of course, my expectations for any kind of success on early season outings is realistically low. The water is still icy cold and there’s not much bug life yet.

Of course, it didn’t help when, towards the end of the day, I pulled in my line to check my fly, only to see it had come off without my noticing it. Fishing is sometimes more successful when we use fishhooks.

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