Featured Photo: Northern Lights in Tennessee

Featured Photo: Northern Lights in Tennessee

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Etiquette: Where Did It Go?

As a kid with a Zebco rod and reel, I used to read everything I could that involved fly fishing. My interest in the sport was originally piqued when my family was driving through Townsend, Tennessee. In the middle of Little River were two guys, probably a guide trip. One was casting while the other seemed to be giving directions as to where to cast. Watching that guy cast was like watching poetry in motion, and although I only saw a few seconds, I knew that one day I would be out there fly fishing for myself.

Over the next few years I never forgot that moment. Every time our family would go to the mountains I would long for a fly rod. Eventually I saved a little money and bought a cheap $20 fly rod and reel at Wal-Mart. Looking back it is amazing that I ever caught anything on that rod. Even now it is definitely not the easiest casting rod. Thankfully regular practice in the backyard allowed me to progress to the point where I could catch a fish every now and again.

For several years I was completely self taught. I can't remember how many trips it took before I caught my first trout. Something motivated me to keep on though, and I eventually caught one. Being self taught was a challenge. Many anglers have the benefit of a teacher, either a friend or family member, that helps them along the road to being a competent fisherman. Usually the teacher will impart most of the traditions of the sport along with the wisdom they have acquired from many days on the water.

Since I had no one to teach me it would seem that I would be clueless as to etiquette and some of the traditions of the sport. This was not the case though. Even before I started fly fishing I read about etiquette from time to time in magazines, and even occasionally the subject would appear in books that I would read. The fly fishing was not the main point of most of the books, but I soaked up every bit of knowledge that I could.

Early on I learned that it was rude to crowd other anglers, and I was very conscientious to observe this guideline. Generally other anglers were polite to me as well and gave me plenty of room when I fished in the Smokies. I didn't start fishing tailwaters until much later.

Another major tradition I quickly learned was that you fish upstream if possible. If you want to fish downstream, you always yield to the upstream angler. One time I was fishing Abrams and figured that I didn't have any company. I leisurely worked my way downstream hitting each good pocket and run and catching a few rainbows. As I came around a bend, I saw another angler working his way upstream. Immediately I reeled in and moved to a rock on the bank to let the other fisherman have all the water. As he came up even with me I apologized for moving down on top of him. My politeness earned me a friendly chat with a really nice guy who wasn't upset at me. We talked fishing for awhile, and he even offered a few words of advice, all because I followed a basic rule of etiquette.

Somewhere around this time I had the good fortune to spend a half day fishing with Walter Babb. This was the only time during my formative years that I fished with anyone that had a clue what they were doing. I specifically wanted to learn to highstick nymphs, and Walter did a splendid job of teaching me the fundamentals of nymph fishing. Still, everything I knew about etiquette I had learned on my own.

As I started fishing tailwaters, I began to realize that not everyone adhered to the same old traditions of the sport. Among spin fisherman it seemed perfectly acceptable to fish close to one another although many of them were fairly polite and gave me room. Fly fisherman puzzled me however. I never had anyone to tell me how I should act as an angler, but had figured it out on my own without too much effort. On tailwaters it seemed that fly fisherman fished downstream a lot. I couldn't understand this because I usually worked my way up and either fished across or up and across. The downstream guys caught some fish but often not as many as I did.

Even more recently I learned a little more about the guys that were fishing downstream. Several fly fishing forums have had some vigorous debates about the "San Juan Shuffle" where an angler moves downstream shuffling their feet. Any fish downstream immediately goes on the feed as the mass of food tumbles downstream in the current. The angler then casts their flies down and hopefully catches a fish. To me this seemed completely unethical. If I was going to do that why not just toss a can of corn in? I would never do that so how was the "Shuffle" any different? Also, when I do fish downstream or let my flies drift down below me, it is much harder to get a good hookset. When a fish takes it is too easy to yank the flies out of the fishes mouth if you are pulling them back upstream.

Over the last few years all of this observed behavior has gotten worse. Boaters are a completely different story that I shouldn't get started on. Most of them have no clue how to be polite. The ones that really annoy me though are the ones with fishing poles in the boat that will float literally on top of the fish I'm casting to. Some have been lucky that I didn't have a big streamer on. I'm not a great caster, but I'm pretty sure I could knock someone on the side of the head given the opportunity. Wade fisherman seem to have no clue as to how to behave on the stream. I have had people slowly move downstream towards where I am fishing upstream. When they get close they'll just stop and wait for me to go around them. What has happened to the traditional etiquette that has been in place for so many years and worked very well for so long?

