OK…so maybe you fish on your own private lake or mile long section of the best river and never have to be around other fisherman; if that is the case then I need to be your friend and would like to come over at any time? If, however, you are like the rest of us normal stiffs, then you have to fish public water and if you have done much of this then you know that it is all a crap-shoot when it comes down to the others that are actually around you…..it seems like most of the manners on or along the stream are common sense and shouldn’t be so tough to remember or get right…but in a years’ time I routinely see some pretty poor stuff and even more….I am asked often as to what is the right process, so, below are just a few items for you to ponder and think about…if you don’t agree with me, great, this is why we vote and live in an awesome and free country!
Just this past week I had to suffer (I don’t use this word much or hardly ever in terms of fly-fishing) through some atrocious and boorish behavior from a pair of teenage boys. OK…so this may not be the perfect starting point but I am still bothered by what I saw and heard; please be patient and let me rave just a bit. First off, most folks don’t realize how far your voice can actually carry while on water…believe me when I say that your voice will carry much further than you could think, so, while on or near water, please keep it down. The two kids mentioned here didn’t care how far there voices carried…they were obviously disturbed and raised by others who were also disturbed as they used the “F”word over and over along with a good many racial slurs…and frankly they didn’t care who heard them. After teaching in the high school for 28 years and having a very short fuse for this type of thing…I didn’t get close enough to address them and probably it was a good thing for I am sure it wouldn’t have went well for them or for me! Now I mention this only because I am amazed each year at the number of people who have no clue that everyone else around them really doesn’t care about their stories or the problems that they had the night before…and for sure I don’t want to fish and listen to a one-sided conversation that you are having on your cell phone!! So…common sense…keep it down and let all others enjoy their time, please!
Now for a few nuts and bolts; most folks who mess up on the stream really didn’t know that they did something wrong….most, not all. I think that it is up to us others who are more experienced to ‘gracefully’ let them know how to do something better. While fishing a public trout stream in Missouri last year I encountered a couple (man and wife) that were spin fishing against the grain of the current…meaning they were going up stream as the rest of us were moving down stream. I saw them coming and as we got close to each other I moved a little left and they moved right and we crossed without any issue…the next older chap above me started it out with this question, “It’s obvious that neither of you know how to read or have ever read a book on streamside ethics”! You can probably see where this is going…but it didn’t turn out well. There was some serious yelling and mostly it came from the wife stepping in and protecting her husband who she though had just been disparaged. Oddly enough there was a very graceful older lady fly-fishing just below me who turned and said in a very worried tone, “Oh, no…here we go again”! I would later see her and the older chap together and quickly deduced that she didn’t fish with him for a reason…I felt terrible for her, but the bottom line is that you can help by being a little tactful. Now you might ask why I didn’t say something. Frankly, I felt like they had the right to fish upstream as much as I did to fish downstream…was it an issue, no, because I didn’t make it an issue, but once again putting someone on their heels right away isn’t the way to do it. I had to laugh as well…when I first heard the older chap say what he did…I actually thought he might have actually written a book on etiquette…I didn’t actually get that he was being a smart A right off the bat.
So a few fly-fishing do’s and don’ts; if you pass behind or move ahead of someone on the stream, please be polite and don’t assume they know you are passing behind them. Take the time to say, “Coming behind you”…then wait for a response. Some people just aren’t naturally inclined to make eye contact or actually even be polite, but get a response so you don’t have to dodge a hook or worse…and then be sure to thank them and pass around as quickly as you can without making a wake or a big disturbance in the water. You must also be aware of the kind of fishing that the other person may be doing; if they are nymph fishing (using a strike indicator) then may not need much room, but if they are stripping or streamer fishing then they will be fishing below them and sometimes quite a bit. The one thing that I often get that truly upsets me is when folks come in on my right or downstream side and don’t leave enough room for me to swing my weighted line. If you see someone that is stripping line, just know that they need more downstream water than most do…and give them that room or they simply can’t fish!
Once again….and to finish up, just use common sense and one other fine rule…the Golden one, just do unto to others as you would have them to unto you; pretty simple rule! Would you want someone coming up on you and cutting you off…or would you want someone being loud and obnoxious while on the stream, probably not! So, don’t do it to them…and if you do ever have to say something to someone, do so with tact, they probably don’t know they have messed up. Seriously…we fly-fish because we are a little different than others, so act like it. No fish or piece of water is worth an explosion unless it comes at the end of your rod!