Observations from the Water and Confinement – 3/22/20

by | Mar 22, 2020

Days on the Water: 1
Who we fished with: clients
Where we fished: Lower Niagara
What we were Targeting: Lake Trout, Steelhead, Brown Trout
Tactics: 3 way rigs off the bottom

This Week’s Blog

What follows is a 2 part essay. Part 1 – Commentary, is a quick review of this past week in fishing. It’s a quick and easy read given the circumstances. Part 2 – A Mind in Search, is what it sounds like – me getting deep and working some stuff out while stuck at home. Enjoy!


It’s with a heavy heart that I write my weekly observations about angling here in Buffalo Niagara. For much of the week – the Niagara River looked amazing. I was only able to fish on Monday (it was insanely good) but many of my colleagues were able to fish through Friday – all having awesome days. The heavy heart comes from looking at something so beautiful/close to perfection and not being able to connect with it.

All of us are trying to digest the various forms of guidance (ref Covid-19) coming from the state of NY and our federal government. Upon initial reading, it seems like fishing is a check in the box in every category that will help prevent the spread of this thing just shy of COMPLETE isolation. As an example, the New York State Parks put out guidance on Friday stating that the parks are open and all entry fees are waived; just keep your distance from others/don’t assemble in groups. This is a signal – an acknowledgment that sanity is going to run in short supply very soon if everyone remains shuttered at home. Everyone needs an escape from that and enjoying nature is an excellent option.

This signal opens room for interpretation for the charter fishing business in the region – creating enough ambiguity that I believe we can justify continuing to operate through all of this. In other words, I plan on fishing as often as possible. Unfortunately – that won’t be often enough. Quarantines, statewide “pauses,” shelter in place orders, fear, and uncertainty are crushing our businesses…along with nearly every other business in the region…and the planet.

A Mind in Search

Stuck at home A LOT lately, many of us are left with our thoughts. Thinking about how radically our lives are changing (almost daily), one realizes that this is the case for everyone on the planet. I gotta say that in a weird way, talking about things in terms of global impact is comforting. It seems like there’s a little less focus on self or the country you inhabit and an increasing empathy for this global problem. “We’ll get through this…together,” is a message that’s becoming pervasive on social media.

Covid-19 got global shockingly fast – painting a picture of how interconnected our species has become. If you weren’t awake to this before, you’re now VERY aware that we live in a global economy and mitigating the disruptions caused by this and future pandemics is a global problem all nations need to resolve together. It’s a very interesting problem/set of problems that in my previous career I’d be stoked to work with others to tackle.

Ask any of my family members, friends, and long-time clients and they’ll tell you I’m a pathological thinker. It’s been that way my entire life but training in the USMC helped me focus it toward larger ends tied to national security. Nowadays, I’m a fishing guide/charter captain and my reach and influence on policy ain’t what it used to be. Still, although running my own business and fishing are both challenging, my brain has some excess capacity and it always drifts into something deep. Strand me at home for extended periods of time – things are gonna get wild – much to the chagrin of my wife and daughter.

Who am I Kidding? It’s Already Wild…and Getting Wilder

What follows are random strands swimming around the old duder’s head. They are far from refined – more raw thoughts that can generate larger discussions about our way of life and/or inform policy. They are THOUGHTS and QUESTIONS – NOT BELIEFS. I hope those who read this will find it useful in generating conversations with your partners in confinement. One thing is certain – all of us have more time to think about our circumstances than we’ve ever had before. Hopefully, when all this passes, we’ll be more engaged across these subjects. Here it goes:

Many of us are Homeschooling our Children

Scenario: Before they closed our schools and we all converted to virtual education/homeschooling, the extent of our engagement in our child’s education wasn’t very intrusive. My wife and I always attend parent/teacher conferences. We review our daughter’s homework and talk to her about her day at school. In other words, we kept tabs on what she had going on to make sure she was learning and improving across all subjects, but we weren’t deeply engaged in improving the quality of her education – we trusted the schools for that. Hell, our taxes are paying for it, so we assume our dollars are being put to good use.

