Trout Fishing photo

One of the topics we missed in our conversation about “What Keeps People from Learning to Fly Fish” is stream etiquette. No doubt, a bad encounter on the river (or lake) with other anglers can ruin the whole experience. Sometimes, those things happen purely as a result of ignorance, yet I still am amazed by some of the tricks pulled by anglers who clearly have been doing this for a long time. The onus is on those seasoned anglers to make the experience positive for everyone, and not just for themselves.

Etiquette starts with the guides. I know it’s hard to make every day successful for paying clients, especially on more crowded public waters. But the minute you put yourself and your clients in a spot that clearly has a negative impact on others around you, you’ve crossed the line.

I think there should be better systems in many places where everyone knows the shops or outfitters the guides represent. One foul earns a warning. Two fouls earns a suspension. Three fouls gets the guide banned for the season. Of course, 99 percent of the guides I encounter are the best stewards of all. I like fishing in the area where there are guides (not too close), because I can usually expect them and their anglers to go out of their ways to be courteous to others, and respectful of the resources. It’s the one percent that gives guides a bad name, and the people who are most upset about that are the other 99 percent of guides.

Sometimes, the selfish and/or uninformed cry foul with no good reason at all. I remember one morning several years ago, when the late Charlie Meyers (Denver Post) and I float-tubed Spinney reservoir in Colorado’s South Park. We walked well behind two anglers who were casting from the shoreline, and then dropped our tubes in the lake at least 100 yards down the bank. Still, one of those anglers felt obliged to yell about what jerks we were for ruining his fishing. We didn’t ruin his fishing. But his loud shouting probably did!

Meyers said, “We hear you sir, and we’ll be paddling on our way.” It bothered me all morning, but Meyers let it slide like water off a duck’s back. (I have often wondered if that person realized he was yelling at the great Charlie Meyers, in a place that, ironically, is now a stone’s throw from what’s now called the Charlie Meyers State Wildlife Area.)

Good etiquette all boils down to several things:

– First, if you are second (or third, or 25th) to the river, that’s your problem, not everyone else’s. Find somewhere else to fish, or wait.

– Watch the direction where other anglers are fishing (are they going upstream or downstream, moving right or left along a shoreline?), and never block them. You should yield at least a couple runs in front of another angler, especially when that angler is on the move.

– When in doubt, ask. Talk to others. “Do you mind if I get up and fish that pool up there?”

– Tell others what your plans are. For example, leave a note on the windshield of your vehicle parked at a bridge. “I went upstream, 2 p.m.” Unless the anglers who follow you are nuts, they’ll head the other way.

– Your voice should only be heard by others when they want to hear it. It’s great to get excited about fishing, but that doesn’t mean whooping it up.

– Play by the rules and regulations. Don’t leave trash. And if you’re a catch-and-release angler, do your best to ensure the fish you catch will live.

– Don’t camp in one run all day. It might be the most productive spot in the river, but courtesy dictates that you share with others.

– Keep your dog on a leash (or leave your dog at home) if it’s not the kind of dog that will heel right next to you as you fish.

– And don’t do things that will screw up the water someone else is fishing. For example, mind your shadows if you’re walking next to a river. Don’t splash around and stir up the water. Don’t paddle your boat right through a run someone is casting into.

– Lastly, if you feel like somebody has done something wrong that negatively affected your fishing, don’t yell at them, flip them off, or get into an argument. Odds are, they don’t know what they did. If you can politely let them know, and then move on by saying “no worries,” they’ll be smarter, you’ll feel better, and a future bad encounter will likely be avoided.

It all boils down to common sense. Just like most things that have to do with fishing.