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The Pandemic Chronicles : A Post About Nothing

Beginning Spring 2020, I started posting updates about the effects of the global madness on my activities and this site. These began as short news snippets, then I wrote actual blog posts to better detail what was happening and give you my best estimates for when reviews will be coming etc. Since this thing doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon, I decided that instead of cluttering the site with pandemic related posts here and there I should just bring it all in one place. In this article I compiled the main posts I previously made on this subject in chronological order, and any future pandemic related news will be added at the bottom then I'll edit the post count so that instead of the current "X of 5" it would become "X of 6" etc. Here we go, from older to most recent...   

1 of 5 - Originally Posted June, 27th, 2020

For a few months now I've been increasingly responding to emails with "I don't know" and "check back later" etc., and it's time to explain what's going on and what will happen moving forward.

Old readers know the deal, but newcomers might be unaware of how this works; I never form an opinion of a reel or give buying recommendations based on specifications, materials, feel, or initial thoughts. Before I arrive at any verdict I must first test the reels extensively and fish them in conditions similar to what you'll be fishing them in. There are few exceptions such as when a new model is a spin-off of an existing one etc., but otherwise no opinion or conclusions without exhaustive testing.

Having done evaluations for decades I might have learned a thing or two, but no amount of knowledge is a substitute for actual use. If you recall some of the issues I found in reels, many of which big enough to initiate a redesign or alteration, you'd find that most of them wouldn't have been found without active fishing. One might spot a bail wire not clearing the spool or a shaky rotor at home, but there is no way you'd catch a sticky roller, a bumpy one, or a bail arm that rubs the spool under pressure unless you've hooked fish and exposed the reel to the rigours of salt. The pictorial dissection is only the final act tying loose ends together and examining how parts fared and how design relates to and influences on-the-water performance. "Performance" ultimately remaining the keyword.

You probably now understand why I've been quite useless lately. What started as news of an illness appearing far away has morphed with devastating speed into a worldwide crisis unlike anything we've seen in our lifetimes, and the subsequent global shutdown left me unable to fish or test reels. In addition to the crippling stay-at-home orders, I've also suffered financial losses due to cancelled plans and the disgusting behaviour of airlines and booking sites. For example earlier this year I had arranged to go after big pelagics off Spain and Italy, but then international aviation came to a halt and I have since been unable to get any refunds for refundable flights, car rentals, and hotel bookings. The people holding the largest sum of my money are "Thieving Clowns GmbH" formerly known as "Lufthansa". A quick look at their Twitter feed shows I'm not the only one

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You won't see much on their FB or Instagram because they can delete comments on these platforms, but Twitter doesn't allow deletion so it's always a good window on things. To be fair they aren't the only ones because it's the same with every major international airline, except maybe the Japanese carriers ANA and Japan Airlines who've acted with rare integrity. I digress though. Point is, I've been ripped off and have no clue if I'll ever see my cash again.

It's not only my inability to reach the fishing grounds, but the problem was compounded by the shut-downs virtually cutting off my access to most new products. Over time I've formed personal relations with many people in the trade, and one of the most cost effective and speediest ways to familiarise myself with new spinners was receiving loaner reels from these good folks in deliveries that I called "doggie bags". These range from dealer samples, reels returned for cosmetic damage not worth the trouble of repair, floor models that won't hurt much if I ding or scratch them on rocks or in a boat, and exhibition pieces that were displayed in shows. Needless to say that with shops closed and fishing shows cancelled my supply dried out, and even when there were still chances to get some reels I wouldn't take them simply because I can't fish and it's pointless to borrow people's stuff then let them collect dust for indefinite amounts of time.

Earlier this month it appeared that life might finally be on its way to return to normal, but then came the news that re-openings are being reconsidered because of a second wave. I filtered through and looked for accurate credible information and found that indeed numbers are on the rise again right now, both in the US

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As well as in Europe

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I then had a decision to make; should I take the risk and begin making plans again? After careful consideration I decided that this would be a grave mistake. Firstly, it would be extremely foolish to give airlines/hotels more money in these uncertain times, especially when they wouldn't refund my original money. It would mean that in a month's time I could be begging for two sets of refunds instead of one set. Secondly, with infections on the rise it's not very wise for me to be trapped in a flying tin box for 10 hours with 200 other people. I'm healthy and most likely will not die if I get it, but it's pointless to land somewhere only to become bedridden with fever and dry cough for the duration of the trip, or possibly spend thousands on potential hospitalisation where I have no insurance. Too much uncertainty, too big of a risk.

