Covid-19 and Parks’ Fly Shop: Updated May 30
Montana is currently in the latter stages of Phase I of its reopening. This allows for Montana residents to restart most normal activities while maintaining social distancing. Out-of-state residents remain under a fourteen-day quarantine order. Simply put, those arriving from out-of-state, as well as Montana residents returning from out-of-state, must self-quarantine in their lodgings for fourteen days.
Simply put, no fishing right now for out-of-staters, save for those who have property here or otherwise are prepared to hunker down for fourteen days before going out.
For all intents and purposes, this means our guide services are closed, since 99% of our clientele is from out-of-state.
The shop is open for retail sales on normal offseason hours of 9-5 daily and 10-4 on Sundays, provided customers follow the policies noted in the next section as well as the quarantine order.
Phase II of Reopening Begins June 1: Big Changes Afoot
Montana moves to Phase II of its reopening on June 1. This is a big deal as it allows out-of-staters to visit without quarantine. As such, our guide service will reopen June 1.
Yellowstone Park’s Montana-accessed areas, including the north gate at Gardiner and the west gate at West Yellowstone, are reopening June 1 as well. This will make Gardiner a reasonable place to stay to see and fish Yellowstone Park. Previously, only the Wyoming gates to the park were open.
The shop will move to standard summer hours of 8AM-6PM on June 1.
- We ask that groups that are not traveling together avoid entering the shop at the same time. Please limit the number of customers in the shop to two at a time.
- Bathrooms will not be available for the foreseeable future.
- Please maintain as much distance as possible from staff. Now is not the time to lean over our shoulders to watch us tie flies.
- We will not be renting any wading gear for the time being due to the difficulty of sterilizing waders. Snowshoes remain available, but please understand that these are likewise impossible to sterilize. Since you wear your own footwear with snowshoes rather than putting your whole body in them, this should not be a problem.
- If you are in the area but would rather not come into the shop, give us a call at 406-848-7314 and place your order over the phone. We’ll package it up and meet you at the curb.
- Shop cleaning is now taking place daily, right down to the pens you use to sign your CC slips.
- Hand sanitizer is available.
- Shop staff are wearing masks, and we encourage customers to do likewise.
Summer Guide Business: Trip Planning and Temporary Changes to Policies
Our guided trip bookings were looking very strong through February. Since then, new bookings have vanished. We have only had a handful of cancellations since then, most for March-April pre-runoff trips and for trips in YNP in June. Many potential guide trip clients are understandably hesitant to book summer trips due to uncertainty about when the virus will be under control, to say nothing about the economy. As such, we are making some temporary changes to our guided trip policies.
Deposit and Cancellation Policy Changes: To help reduce client uncertainty and anxiety in booking trips for this year, not knowing what the future will bring, we are relaxing our deposit and cancellation policies until further notice. Here are the changes:
- As always, trips canceled a month or more out from the first day of the booking will receive a full refund.
- Trips canceled from one month to 72 hours before the trip may apply the deposit to a future trip anytime in 2020 or 2021. Our standard policy is forfeiture of this deposit unless we’re able to rebook the guide. This policy change applies to all bookings, both retroactively to those made before the virus flared and to new bookings made until we change back to our standard policy.
- Trips canceled with less than 72 hours notice will be handled on a case-by-case basis. In other words, if your flight’s canceled or someone gets coronavirus, we’ll credit the deposit to another trip.
Trip Booking Suggestions:
- We suggest clients be flexible about what sorts of trips we plan to run. While Yellowstone Park and Montana are reopening to commercial services including guided fishing trips on June 1, we do not know if additional changes will take place as summer and therefore the course of the virus progress.
- Walk trips allow for greater social distancing in general, though closer quarters at certain moments. Float trips allow for less social distancing in general, but almost no personal contact besides being “in each other’s space.” Bear that in mind when you think about what to book.
- We anticipate the fishing will be very good this year, due to reduced pressure.
- We may ask clients to drive their own vehicles and bring their own water more this year than we usually do.
YNP Covid-19 Operations Plan
Yellowstone National Park has asked us to note our responses to coronavirus. Here’s our responses to their questions:
Describe social distancing measures you will implement during your tours to minimize the risk of transmission in indoor areas, outdoor areas, and during transportation of clients.
As much as possible; clients will use their own vehicles, guides will maintain distance from clients and between clients, guides and clients will be required to use masks.
Describe how you will ensure CDC handwashing and sanitization measures are followed.
Each guide party will have soap, paper towels, hand sanitizer, and sanitizer spray.
Describe how and how often you will sanitize equipment and vehicles used to transport employees and clients.
Equipment and vehicles will be sanitized with sanitizing spray and wiped down before and after each trip.
Describe how you will handle the sanitization of shared equipment (scopes, binoculars, etc.) or equipment provided to clients (saddles and other tack).
See above. In addition to normal AIS cleaning, wading equipment will get a bleach solution rinse.
Describe how you will handle/sanitize equipment belonging to clients (fishing poles, backpacks, etc.).
In general guides will not be handling client equipment and clients will be responsible for their own equipment.
Will you provide food or drinks to clients on tours? If so, describe how you will handle food and drinks to minimize exposure and transmission.
We are discounting full day trips and asking clients to supply their own food. We will supply cooler, ice, and disposable bottled water (handled with gloves)
Describe actions will you take in your interactions with clients and visitors to minimize exposure.
Clients – see above, visitors we try to avoid anyway as fishing is not a large group activity.
Describe how you will evaluate employees and visitors to determine if they may be ill. Please describe actions you will take if an employee or visitor is ill.
All employees and clients are asked the screening questions about cough, fever, difficulty breathing every day. If a client reports as symptomatic their trip will be cancelled and their contact information will be noted for contact tracing purposes. An employee will be sent into isolation and reported for testing until a determination is made.
Please list any additional actions your company and employees will take to minimize transmission of the virus.
The shop is a common area that will be sanitized frequently during the day and shop staff will wear masks. In addition clients will be supplied with a check sheet including the above information and an expanded list of personal supplies on booking.
Ways You Can Help
This is going to be a hard year for Parks’ Fly Shop, just like everyone else in the travel/tourism field. We anticipate dramatic reductions in guided trip bookings and over the counter sales. Besides keeping our staff paid on at least a part-time basis, the hardest thing is going to be paying for our huge spring fly and tackle orders that have all now arrived, when we don’t have any customers buying these flies, rods, leaders, etc. Here are some things you can consider doing to help see us through:
- Purchase flies and tackle through mail-order: We do not have an e-commerce site, but are glad to take orders for custom and standard flies, rods, and really everything else we stock except bear spray over the phone. Free shipping on orders over $50.
- Place a deposit on a guided trip: We are now accepting open-ended deposits for guided trips that run anytime during the 2020 or 2021 seasons. We’ll take your deposit and your contact information, but won’t set a specific date for the trip until you’re sure you’re coming. Note that our trips are first-come/first-served and we do have some dates that are fully-booked for July-September 2020 already.
- Take the virus seriously: The sooner people practice social isolation and good hygiene, the more support people give to local health care providers, and so on, the faster this will be over.
- Once it is all over, support your favorite fly shops, fishing guides, tour guides, bookstores, climbing gyms, restaurants, bars, craft breweres, and so on. Small businesses in the service sector are taking it on the chin right now and for the foreseeable future. If you want such places to stick around for 2021 and beyond, give them your business instead of the big operations that will probably make out like bandits once the economy starts climbing again.