It’s the end of the world as we know it

– With a little luck, most of us will be okay
– Book signing events and presentations canceled
– It’s a perfect opportunity to do a little more fishing
– How you can support local businesses and the fly fishing community

And I feel fine. I hope you do, too, and also that the old R.E.M. song is stuck in your head for the rest of the day. You’re welcome.

Turn and face the strange changes

If, like me, you are fortunate enough to have survived to a certain age, some of this may seem familiar. Whether it was the murder of a president, or the fear that a Cold War was about to become a hot one, or the uncertainty surrounding Y2K (there was some toilet paper hoarding going on then, too), the events of 9/11, a hurricane or a flood or some personal experience or challenge, many of us have been through something almost like this before.

Only “almost” because the coronavirus pandemic is uniquely widespread and increasingly pervasive. And while it appears to most seriously threaten of the elderly and people with underlying conditions, the efforts to “flatten the curve” and mitigate the damage have profound effects on all of us.

kid fishing
If your kids are anything like mine, they’re probably going a little stir crazy during a prolonged spring break. It’s a perfect time to take them fishing!
Photo by Aaron Reed

I am one of the lucky ones: in my day job, I work on a tugboat, and so long as the three or four other crew members are healthy, I’m pretty safe and naturally isolated in this floating steel box. My wife’s work has come to an abrupt stop, our kids wonder if they’ll ever get to go back to school, and if everyone else doesn’t stop hoarding ass wipe we’ll have to get creative in the bathroom by the end of the week.

With emergency declarations limiting public and private gatherings to 250 50 25 10 people and mandating the closing of bars and restaurants across Texas – through at least May 11, but probably longer – almost all of the scheduled events surrounding the May 1 release of Fly Fishing Austin & Central Texas have been (or surely will be) canceled.

That includes, of course, the book launch party at Mesquite Creek Outfitters (as of yesterday, curbside and delivery only—stop by and fill a growler, will ya?), which was the highlight of my 2020 social calendar. I’ll miss seeing my friends, many of whom I haven’t connected with in person in months or even years. It was going to be a grand reunion.

Also, you’re welcome for the David Bowie song.

Fly Fishing Remains

In these uncertain times of closures and cancellations and social distancing and self-isolation, you can (and probably should) still go fly fishing, or at least tie some flies or practice your casting.

On page 22 of the book, I write that:

“Fly fishing often enough is a solitary pursuit; at the very least, it’s one in which you expect to have a decent buffer zone between you and the next guy or gal on the water. The mechanics of a cast pretty much demand it.”

Also, those of us who gravitate to this sport have probably been practicing some form of social distancing most of our lives. It’s not that we don’t like people, mostly, it’s just that a whole bunch of them all at once in one place make us uncomfortable. Otherwise we’d be joining softball teams or bowling leagues.

Am I right?

Fish local

The editors of Angling Trade magazine, on March 17, hit on this theme, and also made a “nuanced” suggestion: don’t recommend that folks travel to fish, even if you think your business depends on it. Let’s extrapolate from that: fish local.

And on that note, I have a deal for you: Fly Fishing Austin & Central Texas gives you GPS coordinates and directions to more than 100 legal access points within about an hour of downtown Austin. It provides detailed guidance to more than four dozen reaches of flowing water. It provides recipes for a range of proven, local flies.

And you can get a signed, personalized copy ahead of the May 1 release date by supporting a local business.

Buy local, with bonuses

Fly shops are cultural centers as much as retailers. Even if you can’t visit in person (and you probably still can), you can certainly order online and help ensure it is still there when things return to normal.
Photo by Aaron Reed

My publisher tells me that there are a gratifying number of pre-orders for the book on Amazon and elsewhere. I’m thrilled, and humbled, and if you have already purchased the book: thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

If you were planning on buying the book at an event or from me at directly at a fishing club presentation, I’d be thrilled if you would consider instead supporting one of the small businesses we rely on day-in and day-out. They’re hurting right now, and the next weeks and months are going to be challenging for them. Any little bit we can do to help them keep the lights on and make payroll would be much appreciated.

Your local fly shop – wherever you are — can get the book through normal book distribution channels, and I encourage you to inquire if you’d like to support your local shop.