So, there you have it. For the foreseeable future I will remain unable to answer some of your questions about recent releases, the promised update of the 2019 Stella SW review with the newly added sizes will not happen anytime soon, the only thing I know about the 2020 Luvias is that it looks like my aunt Agnes when she's grumpy, my knowledge of the latest Twin Power is limited to that it has a most stupid name, I have no feedback on the new Saltiga except that turning the handle makes me love my life, and there isn't going to be a "What Reel 2020" guide and possibly not even a 2021 one.

I will just honker down and try to survive these incredibly deranged times, and if I can collect enough material I might write something about the expected effect of the pandemic on recreational fishing. Been hearing news of reduced existing orders, tentative new orders, scaled down production of certain reels and postponement or scrapping of others, all in anticipation of the upcoming economic recession; in the post-pandemic crunch the number of people able to spend a thousand dollars on a reel will be much smaller than it was, half of those who could've afforded a mid-range reel before will instead be looking at entry level, and many anglers who were already on a tight budget will just not buy tackle at all for a while. It's mind blowing how within months we went from booming economies and healthy spending to recession, furloughs, and unemployment.

Fishing and rubbish aside, take care of yourselves and your loved ones, and treat people with maximum kindness and understanding. Everyone needs this in these tense times. One can't help but feel the unease in the air from all directions, and I won't be surprised if the most unthinkable things do happen.

Hopefully we'll be talking again soon, and until then don't forget that you're ugly and no one likes you. This is an undisputed fact despite any delusions you might have!


Alan Hawk

June, 27th, 2020

2 of 5 - Originally Posted August, 2nd, 2020

I'm re-activating, and things around here are about to go back to normal. Actually I'm embarking on my first multi-day fishing trip in a long time this Thursday and all is looking great.

Before I can go back to normal though I need to deal with something that has been on my mind; the money you've given me in the past 5 months during the height of the virus lockdowns. If you were one of my monthly supporters, you already know that I've cancelled your recurring Paypal payment from my end. It's the individual supporters whom I need to address here. You see, through these tough months you generously kept sending money, and I thought nothing of it since it always felt like normalcy was just around the corner and life will soon resume. It took longer than expected though, and now I look at the large sum of money compiled in my account and I don't feel comfortable keeping it. For the most part I spent nothing on fishing or gear during these months, which is the purpose you sent that money for.

So, since I can't really email each supporter individually, and even if I somehow could the email addresses associated with your Paypal accounts might not be ones that you actively use, here is a collective reach out to all of you- if you sent me money anytime this year and you'd rather have it back, please send me the Paypal transaction # via the contact form and I'll refund it to you immediately.

If not, then all the money received will be donated to a good charity; a hospice for terminally ill children. This way I wouldn't have kept money that's not really mine and we'd all get some good karma out of it. I'll be online frequently to process any refund requests quickly, and in 10 days or so I'll just donate anything left.

Your terrible smell notwithstanding, you're a truly amazing bunch of people and I don't know what I've done to deserve such an incredible virtual family. It must have been something I did in a previous life because in this one I generally suck.

Stay well, and wish me luck as I shake off the rust and send them poppers flying!!

Alan Hawk

August, 2nd, 2020

3 of 5 - Originally Posted December 12th, 2020

Before we get to the latest about the pandemic and reviews schedule, let's quickly follow up on where we left last time. I had asked you if you'd like to take back money that I didn't want to keep and said whatever is left will be donated. Some of you indeed reached out for refunds, which I absolutely understand and respect in these tough economic times where every little helps, and after issuing the refunds and waiting long enough to make sure no one else wants them I rounded up what was left to about $660 and donated it to a children's hospice. You'll get a lot of good karma.

So, the world seemed to be on its way to recovery during summer and I finally managed to fish and slipped the Saltiga review, although not without instances when I was borderline skirting some health regulations, something I'm not particularly proud of. I also managed to test the newly added sizes of the 2019 Stella SW and, as promised, updated its review to cover the full lineup. Good times didn't last though. As you're probably aware, during the past two months things gradually went back to strict lockdowns and moving around became even tougher than it was during the first peak in Spring. The worst manifestation of this new round of restrictions was that I found myself increasingly having to fill health declaration forms and write answers to some incredibly invasive questions, including providing details of past movement and future tracking information that's none of anyone's business.

