The possibly of being the recipient of a sneeze-induced, microscopic-sized, virus-laced particulate (that, by the way, looks like Wilson from the movie Cast Away) has changed the lives of people across Northern Kentucky. The entire region seems to be either searching for protective masks or railing against a government conspiracy that masks will lead to the downfall of Western Civilization as we know it. As for social distancing, it’s either bubble boy or frat-like keggers. As with politics these days, there is no middle ground.

One large group of people seeing no change in their daily outdoor routine are those of us who are fishers. Those who practice the sport of fishing practically invented today’s guidelines. We have been practicing COVID-19 procedures since Jesus stood on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and instructed Simon Peter to have his guys spread out and cast nets to the right side of his boat. Note: A good guide knows where to find fish.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, part of my near daily routine is to spend an hour or so pestering fish. I have two small ponds within walking distance of my home and local parks have lakes stocked with trout that are only a short drive away. During the COVID-19 crisis I have regularly visited these spots without any fear of infection. It’s because fishers have been social distancing, wearing masks and washing our hands forever.

First, and foremost, fishing is a sport specifically designed for social distancing. People purposefully spread out along the shore to keep their lines from getting tangled up. And at every pond, river or creek, each has their favorite space where they fish and protect that golden “honey hole” like Pooh Bear protects, well, honey. Once you get to your spot you spread out your chair and gear to protect a zone at least 6 feet wide.

To add to my own personal social distance protection, I fly fish. The whipping back and forth of a small barbed hook at the end of a fly line would cause most DC Comic superheroes to keep their distance.

Finally, just to ensure approaching virus spreaders keep their distance, I smoke cigars while I fish.

Mark Twain once said something to the effect that he smoked cigars to keep mosquitoes and most people at a distance. I think we smoke the same brand.

So, for the most part, no one gets near smoky me wildly slinging a San Juan worm over and over again into Prisoner’s Lake.

And fishers have been wearing masks long before it became the norm. In order to charge us a premium, fish apparel companies call these masks “buffs.” Structurally, buffs are ultraviolet ray blocking 1980s tube-tops for your nostrils. All the fishers buy buffs to keep the sun off their face neck and ears. Along with UV protection, they come with the added benefit of keeping particulates from someone either breathing in or sneezing out, depending on your perspective.

The masks and distance do not make us anti-social. We just have no idea what the other is saying.

GUY DOWN SHORE FOM ME: “I caught a bass on a blue lure.”

ME: “No, I never smoked grass watching Ben Hur.”

We both give each other a thumbs up so as not to be embarrassed.

Finally, have you ever smelled the hands of someone that has caught a fish on a hot summer day? We wash our hands—A LOT. I went trout fishing on the Cumberland River over the Fourth of July. My nephew cut up the day’s catch. Three days later he was still trying to wash the smell off his hands.

So as COVID-19 continues its pandemic path, come join me at the lake—just don’t get near my spot.