As summer ramps up, dam releases and fly hatching seasons are usually on river lovers’ minds. For whitewater and fishing guides, this typically means busy season and the chance to show adventure-seekers their most loved stretches of water. Instead, this year they’re learning how to adapt their services to COVID-19 regulations and figuring out the best way to keep their guests, and themselves, safe.
For fly guides distance is a bit easier: they can drive separately from guests and spread out along a river bank. However, those operations using boats to access fishing spots face more of a challenge in how to approach this issue. Fishing guides have certainly felt the impact of the delayed start and loss of business. Because of this, an industry initiative called Save The Season was started to give financial support through donations.
Whitewater guides have also had to adjust their plans for the season as typically their boats require close proximity. Operators are thankful that they are getting the greenlight to begin running again in most states, but certainly with new restrictions. In most cases, this means requiring no mixed groups on rafts, reduced overall trip sizes, masks worn on shuttle buses, and no riverside food preparation – instead lunches are pre-packaged.
While many guests canceled trips during the early phases of the pandemic, people are now eager to get outside again and both whitewater and fishing operations are having to contend with individual state regulations to find ways to open safely. For either any of these activities there are some general guidelines outfitters and guests should follow. The CDC is recommending limiting travel so it’s a good idea to find operations within your state if possible.
If you decide to accept the risks of being out with a guide or others, maintain physical distancing as much as possible. For anglers, a 9–ft. rod is the ultimate social distancing yardstick. Any guide trips should require agreed upon no touch guiding, no shared food, guides not handling clients’ rods, and touching clients only in an emergency. If guides, shop staff, or guests have symptoms they should not be working or going on a trip. Using alcohol–based hand rubs, washing down frequently touched surfaces in shops and on boats, and posting signage on shop doors not to come in if they’re exhibiting symptoms. No shaking hands when greeting clients, tipping can happen (and should) but the guide needs to wash his/her hands or use an alcohol-based hand rub.
No hugs after a big fish or rafting day, but you can still get a photo of your catch or your rapids run, so go for it!
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