Fall Colors on Little River above Elkmont in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
A while back I complained about a lack of stream etiquette on a local stream in the Smokies. Since I complained about poor etiquette, it is only fair that I commend exceptional stream etiquette. A week and a half ago, I experienced two examples of perfect stream etiquette in one day.
The first came after I had been fishing hard for a couple of hours and was getting hungry. I had camped the previous night at Elkmont and had got up at first light to take down camp and hit the stream. Finally my hunger caught up with me so I headed to Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area to enjoy some delicious chili and chips. A hot meal is always a treat so I fired up the camp stove and was working on breakfast.
When I had pulled in, I noticed what appeared to be 2-3 anglers gearing up further down in the picnic area. After heating up my food and starting to eat, I noticed one of the anglers walking my direction. It turned out to be guide Charity Rutter of R & R Fly Fishing (which she owns along with her husband Ian). I already knew that both were great anglers and guides and of course good people in general. What I didn't expect was the incredible generosity and politeness. She inquired whether I was planning on fishing since she didn't want to get in water I intended to fish and asked if I was planning on fishing there, with or without clients. Mind you, she and her clients were there first so in any reasonable understanding of stream etiquette, they had first dibs, the right of way, whatever you want to label it. That is what I call stream etiquette done right and then some. If you know Charity, then this won't surprise you probably as she is one of the nicest people you will ever meet, but it is always a pleasure seeing and experiencing such politeness out on the stream. Of course I told her to fish the whole section. Not only was she there first, but I was just fishing for fun and she was earning a living. I hadn't intended on fishing there anyway, but even if I was, I would have found a different spot.
The second case of good stream etiquette occurred on the same day. After my delicious brunch I hit another spot before heading up to Elkmont to combine my loves of hiking and fishing. There was a section of stream I had been wanting to hit ever since returning from Yellowstone. With a beautiful sunny day, I knew that I wouldn't find a better time this year. After a good hike in, I stopped and was working on rigging up while sitting alongside a popular pool. Mainly the pool is popular due to its proximity to the trail but it does hold some nice fish and offers the chance to fish dry flies. I had yet to decide whether to fish that hole, but to all appearances I was preparing to do so.
Just as I was finishing rigging up after a minor mishap of spilling my dry fly box, I noticed two anglers coming down the trail. One was guide Rob Fightmaster (www.fightmasterflyfishing.com) and the other was apparently his client for the day. We chatted for a few minutes and Rob asked about my Yellowstone trip. I of course asked what water they had fished above me so I wasn't fishing used water. Then I asked if they were fishing their way back down the trail. Rob confirmed that they were and mentioned that they had thought about the pool at our feet but would leave it to me. Again, great stream etiquette. Rob could have justified jumping in because he was making a living or even because I was sitting at the head of the pool, but he did not. Naturally, I told them to jump in and fish it. Rob was making a living that day while I was just fishing for fun, not to mention that my real goal was the stretch upstream from there.
Probably it is a bad business idea to promote companies and people who are technically my competition, but good deeds should be rewarded. Of course, I hope if you need a guided trip in the Smokies that you will contact me, but I can honestly say that I'm very confident that you would have a great day fishing with any of the guides listed above.
Ultimately, these two cases illustrate one of the most important aspects of stream etiquette: when in doubt, ask. Talking to fellow anglers will usually make your day better. Asking where they plan to fish and then choosing other water will go a long ways towards making new friends on the stream. My reward for giving up that pool? I had one of the best days of dry fly fishing I've had in a long time.