Trouts Journal

From the Angling Trade | The Coronovirus elephant in fly-fishing room by Kirk Deeter

Ivan Orsic / Apr 2, 2020

Our good friend Kirk Deeter - editor at Angling Trade amongst other things - has chimed in with his takes on fishing during COVID-19.

Here's an excerpt, CLICK HERE for the full article.

Admittedly, things are moving fast and my own opinions have evolved quite a bit in the past several days especially. But one thing that really sticks out and absolutely warms my heart is the sheer class and integrity of the many people in fly fishing with whom I have talked this issue through. We are definitely a community, and we are in it for the long haul. There will be another side of all this, and fly fishing will be just as cool, captivating and interesting on that other side as it was before… maybe even more appreciated. Keep the faith.

That said, I cannot count how many times in recent days I have been asked: Should we be fishing ourselves, and should we be encouraging others to fish?

I’m not brave enough to answer those questions myself. So the first thing I did was reach out through my co-editor of Angling Trade, Tim Romano, to ask an ER physician—and avid angler—Dr. Cliff Watts. Dr Watts started working in the emergency department in 1974. After completing an Emergency Medicine Residency in Charlotte, North Carolina, he moved to Boulder, Colorado, in 1978. After many years in the Boulder Community Hospital Emergency Department, and a few years as Associate Faculty for the Denver General Emergency Medicine Residency program, and 10 years as physician advisor for over 16 volunteer EMS agencies, he ended his active career at Boulder Medical Center Urgent Care in late 2013. Having caught his first fish at age 5, he has fished around the world from the Arctic to Patagonia, from the Kola Peninsula to Tibet. He still spends much of time helping people in need of medical information, travel questions, fishing information concerning gear and destinations, taking kids fishing, as well as having a spey rod in his hands while standing in flowing water.

We hit him with five straightforward questions, so here they are, with his responses.

1. Is it okay to fish in a “lockdown” or “shelter in place” state? If I am completely alone, get in my vehicle, get out and fish, never encounter another human within 6 feet or more, and have a healthy (at least mentally) escape, is that cool?

Yes, I believe that is very safe. If you are alone, the gas pump or the convenience store that you might visit on the trip is probably the most potent risk of exposure or transmission. Not the water. Not the fish. But I am unsure about ( different states’) regulations.

2. What is the max distance one should travel to fish? Are we talking about “walk to fish?” or is it okay to drive an hour to the river if part of the isolation appeal is to keep people off the roads entirely?

I do not think driving will increase your risk or that of others as long as you follow CDC guidelines. See: Now, if you feel sick or later get sick, going too far might lead to a difficult return home.

3. How about a boat? Like a drift boat… is there any way you see a fishing boat being a safe “socially distanced” scenario?

Most drift boats mandate the rower and the fisherperson to be less than 6 feet apart. The person downwind of a sneeze, or a spit, would be vulnerable to “droplets” and hence there could be a significant potential to spread any virus.

4. Assuming I can go fish, and I buy a dozen flies and a spool of tippet from my favorite fly shop (online, sent to me through the mail, or they leave it out the door), do I have to disinfect those flies and tippet somehow, and if so what is the best way to do that?

According to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can live in the air and on surfaces between several hours and several days. The study found that the virus is viable for up to 72 hours on plastics, 48 hours on stainless steel, 24 hours on cardboard, and 4 hours on copper. But the actual viral load decreases rapidly on most of these surfaces. Cleaning surfaces with disinfectant or soap is very effective because once the oily surface coat of the virus is disabled, the virus should not be able to infect a host cell. The facts and science change daily. I do believe soaking anything in 91% isopropyl alcohol or 80% ethanol (real moonshine) for 1 minute would kill any virus on a fly or tippet materials, but this might affect those materials. Letting any of these fishing materials just sit for 72hours, should certainly make them virus free. I would not hold fresh flies or tippets with your lips until you do so.

5. Is the virus transmitted through water?

According to the CDC, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the use of pools and hot tubs. The virus has been detected in patient’s feces, but I doubt that the virus has significant presence or danger as far as fishing waters in North America. See this link.

Okay… so let’s start there, and build out the discussion.

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