On my recent trip to Yellowstone, my buddy Joe and I spent a day on the Madison. It was refreshing to have boats (rowed by guides) go out of their way to avoid messing up the water I was fishing. However I was surprised by the lack of etiquette of the wade fisherman on the Madison and also on other park waters. We were fishing Slough Creek when several fly fisherman came walking downstream slowly, fishing as they went. One guy wearing a particularly bright and obnoxious shirt (do people really have no clue that what they wear will spook fish?) kept moving closer and closer towards me until he was no more than a hundred feet above me, spooking every fish along that bank for a good ways upstream as he went. Need I mention that he wasn't catching anything? Finally, when I realized that he was not going to politely yield to me, the upstream angler, I waded across and moved up above him. As I passed I had to refrain from saying something that I would probably have had to repent for later.

On the Madison we continually ran into anglers fishing downstream or jumping in immediately upstream of us. I experienced the same thing on my recent trip to Colorado. Invariably, the downstream anglers give me a dirty look like I'm encroaching on their water. The ones I really like are the ones fishing downstream, but as soon as you get out and move upstream of them, they glare at you and start fishing upstream.

Generally none of this is a problem when fishing in the Smokies. Maybe everyone that fishes up there actually has a clue or maybe they are just naturally nicer people and assume how to be polite. I have puzzled over the problem trying to figure it out. There seem to be two possibilities. Either people just don't know and no one is explaining proper etiquette to them or they just don't give a damn. I have a hard time believing the first explanation. Tradition is such a large part of the sport that it would be difficult for the majority of fly fisherman to never hear the general guidelines that make up standard etiquette. The other explanation seems a lot more likely and that is that most people just don't care.

The truth is probably somewhere between the two extremes. Honestly there is also a third possible explanation. There are probably a lot of newer fly fishers that honestly don't know. Still, based on all the rumblings on various message boards involving confrontations over etiquette issues and my own observations, I have to conclude that people don't observe the traditions of this sport nearly as well as I would like.

This summer has been great because I have been able to fish mainly on weekdays. The tailwaters are still crowded but nowhere near as bad as on the weekends. On Smokies streams I can always find solitude by walking a few miles. More and more I find myself wish that I lived a little closer to the mountain streams. I have to consider the cost of each fishing trip and a 40 minute trip to the Caney is definitely cheaper than a 2 hour trip to the Smokies. If I had my way I would fish the park probably 75% of the time but sadly it is probably just about the opposite.

The question that I have to face now is do I embrace the new trends by fishing downstream and crowding other anglers or do I stick to the high road? Personally I will always be a fisherman that prefers moving upstream as opposed to down and doing my best to not crowd other anglers. If the accepted norm has actually shifted then I'll be the rebel that sticks to the old ways.

So what do you think? Am I completely crazy and off base or is this type of behavior by fly fisherman becoming the norm on our streams? What is the best solution to these issues?


  1. There's not much you can do about improper stream etiquette. Many a times have I encountered unbeievably rude anglers on the stream. I was fishing the Davidson River in NC a few years back, when a guy and his wife arrived and started wading and sloshing around only 10 ft from me. I noticed he was throwing what looked like corn into the CATCH AND RELEASE ***FLY FISHING ONLY*** section... I just slowly waded out of the river packing it in, heading downstream away from the crowds.

    I agree... The fly fishing world isn't what it used to be. Wish there's more we could do, it's not a federal law to yield to fellow anglers, so there's always going to be these types of fisherman.

  2. Like everything in life, it a little from column A, B and C. Some don't know, some don't care about knowing, and some know and don't give a damn about walking right through your hole. These people are called assholes, and they exist everywhere.

    This is the first time I have heard of the "San Juan Shuffle." It makes me laugh a little to think of a bunch of guys kicking around in the river chasing the debris cloud with nymph-smörgåsbord. But I can't say I feel it's unethical--just seems like an act done by a person worried about catching less fish than the guy next to him....aka a tool.

  3. You have hit upon a pet gripe that I have. When we went to Alaska a few years ago, they have what I call "combat fishing".
    The fishermen line up along the bank during a salmom run and they are vicious for a spot. Needless to say, I did not participate.

