While we know that everyone is getting tired of their inboxes being flooded with dozens of “Our Response to COVID-19 ….” emails, and likely bored with home confinement and self-quarantine, we did want to take a moment to update you on the status of Mystic Waters Fly Fishing, The Mystic Lodge, our team and the company in general. And since so many of us are now sitting at home staring at a screen all day, or finding other creative ways to pass the time, we thought you might indulge us for a somewhat lengthy and grim update on what is happening in Alaska and the fly fishing world, as well as our list for some ideas on how our company and industry might be able to survive this situation! There is no doubt that these are incredibly trying times for our small industry and for global travel in general. What we initially believed to be an overseas issue that would quickly pass has instead delivered chaos at home and effectively shut our state and country down. Things are likely to get worse for our industry in the weeks and months ahead, and we realize that the end results could be devastating. Our actions in the immediate future, however, can help. Our goal here at Mystic Waters is to do whatever it takes to survive this situation, and we realize that this will not be easy. As most of you know, we had the bulk of our season last summer wiped out from wildfires that cost us financially and almost wiped out our community of Cooper Landing. We have done everything possible to cut costs to stay afloat and are making some very difficult and painful decisions in order to survive and outlast this upheaval – realizing that it may be some time before people can actually get back to traveling and fly fishing with us again.
First of all, we want to tell you how incredibly grateful we are for the support that so many of you have shown over the past few months, and the past season. Thank you for being kind, decent and understanding as the response to COVID-19 has continued to develop. We did not create this situation, and obviously we have zero control over travel restrictions, flight cancellations, border closures, lodge cancellation policies, and quarantine regulations. It’s surreal that we are dealing with this after surviving the fires last summer. Please know that while Mystic Waters is doing EVERYTHING, WE POSSIBLY CAN for our clients to adjust trip dates, reschedule itineraries, and more, there are certain things that we simply cannot control. When you call or email us looking for immediate solutions and answers, please remember that we are doing the very best we can during a very chaotic time!
We are already hearing talk of $50 billion bailouts for the airline industry, and no doubt the cruise ship industry will be next in line, especially in light of Princess Cruises cancelling its Alaska schedule and announcing that it will not open any Alaska lodges. It is unlikely, however, that the thousands of fishing guides, independent outfitters, destination lodges and booking agents who are literally being crushed by recent events will see any sort of financial relief or outside support. The CARE act funds were gobbled up in the first few hours they were made available. That means that our entire industry is going to suffer and suffer badly. Lodges and outfitters world-wide are going to experience major capital and payroll issues in the months ahead, and sadly, some will go away. If we and any of these operations are to stay in business and survive the economic hit, full refunds for canceled trips are simply not going to be possible. ALL of us are going to be impacted and hurt by the economic fallout from COVID-19 in one way or another. We will surely see lodges closing, guides laid off, and businesses ruined: a disaster created by a virus that few sawcoming, the year following a season of unprecedented wildfires that already crippled us and compromised us tremendously financially. Please keep this in mind as we all work towards rescheduling the trips and itineraries that have been impacted.
For those wondering what you can do to support Mystic Waters Fly Fishing, there are a few simple and easy things that will help:
Be proactive. Book your future trips now! There is no reason that anglers cannot be looking to schedule trips for future years. We remain hopeful that we will be able to operate this season, but this is also a great time to secure dates for 2021 or even 2022. We all realize that this situation will pass and eventually the world will re-open! Just as your small, local retailers and restaurants are encouraging people to buy gift cards, future bookings and reservations will help our industry more than you know! The reality is that many people are now attempting to roll dates over to next season, and many of you are guests that rolled dates from 2019 due to the fires, which of course means that future availability is going to get very tight, very quickly. Don’t wait to book future trips if you want to reserve the best dates, times, etc.
Be kind. We already touched on this, but it’s important. As the world continues to lose its mind and stress levels stay high, everyone needs to remember that our Mystic Waters team and those that work in fly fishing are NICE PEOPLE. We truly want nothing more than to deliver positive solutions and great options whenever possible. When you call, you are not being re-routed to some distant, indifferent call center in a far-off country, but instead are talking to and working with the same people who have always taken care of you here in Alaska and on the river!
Be patient. Try to empathize with what the tourism, travel and lodge industry (like so many others) is going through. Refunds are often not going to be possible, especially when a family-owned lodge and guide service like ours received payment to reserve a trip many months in advance. Those funds have already been used for operations, guide salaries, payroll and more. Future credits may be possible in some cases, but trip rescheduling and roll-overs also create the inability to book new business. It is a complicated cycle and one that threatens the very existence of our business and operations that so many of us love.
Many of you have booked with Mystic Waters for years. Some of our earliest clients (from our first days in business more than 20 years ago) are still booking with us on a regular basis. I would start naming names, but for fear of leaving someone out - you know who you are and what you have meant and mean to us. Many of you have become much more than clients, and we hope that you feel the same way. We want Mystic Waters to be here when we all emerge on the other side of this situation, and we’re doing everything possible to make that happen. We are committed to protecting our Mystic Waters staff and their families. We are committed to staying on top of this situation and learning all we can about possible solutions for moving forward. Above all, we are committed to taking care of our clients, customers and friends for the long term.
We may not have immediate solutions for every trip or itinerary that has been impacted, and we may not be able to guarantee that we can refund or fully credit canceled trips. What we CAN guarantee is that we will do everything within our power to take care of you, communicate with you, and make things right moving forward. This will eventually pass, and soon we will all get back to fly fishing the amazing Kenai together and making more wonderful memories. And if we are able to operate this season, please know that we will be committed to following any safety mandates for our benefit and yours. Distancing may very well be a part of this. You may not be greeted with the usual handshake or hug. It might very well be only two to a boat. No one really knows what will happen between now and when the river is supposed to open June 11. I would advise you to go to the Alaska Department of Health and Human Servicesfor updates and watch things closely. We will let you know as soon as we know anything. But regardless of what happens, at some point we will fish again together. Hopefully, very soon. And above all else, please be safe and stay healthy.
Thank you for your support.
Stacy Corbin Owner / Guide Shannon McCall Owner / Lodge Manager Simmons Adickes Guide Fred Telleen Social Media & Founder of Mystic Waters (and legendary guide ;)