After homeschooling for only a few days, we’re beginning to see a more detailed version of her strengths and weaknesses, and we can refine a daily program to reinforce the former and improve the latter. This is problematic for many reasons:
– Post pandemic, is this level of engagement sustainable? If not, what then?
– Are our departments of education really maximizing our tax dollars toward the benefit of our children?
– During this pandemic, parents are becoming more engaged in the education of their kids – but in all likelihood, that level of engagement is disparate among households. Janice and I have it easy – we only have one child. Nate has 2. My brother has 4. What they are going through is far more complicated than us. As the months of homeschooling goes by, pre-Covid-19 gaps in child proficiency across the subjects will likely widen. How do we return to “normal” after that?
– How is this impacting the social development of our children? At school – kids outnumber their teachers by a large margin and engage with one another often. At home, at least in my household, adults outnumber the kids or at best, that ratio they get from school isn’t there anymore. How’s that going to affect our kids if this persists through the end of the school year?

College students should have similar questions. They were all sent home to execute their coursework virtually. Their tuition paid for one way of life, but they are receiving the exact opposite. If virtual learning ends up being an effective model for education (I guess you could apply this to the corporate world as well), are you getting your $$$’s worth paying for the “traditional college experience?” What is a good education?

Mass Unemployment and the Least Resilient

Scenario: Pretty much everyone that works in the arts and entertainment industry is unemployed/unemployable right now. This includes my wife and I. The small businesses and their employees that operate in this space love to be around other people. They cherish human to human contact – it’s what makes us HUMAN after all.

Every human, in one degree or another, needs arts and entertainment to maintain our sanity, give us something to look forward to, drive innovation, and exchange ideas – it’s the SOUL/SPIRIT of our species. Now, that soul is silent…idle. What’s that gonna mean for all of us in the near and long term?

I’ve written about the negative impacts of shack nasties a few times. Lately, I’ve been trying to picture a global pandemic of shack nasties and the potential outcomes.
– Will suicide rates increase? Who’s monitoring those at risk?
– Gyms are closed – is everyone who was trying to get in shape before the pandemic now sliding back into poor health?
– Can all of us unemployed folks help anywhere? Maybe not for Covid-19 but in the future can some of us form a strategic reserve that can administer tests for viruses and assist in quarantine maintenance, or some other function? Is that the military’s role? Would it be comforting to see soldiers in uniform with guns spread throughout our neighborhoods?
– Will crime increase? Idle hands…
– Prior to all of this, many people believed doomsday preppers occupied a paranoid fringe of society. Have they been onto something all along? Can all of us or maybe just many of us become preppers? Is there space enough to do that?
– Are we resilient enough, better yet willing, to sacrifice soul for security? If yes, is that really security?

Healing the Planet

Disclaimer: These thoughts will undoubtedly be labeled as controversial. Please keep in mind, if you’ve read this far, I’m trying to explore a ton of ideas. That’s what they are – IDEAS. I’m thinking critically about everything I’ve seen in the last few days – not advocating any course of action.

Situation: My wife sent me this article the other day. I haven’t fact checked it and the author is very transparent about the rawness of the data. Still, I think the concept is worth considering. In short, there is evidence trickling in from around the world that entire ecosystems from the oceans to the atmosphere are benefiting from human inactivity.