    Maybe we need to develop a set of
    stream etiquette rules. See my blog on what I have so far:

  4. Hi David. Even though I'm not a fly fisherman, yet, I agree with your input on river etiquette. Even though I don't stream fish much anymore, I apply the same rules to lake fishing. You're parked in a spot catching fish and some guy or guys or guys & girls, or guys & girls & their kids plunk down righ next to you and start fishing because you're catching fish. But out here you don't dare say anything to them because they're probably packing and wouldn't think a thing about pulling, pointing, or, God forbid, shooting you. So I just pack up and move somewhere else.
    You can't fix stupid. Stupid is forever.

    Mark (Shoreman)

  5. Anonymous10:14 AM

    I agree with you on the etiquette of fishing. This passed April I was fishing in the park just below a run above Metcalf Bottoms where I just caught my first brown ever. 2 anglers walked up on me from the road and started fishing, one above me 30' and one below me 30'. They started talking to each other and never said one word to me. Words can not explain the feelings that over whelmed me, I did not say a word to them and packed it up and left. I guess that some people are not raised like we are. I was taught that you respect everyone and especially a fisherman regardless of where you are and who they are.

  6. David,
    I share your thoughts on etiquette, but I don't think there is anything we can do to change that. I find that I still prefer to fish upstream in the Smokies, however I have slowly shifted to a downstream approach on the tailwaters. This is probably because it is what I have observed large numbers of other at the lease doing, and I just fell into their system.

    There will always be jerks on the water who think that they are entitled to that piece of water. However, I typically laugh at them and move on. Usually they are so rude because they are catching fewer fish and can't figure out what you are doing to catch them.

  7. I can empathize, David.

    It's a vicious cycle. Fish around those who lack etiquette and it doesn't take long before you start to lose yours. A bit like being cut-off in rush hour traffic, day after day; the responding change in your own driving habits will catch you off guard if you're not careful. I tend to think that this is what happens to many people.

    I can only handle so much of the tailwaters (not that this phenomenon is tailwater-specific). Most of the time I would rather catch no fish than have to deal with rude, imposing insolents on the water. I wish I had more tolerance but I don't.

  8. James Marsh10:07 AM

    In defense of maybe at least some of the guys you mentioned on the Western streams - Madison, Colorado, etc., I would point out that fishing downstream is common. More guys fish downstream than upstream in many areas. In the smooth fast water of the Madison, mostly in the park, I fish downstream. That is the best way in many cases. You want see anyone fishing upstream in the Henry's Fork for example. Sounds like that would make little difference with the guys you mentioned. They probably didn't care but for those that are not used to Western anglers, be advised in many cases you are the odd ball fishing upstream. I always do if I am fishing pocket water but at Silver Creek, for example, I have never cast upstream. It would be difficult to catch a trout that way in many streams.
    I had a guy come up to me on the Firehole with 3 kids and stand on both sides of me asking me about the fishing. I had to stop casting of course. Some people really don't have a clue and don't really mean any harm - they are just clueless.

  9. I typically fish a lot of tail waters, Norris mostly. People can be very rude. I had gotten on the water, with my son, early on day. We were the first ones in the area and after the turbines shut off people started to show up. Any way, my son caught a fish and as soon as he started to reel in a knuckle head cast in the same area where the fish was caught, PITYFUL.

    In the end it was a good opportunity to teach my son the wrong and right about ediquette. I am new to fly fishing and am not certain of the fly fishing ediquette. I appreciate your imput on the matter. I wish this information could be seen by all in a mass media location, like the local papers, for two reasons
    1. More folks will see it.

    2. It is on a grade level of reading that even some of the the dumbest person can understand.

    Thanks for yourviews on this subject David.

  10. I'd have to say education is the best way to begin combatting these issues. I'm a brand new fly fisherman myself. I've fished with a bait caster for small and largemouth for years and have always waded downstream. Had I not read your blog post on this topic I would never have known any better.

    I would certainly have given anglers their space and not encroached on them like Tyler said happened to him.

    I also do not like confrontation especially when the purpose of being out on the water is to get away from it. When I get encroached upon fishing rivers and reservoirs around by fellow boaters, I usually just pack it up and pick another spot hoping the message will be relayed.

