Looking for a Socially Distanced Escape? Go to a River.
August 18, 2020
Standing hip-deep in waders, I watch my dry fly bob among pale morning dun mayflies emerging from their nymphal shucks. It drifts through an eddy, a whirlpool created from water swirling in a reverse current, then settles into a seam, the convergence of fast and slow currents. In my search for adventures that are pandemic safe, I’ve discovered a whole new world in the structure of a river.
Matt Heron, a renowned fly-fishing instructor with over three decades of experience, says he can see monster trout feeding in the seam. Just when a glare blinds me, Heron yells from the other side of the eddy, “Set! Set! Set!” He shuts one eye and cringes, hoping I will not miss the opportunity to land my first fish on a fly rod, as I already have three times that morning. I sweep the rod to my right at a 45-degree angle towards the bank, so a hook about the size of my nail can set itself in the trout’s mouth.
“Let go!” Heron reminds me to release my finger on the line. The rod bends. The line strips away. Heron shouts instructions, but I can only hear my heart pounding. It’s not until I’m kneeling in the river with an eighteen-inch rainbow trout breathing in my hands, its black-spotted, bluish green yellow body shimmering, that a smile breaks free. After a few unsuccessful photos together where the trout refuses to cooperate, I release her underwater. Rivers remind us to let go, to respect that sometimes things don’t go the way we want them to, and that’s okay.
Here, five river destinations to inspire your next socially distant adventure. Given the risks associated with plane travel at the moment, we’re thinking of these as drive-to destinations for those in-state or nearby. But no matter where you’re traveling from, make sure to check local travel restrictions.