As terrible as it all felt, I persevered because I needed to reach warm waters and meet people who've always put me on fish for no or little cost. But then came that whole pre-flying testing along with increased quarantine rules where in many cases one needs to get a negative test within a certain time frame before being allowed to travel then quarantine at destination before getting a second test. To make it worse many of the places enforcing these policies are major travel hubs that are very hard to avoid particularly now when international flights are scaled down and severely reduced.

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Just one example. I gave that pre-flight testing a try hoping that maybe it will be administered by a playful nurse who didn't button up her top all the way, but in reality I got stuck in a drive-through for an hour before a stern man in national guard uniform gave me a cotton bud and instructed me to stick it so deep up my nose I think it hit the back of my eye socket. It all was of little use anyway as many countries would no longer allow entry unless one has a spouse or a family in the country and even these would still have to quarantine for 14 days, so I had no option but to give up and bring everything to a halt for a second time in one year. It was especially frustrating as I had been fishing a good number of reels in preparation for several reviews, including such interesting ones as the first ever review of a Mammoth size class reel and the first non-mainstream reel in years that I found worthy of a review, just to name two of at least 7 ongoing projects.

So, this is where it stands at the moment. I have to once again sit and wait for things to change, and while I'll try my best to do whatever I can from shore, I don't expect that to be very productive. Meanwhile don't get frustrated by the lack of new contents, don't hate me for failing to answer questions about reels that have already been out for months, and I promise to make it up to you with a true avalanche of new articles once life becomes anything resembling normalcy again. Right now I have enough material to type a review that I've been procrastinating on, and I'll use the time to continue making this site more usable and mobile-device friendly. You might have noticed that both the Saltiga & Stella reviews have become responsive and easy to read on your phones, and I'll be going back and converting more articles to this responsive format as time goes by.

Hang on there, and tight lines to the lucky ones who are able to fish!

Alan Hawk

December, 12th, 2020

4 of 5 - Originally Posted March 1st, 2021

Will that thing ever go away? My memories of how a normal world looked like are beginning to fade, and I feel as if that normalcy belonged to a previous life and not this one. Was there really ever a time when we could step out without protective gear? When one could exchange nods and smiles with people out on the street? Were we really once able to go into businesses without someone at the door taking one's temperature and instructing us to pull the mask all the way up? That world seems like a hazy dream that never really was.

Anyway, back from an extended trip where I tried to do as much fishing as I could in between managing my actual life's affairs, yet it was a moderate success at best. Don't even need to name culprit, you already know it. I did my best to get the mandatory Covid tests within the stipulated time frame before flights and entry, yet it wasn't good enough for these times of utter madness and chaos 

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Just one example. What does this test sound to you? Wouldn't a normal person look at it and let it through? Nope, some idiot assigned to self check-in kiosks refused to sign off on it because it does not state "negative" as per his instructions. I argued for 15 minutes that "not detected" is exactly the same as "negative", yet basic linguistics seem to have gone out of the window in this new world. I was denied boarding, and by the time some airline supervisor came to apologise and put me on another flight for free it was too late. My test wad still within the stipulated time frame for boarding, but by the time that new flight lands my test would've gone outside the time frame for entry into destination

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A massive domino effect ensued that had me turn around and arrange for a new test that took three extra days (PCR type is not instantaneous), and of course my accommodation and fishing arrangements had to be cancelled and couldn't be aligned with my new arrival date on such short notice as you might imagine. Not to whine too much, just one incident out of several that were not as severe yet quite disruptive nevertheless.

Not knowing when I'll be able to fish warm waters again and without any signs that things will get better any time soon I dragged 6 reels along -to the amusement of one customs inspector who suspected that I was importing fishing gear commercially until I showed him this website and what I do- and as it stands I believe that I have enough to reach final conclusions on at least 3 reels. I'll be gathering my thoughts and going through my trip notes, will do my best to finalise any remaining tests from local shores, then I'll sit down and write.

Stay safe, and eat a lot of cake. I mean cake tastes good so why not?

Alan Hawk

March, 1st, 2021

5 of 5 - Originally Posted July 31st, 2022

Is it finally over?

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Not Not to jinx it, but apparently the pandemic has finally ended. Most of the world is accessible again with very little or no requirements at all, I have not been asked to wear a mask anywhere for more than 3 months, and the few remaining "wear a mask" signs are being ignored by pretty much everyone. It's as if people have signed a silent pact to just move on from that horror show and get back to normal life.

I felt that these chronicles needed a proper closure, and I truly hope that this would indeed be it because I'd rather have my head squashed in a vice than come back to add a new round of my whiny tales. Back to the regular schedule, and you just behave and don't start any new outbreaks!

Alan Hawk

July, 31st, 2022