Fly Fishing Etiquette
One of the things that can be intimidating to folks looking to take up fly fishing is ... stream etiquette.
First and foremost, seasoned anglers recognize that they are not going to have the stream to themselves. I think part of the onus is on them to help the experience be more enjoyable for everyone.
Think about this way, I really don’t think anyone approaches the water with any kind of malice, especially a newbie. Most times things happen out of ignorance, rather than anything else.
Guided Fy Fishing Trips
For those new to the water, I would encourage them to take a guided trip. Etiquette starts with the guides for a given watershed. The guides I encounter are the best stewards of all. They want you to catch fish, but they also want you to take care of the water. After all, it’s their source of income.
Find Your Own Place to Fish
When you go to a river on your own, whether you are first to the river or 100th, it is your responsibility to find a place to fish. It has nothing to do with other anglers on the water. I am guilty of this myself, where I’ll mutter under my breath that someone is in “my fishing hole”. You’ve been driving all morning and are keyed into that one spot. I get it. So was the other guy.
I’m a pretty outgoing guy. I have no problem asking them how they are doing, what are they catching them on, etc. Most people you’ll run into are quite friendly, especially if you start out that way. Just remember, they are there to fish too. Simply move on to the next spot.
Never Block Anyone
If the stream is busy, I recommend simply sitting back and watching. See if the anglers are working their way upstream or downstream. When you jump in, never block anyone. You should give a least a couple of runs of room in front of the other angler. Here, I really encourage talking to the other anglers. Simply ask if you mind if you can put in. It’s worth it. Not only will you not tick anyone off, but you’ll like start up a comradery. You’re all there for the same reasons.
Ask and Answer
Don’t be afraid to ask for some instructions. It’s perfectly fine to ask for a hand. This helps out both parties. Firstly, to the new fisherman, you’ll learn something. For the experienced fisherman, you get a chance to teach the rules of the road to someone that’s going to be fishing the same water you do. Why not take the opportunity and show someone the right way, rather than dealing with someone that may have learned it incorrectly? This is particularly important on crowded steelhead waters.
Don't Camp In One Run All Day
Speaking of steelheading….don’t camp in one run all day long. Whether or not it’s the most productive run, common courtesy dictates share the river with others. You don’t own the river or the run.
Pack It In, Pack It Out
Personally, a big pet peeve of mine is don’t leave trash. I see it from all sorts on the water. I even carry an extra trash bag and invariably fill it. That’s unfortunate. Pack it in, pack it out.
Don't Intrude Another's Space
Don’t screw up someone else’s chance to get a fish or their fishing spot. A couple of examples of this are walking too close to them and not giving enough distance, splashing or shuffling in the water, or worse….paddling your boat right through someone else run.
What To Say When You've Been Wronged
I think most important of all is realizing you are going to run into a situation where you feel someone did something wrong. Rather than flipping them off, yelling at them or whatnot, chances are they really don’t know what they did. Politely let them know. For example, “Hey man, you’re paddling right where I was fishing. Can you try to go behind next time?” You’ll more than likely get a positive response, move on with a “no worries mate”. They’ll be smarter for it and you’ll be better off for it.
At the end of the day, it really boils down to common sense. Sometimes that seems like a rare commodity, but still. The more educated we are as fly fishers, the better off we all are, and the better cared for our waters are.
Share the knowledge. Endeavor to learn. Have fun.
Tight Lines and Screaming Drags