Out of Bounds

A Year Since the Fall

I realize I’m one of the fortunate few who got through the 2020 horror show largely unscathed

By Rob Breeding

As I look back on the last year I realize I’m one of the fortunate few who got through the 2020 horror show largely unscathed. It’s mostly been mere inconvenience for me, despite the pandemic. Even with a death toll of more than a half a million of my fellow Americans, no one close to me has been seriously ill, much less died due to COVID-19.

The pandemic even provided a gift of sorts. Last March, as the world began to shut down, my adult daughter came to visit and ride out spring break, when we still didn’t know if we were facing hypochondriacs gone wild, or the apocalypse.

It’s easier to joke now. But I remember a trip to the grocery store, shortly after she arrived, when I pleaded with her the entire ride home to not touch her face. When we pulled up, I sent her straight in to wash her hands before she scratched her nose again.

We worried of course, but we also drew comfort in our rural isolation, far from the pandemic-battered cities on the coasts. 

The two of us had time on our hands and the usual spring outdoor activities fit right in with guidelines for stopping the spread. Fly fishing was social distancing before social distancing was cool, as was birding, running the dog and perforating empty beer cans with shotguns.

I spent most of my fishing time catching bass. I’ve toyed with bass fishing a bit over the years, but America’s favorite gamefish has always taken a back seat to trout. Not in 2020. I picked up a couple spinning rods, stocked up on plastic worms and gave this deserving species some attention. 

I learned that worm fishing for bass is more like nymphing for trout than I’d ever imagined. The two techniques are not the same, but share many conventions: 

• Watch the line on the drop. 

• Work fishy-looking spots thoroughly before you move on. 

• Swing on every tap. 

More times than not you’ll set your hook in a stick or the bottom, but if you don’t swing you’ll never catch any real live fish, bass or trout.

Fly fishing for bass is even more fun. For that I gave the drift boat the old Rogers Lake treatment, launching it in still water then rowing backwards to the fish. Some sort of watercraft is needed for fly fishing, as the bank is often too brushy to backcast. Even with the backwards rowing thing, a drift boat is ideal because it can carry quite a bit more beer than a float tube.

I was also an early adopter of the pandemic sourdough craze — all day, every day — yet still managed to lose those 10 pounds I’ve been trying to shed for decades because the kid, an athlete from her days at Glacier High, remains a runner. 

I learned long ago that running with either of my daughters doesn’t mean jogging side by side. I can’t keep up anymore, but at least I get to wave when they pass.

As for those 10 pounds, sadly, I need to lose them again.

A year later it finally seems the light at the end of the tunnel is no longer a train. It feels a little like one can reach out and touch normalcy again without immediately needing hand sanitizer. We’re not quite there, but if we don’t let our guards down too early and everyone bellies up to the vaccine bar (I get my second shot this week) we might actually return to the world of store-bought bread, shaking hands with strangers and recreating in enclosed spaces like movie theaters or restaurants without having to erect a Visqueen barrier between us and the nearest humans. 

It’s all those little things. We’ll get them back soon I hope.

Rob Breeding writes and blogs at www.mthookandbullet.com.

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