As the saying goes, life can change on a dime.
Just a week ago in this space, I was writing about two fly fishing events on tap in North Texas, the 5th annual TRWD Flyfest last Saturday in Fort Worth and the 4th Annual Texas Fly Fishing & Brew Festival scheduled for this weekend in Plano.
But almost as soon as that story was printed, sweeping changes started rocking the world, including decisions affecting those of us who enjoy the Creator’s outdoors version of it.
Last Friday evening, in only a couple of hours of time, the TRWD Flyfest was cancelled, the Texas Fly Fishing Festival followed suit, and life as we knew it was beginning to change at warp speed.
Recent days have brought a National Emergency declaration from the President, a Disaster Declaration from the Texas Governor, and rising numbers of positive COVID-19 cases and fatalities in Texas, Oklahoma, the U.S., and around the world.
Schools are closed; businesses are either working from home, making major operational changes, or closing down for now; and the sports world continues to reel with the Masters, the PGA Championship, the French Open, and the Kentucky Derby postponing or cancelling their spring events.
Today, there is clearly a new reality in our world as we battle a pandemic that highly educated medical experts around the globe say could be the worst disease outbreak in modern times.
Many stories in the past week have harkened back to the flu pandemic of 1918, a deadly outbreak in the days of World War I that according to Wikipedia, infected up to 27% of the world’s population and killed anywhere from 17 million to 50 million people worldwide. Already one of the deadliest events in world history, some believe that the death toll was even higher, perhaps as many as 100 million around the globe.
That event gets my attention in a personal way because my grandfather lost a wife and a daughter while watching helplessly in the Tennessee community that he lived in. If I understand the story correctly, he eventually moved to Memphis, met my grandmother, had a son named Bill, and the rest is history for yours truly and the rest of our clan.
The 1918 pandemic also gets my attention because of football. As a football stat geek and the voice of the Denison Yellow Jackets on KMKT, I’ve always noted in my yearly perusal of the DHS record book that there is one glaring omission. And that’s an entire season that is missing. According to the record book, there were high school football games played in D-Town in 1917, again in 1919, but not in 1918.
Games have been played in Denison every year since, but not that season, which one high school football website describes as “cancelled.” Without going to microfilm records, something that I’ve talked about doing with Herald Democrat sports editor Jason Della Rosa, I can only speculate as to why that happened a century ago. But since it happened in the year of the great flu pandemic, I think I already know the answer.
For all the current coronavirus effects on the day-to-day world of individuals, families, schools, businesses, churches, community gatherings, travel and sporting events that so many love, the outdoors world hasn’t been immune to the effects of COVID-19 over the past week.
Nationally, the NRA Annual Meetings and the Pope and Young Club Convention have been scrubbed. Conservation groups from Ducks Unlimited to the Ruffed Grouse Society to the National Wild Turkey Federation are postponing local events across the nation. And the much-anticipated Ducks Unlimited Expo, a huge event scheduled for mid-May at Texas Motor Speedway, is threatened with postponement or cancellation if something doesn’t change soon.
Here in Texomaland, there are plenty of changes too. I mentioned the two fly fishing events cancelled last Friday evening, but the annual Fly Fish Texas event scheduled for next month in Athens has been cancelled too.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (www.tpwd.texas.gov) has closed the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens where that fly fishing event was to be held, along with the closing of Sea Center Texas in Lake Jackson. The agency has also cancelled the TPW Commission meeting scheduled for later this month in Austin.
For now, the agency is keeping state parks like the local Eisenhower State Park open, but TPWD officials announced as this was being written on Thursday that they would be limiting park programming and closing public access to park headquarters, visitor centers and park stores.
Boat ramps aren’t yet closed to local fishermen, but the Army Corps of Engineers announced lake operation changes earlier this week amid the ongoing health crisis. Lake offices, day use facilities and visitor offices are closed. Campgrounds currently open will remain that way for now, but closures could come and reservations and fees must be made in advance (Editor’s Note: To do that, see www.recreation.gov).
In almost every case, local and regional fishing tournaments coming up over the next month or two have been cancelled or postponed. That includes the American Bass Anglers event scheduled for Lake Texoma this weekend (postponed until further notice), the Lake Fork Mega Bass tournament (rescheduled for July 19), and the upcoming Bassmaster Central Open on Lake Lewisville (postponed until a later date).
On the national scene, while Major League Fishing’s Bass Pro Tour soldiered on this past week on Lake Fork and Lake Athens, it remains to be seen what league officials will do now in terms of upcoming BPT events.
The FLW Pro Circuit is also making changes as the league will reschedule all tournaments through at least April 5. The exception is the current Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event on Lake Martin in Alabama where the event has already gotten underway with unprecedented caution and tournament rules.
Finally, only a few days after Hank Cherry won the 50th Bassmaster Classic, officials with the Bassmaster Elite Series announced that they are pulling the plug on the circuit’s next event at Chickamauga Lake in Tennessee.
As I watched the final minutes of live streaming on Wednesday evening as Ott DeFoe completed a comeback for the ages and won the BPT’s Stage Three event on Lake Athens, it occurred to me that I could be watching the last professional bass fishing tournament action for a good while.
How long the outdoors world will be on hold, no one knows. For now, we’re all following government health guidelines, adhering to the concept of social distancing, and praying for all of this to go away. One day, the pandemic will end, we’ll mourn those who perished, and we’ll pick up the pieces and go on as the storm ends and the sun shines brightly once again.
Until then, the world has changed. Even when you step outdoors.