If you live in Central Texas (or, anywhere, really), we have worked out a deal with two local fly shops to provide signed (personalized, if you provide the information) copies a week before the official May 1 release date. This isn’t because we don’t care about the other shops, elsewhere, it’s just where I can get to easily in person.

Call or email Living Waters Fly Fishing in Round Rock (512-828-3474, admin@livingwatersflyfishing.com) or ReelFly Fishing Adventures in Canyon Lake (830-964-4823, contact@reelfly.com). Both shops remain open and both are still offering some guided trips, though most (or, by now, all) in-store events have been canceled.

The friendly staff at either shop will happily deliver your order (whether it is fly tying materials, a new rod or reel, or the book) to your vehicle curbside if you are uncomfortable going inside (these are spick and span establishments at any time, but they’ve stepped-up cleaning and disinfecting of all surfaces during the current crisis).

The cover price on the book is $24.95. Sales tax is $2.06. Shipping, if you are not local or can’t get to the shop, is between $5.95 and $8.25 for priority mail. You can pick up your copy – or have it mailed for delivery within 1-3 days – April 24, a full week before the official release date of May 1.

It will be my pleasure to spend a couple of hours, as many as it takes, signing books at both locations before then.

Brave new world

Who knows what the new normal will look like when this is all over? The ease with which federal, state and local governments have waived some laws and regulations (in Texas, you can now order a pitcher of margaritas with those delivery tacos) reveals just how vacuous they were to begin with. Telework has been halfheartedly mooted for years; now that folks’ lives may depend on it, Austin’s traffic problems have – almost overnight – disappeared. And near-universal paid sick leave, nationwide? Good luck putting that genie back in the bottle.

The rivers and creeks and fish and wildlife remain, unchanged, and welcome us – a bridge from the old world to this uncertain new one, whatever it will look like.

In a previous lifetime, I had professional reasons to work through half a dozen or more natural disasters in several countries. My observation each time was that when communities face extraordinary challenges, it brings out both the best and the worst in people, but overwhelmingly the best. Neighbors step up to help neighbors, everyone is a little kinder and more considerate, we hold our loved ones a little bit closer, and we remember – for a time, anyway – what is truly important in life.

In the grand scheme of things, my book project is not all that important. Not one of the events surrounding its release were truly important. But I’ll miss seeing my tribe(s), many gathered in the same place for the first time.

So, when this is over, when we’re all feeling good again, let’s make a point to go fishing together, hang-out around a campfire and share stories, have that beer we’ve been saying for so long we were going to have together.

Until then, stay healthy. Stay sane. Go fishing.

Other things you can do to support local businesses

* If you are still employed and can afford it, and you’re healthy, consider using this time to book a casting lesson (no close contact required) or a guided trip.

* Place an online order for flies from Matt Bennett, Wes McNew, Chase Smith, or Brandon Bailes.

* Buy that new or additional fly rod you’ve been eyeing, and go use it!

* Stock up on gift certificates from your favorite local fly shop or fly tyer for gifts (maybe to yourself) later in the year.

* Order some food and adult beverages for pickup or delivery from your favorite local restaurant or brewery.

* Check in with your favorite local musician or band and see if they are offering live, online concerts. Make use of that virtual tip jar!

* And, filed under “turnabout is fair play,” check out the new “Look Inside” feature at the Fly Fishing Austin & Central Texas Amazon.com page but order the book from your local shop.

The rivers and creeks remain, welcoming us — a bridge from the old world to this uncertain new one.
Photo by Aaron Reed

Aaron Reed

Aaron Reed

Aaron Reed is an award-winning outdoor writer and Army veteran. He currently splits his time between his native Texas Gulf coast, where he drives a tugboat, and his home near the San Gabriel River in Georgetown, Texas. When he is not working, chances are you can find him knee-deep in a stream somewhere around Austin, often with his wife and one or more of his three boys, trying like heck to become a better fly fisherman. His stories and photos have appeared in Southwest Fly Fishing, This is Fly, Kayak Angler, Texas Outdoors Journal, Texas Sporting Journal, Texas Fish & Game, Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine, Lone Star Outdoor News, Austin American-Statesman, Austin Business Journal, the Taylor Press, Soldiers magazine, Leatherneck magazine, Liguorian magazine, The Washington Times, and elsewhere.

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