What You Should Know About Proper Fly Fishing Etiquette by Pat Dorsey
Generally speaking you’ll meet very nice folks in any type of fly-fishing situation. Many of these anglers are outdoor enthusiasts and have a general appreciation for nature and the outdoors. Most of them are working towards the same common goal: relaxation and fun. I must admit, however, there are times when others can spoil or ruin your fly-fishing experience.
It happens several times a year. In some cases, these anglers are simply unaware of good etiquette, lack common sense and thinking skills, are naive, or simply just don’t care. Some people are only looking out for themselves. Here are some commonly accepted rules that pertain to good etiquette.
Remain cordial to fellow anglers; fly-fishing is not an elitist sport. Be generous with your knowledge and flies and help others if at all possible. Especially when it comes to kids, I especially love to see a kid get excited when he or she catches their first trout. Memories are made on the stream and kids are the future of our sport. It’s real important to take an extra minute and help a young angler out.
Fly-fishing is more popular than ever and our streams will continue to be crowded Lets face it, unless you book private water your days of solitude are over. Good manners are critical if everyone is to enjoy a days fishing on public water.
Typically anglers working upstream and have the right of way over anglers moving down river. Communication is key, always ask other fisherman if you can fish nearby, if and when you’re in doubt, ask if you are infringing on their territory. It is very inconsiderate to crowd another angler, and sometimes this can cause hard feelings and confrontation.
If a fisherman is “resting a hole” I strongly recommend asking them if they still plan on fishing in their riffle, run or pool. Don’t just step into the hole without permission, again this would be considered unethical. Once again, communicate and ask if it is okay to fish in/around their hole. I can only think of one instance when an another angler said he prefer I didn’t fish nearby. I was shocked, but moved on. It’s always appreciative when another angler ask permission to fish in close-by perimeters. It’s truly a breath of fresh air to see this kind of behavior on the stream. It’s a good idea to take the high road.
Always yield to an angler who has a fish on. Be of any assistant whatsoever, if at all possible. If you have a camera, offer to take a picture, or help with the netting process. Never assume they want help, some anglers will be offended if you net their fish and many simply want to enjoy the netting process themselves. Never enter the water or stand on a high bank on the opposing side of the stream. This is especially frustrating when you are trying to stalk a rising fish. If you have any questions approach them from behind and downstream. It’s okay to let someone know in a friendly tone of voice that you are working a fish, and see if they would walk around you. If I see an angler working a pod of rising fish, I swing away from the bank at least 20 feet so that I don’t spook any of the rising fish. This type of behavior goes a long way, trust me!
Don’t be a “hole hog” and sit in the same water for several hours. If you have caught several trout move on to another location, or offer others the opportunity to fish in the same run and enjoy success like you have experienced. Share the wealth!
When conditions are crowded, be flexible as far fishing is concerned. Only so many people can fit into certain areas. Everyone should have the opportunity to share the resource. Once again, communication is important. Move around so that everyone has an opportunity to sample the better holes.
Drive slowly on dusty roads. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to eat lunch or “gear up” when a vehicle kicks ups lots of dust, dirt and grit that blows into your face. This will screw up a nice lunch especially when you are with clients on a guided trip. Be considerate to others at all times.
Keep your dog on a leash at all times. I’m a “dog lover” but dogs that are out of control on the stream can be a disaster, especially when you’re trying to fool a riser and a dog hops in the water, happy to see you, wanting to play “fetch” with a stick.
Pack your trash and don’t litter. The angler who hikes a twelve pack of beers into a fishery but leaves the empties around a fire ring puzzles me. Pick up any cans, paper, monofilament, strike indicators, bait tubs, leader packages, or any other debris that you find. For the most part, fly-fisherman tend to keep things pretty tidy on our streams.
Always understand the rules and regulations that govern the National Forest, BLM, or State Land. It’s your responsibility to understand and familiarize yourself with the fishing regulations in each section of the river.
If everyone works together fishing will be a much more enjoyable experience. Treat others like you would like to be treated! You can’t go wrong following the Golden Rule!