Upon initial reading, my gut tells me this makes sense, but I’m not firmly committed to the idea due to the newness of the data. If you’re trying to come up with a plan, sometimes you must assume something is valid in order to keep planning. Assuming the planet “heals” itself from human imposed damages via viruses, what are the implications? What can we learn during this massive pause that will improve our position in the long run?
– How will the interested parties (mainly governments, corporations, and environmental advocacy groups) monitor and use that information?
– If true, will this alter the views of “human influenced climate change” doubters? If not, why?
– Is it feasible to take a forced, planetary pause every once in awhile to tilt the balance of nature away from humans?
– Right now, the virus is being depicted as an invisible enemy. Is that the right characterization?
– Are viruses the planet’s mechanism for rebalancing? Are we taking an honest look at how and why they emerge? I’m not talking about assigning blame to country or cultural activity, president or prime minister. I’m talking about the current, global condition that got us here:
o Global supply chains and global trade
o Our ability to travel nearly anywhere on the planet with relative ease
o Global corporations/producers taking advantage of cheap labor and loose regulations to keep profits high and prices affordable
o Materialism/the need to have “stuff” and to pay as little as possible for it so we can buy more stuff
o A drive for innovation that seeks to make better “stuff,” making the old stuff irrelevant/fodder for landfills (replace stuff with jobs and this idea is both literal and metaphor)
– Is a virus a more impactful “sickness” than some of the social ills mentioned above?

Social Distancing as the “Cool” Thing to Do

Scenario: I’m not preaching here – we’ve only been homeschooling for a week. When NY made the call to close the schools and turn to online learning – I knew this was going to be a game changer in our daily lives. When cancellations started coming in, my schedule opened. When they closed the restaurants, so did Janice’s. For us, homeschooling became this new opportunity/a way to connect with our daughter in a way we hadn’t before. If this is going to work/if we don’t want it to become drudgery, it’s gotta be entertaining for everyone involved.

In line with this theme of entertaining education, I’ve been hiking the Devils Hole trail with our daughter every day. Just the steps – down and up x 2. I’ve been thinking of it as a PE and biology class. It also has the benefit of keeping me informed of the condition of the river.

Devil’s hole has been more crowded than I’ve ever seen it. People of all shapes and sizes, creeds and colors are getting outside to stay sane. It’s awesome, but if I’m being completely transparent, the younger folks doing the selfie stick thing and posting #socialdistancing content on socials isn’t sitting quite right with me. It’s totally cool – I’m not judging – promote the region, please! Still, as I watch all these hikers and their social media posts, I find myself asking:
– How much of this newly found fondness for nature and the outdoors is genuine?
– It took a virus to get us to go outside and appreciate what’s going on in nature. How will that influence post-pandemic behavior?
– Will people become more interested in preserving natural spaces/places? Will they become more interested in revitalizing natural spaces/places that are highly polluted?
– Maybe all this new activity in *name that natural space* will benefit us guides. Will lots of people seeing something wonderous in the outdoors encourage them to hire guides? Is this a potential boon for the outdoor industry?

Personal Relationships

Scenario: there’s no need for me to pull this thread too far so I’ll just give it a tug. We’re trapped in our homes for extended periods of time with the same people. What’s that gonna be like?
– Weddings are cancelled – how many couples will decide NOT to tie the knot after being delayed and then trapped with their significant other for an indefinite period?
– This will surely test all marriages and familial bonds. What will be the net effect? Increased or decreased divorce rates in the near term? What about the long term?
– I say this partly in gest, but it can certainly be taken very seriously – will there be a spike in child abuse cases?
– Will seclusion create a deeper connection with our devices or our family and neighborhood? Both?
There are millions of memes featuring these themes (and many more) all over social media. We’re all joking about this stuff now. Will we be 2 weeks from now? A month from now?


Part of me thinks that I should just chill. Exercise at home, spend some time outside, focus on our daughter’s schooling, enjoy time with the family, and trust that governments around the world, through the efforts of their people, will get us back to a “normal” not too different from a few months ago. That part of me is struggling to have a voice at the table.

Observing how immensely disruptive Covid-19 has been thus far, its extremely difficult for me to imagine anything less than a radical change in the way we live our lives if we want to prevent this from happening going forward. I’m just a fishing guide with nothing to do, jotting some thoughts down. People in positions of power are doing the same thing and are likely asking the same questions.