I hope everyone reading this is healthy, employed, and not contemplating locking your children in the closet until the virus abates.
The effects of COVID-19 on summer fishing in southern Montana and the Yellowstone area remain to be seen, but they certainly call for some flexibility in my operations. Here are some changes I’m making, effective immediately.
Temporary Changes to Operations Calendar
For right now, I am not accepting bookings for March through May, 2020. People are not beating down the door anyway, but I think it’s in the best interests of both client health and my own to write off the spring season as a wash. Think about coming out in 2021 if you would like a pre-runoff trip or, if my funds allow a new boat purchase, a Missouri River power boat trip.
I am still accepting bookings for trips from June through the rest of the year. I expect bookings to be limited to nonexistent in June, but am holding out hope for my peak season from July through September to make it so this year isn’t a wipeout. That said, for financial planning and worry purposes, my wife and I are working under the assumption that I won’t have any trips this year beyond the pair I had last week.
Temporary Changes to Cancellation Policy
For all current bookings for the 2020 season as well as new bookings for the season as they come in, I am making the following changes to my cancellation policies to allow greater flexibility and alleviate client concerns about booking trips they may not be able to travel to take.
- My normal 30-day no questions asked cancellation policy remains in effect. Cancel with 30+ days notice, the full deposit will be refunded.
- From 30 days to 72 hours prior to the trip, upon cancellation any deposit made may be held for a trip later in the 2020 season or during the 2021 season, rather than forfeited if I am unable to rebook. If things continue to be really ugly into the summer, I may revisit this policy and make it more lenient yet.
- I will handle cancellations within the 72hr window on a case-by-case basis. Basically, if somebody gets sick or your flight gets canceled, I will do the right thing.
Effects on My Livelihood and Business
Simply put, I expect a severe reduction in trips and income this year. As of March 1, my bookings were looking excellent and I was on track for a record season. That’s all out the window now. I’ve only had three cancellations thus far, but I expect more to mount. A bigger issue at the moment is the utter lack of new bookings since the beginning of March. All in all, I would be surprised if I run more than fifty trips personally, with a handful of trips in which I have other guides working for me. I had expected to run twice as many trips before the double sledgehammer (the sickness and the economic blow) of coronavirus hit with full force. This is going to hurt rather severely.
I intend to keep YCFF operational in 2021 no matter what 2020 brings, provided nothing else catastrophic happens to reduce my finances. My wife’s work has already laid-off 20% of her division. If those cuts hit my wife, as well, I may have to start thinking about “eating my seed corn,” in other words selling off boats, client fishing tackle, and other large-scale business assets in order to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. I will gut my retirement savings, sell off my personal fishing tackle, sell my daily driver car, and take advantage of any applicable government programs before taking this extreme step, however.
Effects on the Fishing
Here’s a brighter note: I expect the fish to be happy and the fishing to be outstanding this season. I anticipated a good year before the virus reared its ugly head: we have good snowpack, a good outlook for continuing moisture through spring, and have had good water years every season since 2017. 2019 offered generally the best fishing since 2014, and the best hopper fishing in close to a decade. All signs pointed towards this trend continuing. Combining these conditions with what will certainly be reduced fishing pressure compared to the past few seasons, no matter how the virus and economy shake out, the fishing in 2020 is likely to rank at or near the best for my entire career. If your funds and health allow, contemplate a trip. I’ll be grateful and I bet the fishing will be good.
How You Can Help and Conclusion
I posted a video appeal on how to help my business and Parks’ Fly Shop as part of my March 25 Fly Tying Video. Rather than repeat myself, I’ll ask that you watch the video. In short, staying liquid this summer and especially through next winter is going to be my biggest challenge, and if you can book trips to help me do it, I’ll appreciate it.
Keep an eye on the blog for future updates. I’ll also be sending out an early spring newsletter with most of the same information above, as well as a fishing report. Sign up for the newsletter, if you haven’t.