It was late January, 2020. COVID-19 was becoming a household word, but it was still an ocean away; it still felt like it would die on the beach and remain someone else’s problem, like Ebola. I was working a show on Long Island, and as you might remember, Long Island was the seedling of the East Coast, that’s where it all began. I really enjoy shows because I love talking to people about fishing and I really like meeting people who love to fish the way I do. So I was shaking hands and kissing babies, enjoying deep conversations on the finer points of needlefish presentation, metal lips and big swimbaits. I was there with my friends Tom Kosinski and Jerry Audet; it was a great day.
After the show was over Jerry and I grabbed a pizza and went our separate ways. I don’t remember if it was the next day or two days later but I woke up around 4 a.m. shivering uncontrollably. I sat up and my head felt twice its usual weight, standing beside my bed in the dark, I knew I had a fever. I went downstairs and stuck the thermometer under my tongue, 101.9 was the verdict. I piled as many blankets as I could find onto the couch and flipped on the TV, I binge watched old episodes of Frasier while I waited for the Tylenol to do its thing—it didn’t even drop my temp.
At around 6 a.m. my wife came down and saw that I was ill, I took my temperature again and it was now over 102. I texted Tom and Jerry (not that Tom and Jerry) as a courtesy to learn that Jerry had experienced the exact same symptoms and timing as I had; Tom was feeling fine. For the next 14 days I was pretty much useless, sleeping upwards of 15 hours a day, nagging dry cough, a fever that wouldn’t go away, pain in my hands and shoulders, persistent headache and feeling generally just awful. Jerry was even worse than I was. After reaching out to friends on Long Island it seemed that dozens of other people had also come down with this hammer-wielding flu. I didn’t even consider that it might be COVID.
After 14 (or so) days, I was feeling mostly better, I was just tired and easily winded. The weird thing was, I couldn’t taste or smell ANYTHING! I’m not talking I had to get really close and sniff hard to smell something, I mean completely noseblind, like you could have served my breakfast in a litter box and I wouldn’t have noticed the smell. Same with taste, I could have eaten a ghost pepper without shedding a tear. I thought this was pretty funny at the time.
Months later, the symptoms list grew to include ‘loss of taste and smell’ I visited my doctor for an unrelated reason and asked her if she thought I had caught an early case of COVID. She said, “I don’t want to tell you had it, but you had it.” The only time I’ve been close to as sick as I felt with my unconfirmed case of COVID was when I had Lyme Disease.
This is not a political diatribe, please don’t make it out to be one. But with show season now upon us and many shows planning to move ahead – business as usual – I’m writing this editorial to ask you to treat all of us that work at these shows with respect. The New England Edition of this magazine is run by two people, Dale Nicholson and me, that’s it. We can’t call in replacements if we both go down. We will both be wearing masks at every show and we’d like to ask that you do that same when you come by to swap stories or renew your subscription. I know the science isn’t perfect, and I know that they are not exactly fun to wear, but I also know that they keep a lot of what drifts out on the winds of conversation contained.
Am I going to shun your handshake? No, I’ll welcome it. Am I going to send you away if you don’t wear a mask? No I won’t. I’m asking you, as a fellow fisherman, as a father, as the son of a person with underlying health issues, to make your own choice, to make the choice to mask up at the shows – whenever you’re in close quarters – for everyone’s safety.
If you saw a baseball hurtling toward my head, you’d try to bat it away, right? I would for you, I’d do that for anyone. That’s really all I’m asking. With that said, I can’t wait to see everyone, I can’t wait to hear your stories and I can’t wait to feel that fishing show vibe once again.