ENNIS — The Outdoor Industry Association reports that Montana’s outdoor recreation economy generates $7.1 billion annually in consumer spending.
So, it’s no surprise that fly fishing guides in Madison County have kept a careful eye on what’s to come during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Todd France knows every bend and curve of the Madison River. He grew up fishing on it and has been guiding clients for years. With peak fly fishing season a few months away, France is concerned about how the pandemic will affect business.
“A lot of local businesses in general, let alone that are going to be highly affected,” said France who owns and leads guided fly fishing trips with Blast & Casts outfitters out of Ennis.
Guides see clients travel across the country to fish Montana’s blue ribbon rivers every year. And while restrictions are beginning to ease, travel regulations for the summer are yet to be determined.
“Outfitting companies have got enough of a following and a repeat clientele which is very important during this time of faithful repeat customers that are going to come back,” said France. “If they weather the storm, they’re gonna make it fine.”
Guides in Madison County can resume business starting Monday, but that will mostly be geared towards local clients because of the 14-day quarantine travel rule. France plans to offer discounted guiding services and take the time to reconnect with local clients. “I’m gonna call it a coronavirus special. Pretty tacky but oh well.”
Of course, complimentary face masks and Willie's Distillery hand sanitizer will be on board.
“I’m confident what we as an outfitting community are gonna do what we need to do to make sure that we make the most of the privilege that we’re giving to be making a living out here on this river.”