    That being said...I'm excited about heading South this fall for some fish so if anyone is up for a camp 'n fish outing please let me know. I have a lot to learn about the sport and like David, am almost entirely self taught....

  11. Wow! Thanks for all the comments. I'm not going to try to respond to every single one but want to offer a few further thoughts. First, while I understand the possible benefits of casting downstream on certain waters (and even moving consistently downstream on a few), I still feel that on most streams you are putting yourself at a disadvantage. If you move upstream as you fish, it allows you to spot fish before they see you. Once you have spotted the fish you can reposition yourself upstream if need be (I definitely do this on occasion as it is most efficient at delivering a fly to a spooky fish). If you are walking down a bank, you will be first blowing out any bankfeeders, and secondly you will spook all fish within a reasonable casting distance if you aren't careful.

    James, I have noticed that western anglers seem to have a thing for fishing downstream. As I said above, I understand that approach, especially casting downstream. However I still don't understand the angry glances that anglers will give if you are fishing upstream and the refusal to yield. Clearly on certain waters (Madison in the park during the spawning run, steelhead and salmon rivers, etc.) it is the norm to fish downstream and I would deserve those mean glances if I was moving up. Oddly, the places that I had problems were the Madison at $3.00 and smaller streams in the park. On smaller streams, you will spook fish by moving downstream and on the Madison, it is definitely to the anglers benefit to fish upstream. Oh, and by the way, your flies were a definite help. Check back soon for more on that...

    I'm seeing a common theme on all the comments and that is that a lot of people are clueless and another large percentage are probably just rude. Unfortunately this behavior is not limited to the stream and the best I can do (unless I want to be confrontation and I'm not into that when I'm enjoying a day on the water) is to move on and enjoy my day, ignoring the people who feel required to act in such a manner.

    I am glad that some of you have mentioned that you are relatively unaware of these points of etiquette. Maybe I will try to put together a post on traditional stream etiquette.

    Russ, I agree that education is the best way to combat these issues.

    Please keep the comments coming. This has been enlightening for me and I appreciate everyone's input.

  12. Against my better judgment David, please allow me a moment of mild disagreement...as I respond to your post on fishing etiquette. While agreeing with you totally that many trout fishermen have completely disregarded what their mommas or others may have taught them about good manners, I must take exception to your belief that those fishing upstream have some kind of superiority.

    I have been fly fishing for trout for over 50 years (upstream and down)...in places exotic and places that aren’t. I have been reading about fly fishing for the same period of time and I have never encountered the philosophy that you embrace. I have yet to see a one-way sign posted on a trout stream, nor have I read that there should be such a thing. The idea that one fishing upstream has some sort of “right of way” privilege is preposterous. To be mannerly on a trout stream one must not assume superiority in any form. The courteous angler – fishing from any direction – should always be considerate of others on the stream and if that means leaving the stream and giving a wide berth to one fishing from ANY other direction, it should be done with the understanding that he has just as much right to the waters as anyone else. And it should be done with a smile and a wave.

    I certainly agree with you that fly fishing etiquette has suffered over the years, but to pin the blame on anglers drifting streamers and wet flies just aint right! To single out wet fly fishermen as major culprits is to ignore reality. Poor manners can be found everywhere...and wading in any direction.

    Regarding tradition, let’s go way back. Way, way back to the first fly fishermen. Imagine the first guy that thought he might like the taste of fish. He’d tried spearing them and most of the time his aim was off. He built traps and did a little better. He probably noticed that the fish were eating bugs on a regular basis and made an early attempt to “match the hatch.” He cut a willow branch and attached some gut to it with his crudely fashioned fly on the end of that. Whipping the fly onto the water...assuming he was on a stream...which way did the fly go? Yes, he may have cast upstream but eventually the current grabbed it and downstream it went. He didn’t have a $700 rod and had never heard of mending the line...and yet he caught fish. In short, there is no tradition as you have described it, lest it be the relatively recent tradition of “dry-fly snobbery.” Wet fly fishing is just as old and just as revered as dry fly fishing. If you have any doubt just take a look at the old, the very old fly plates found in the writings of our elders.

    That said, keep up the good work. I thoroughly enjoy your blog...the pictures and the reports of your adventures. There is no doubt that you are a very good fly fisherman and I remain a regular reader and fan.


  13. Alan,

    Finally! Someone with a differing opinion...I'm glad you jumped into the discussion. I hope I did not offend you and did not intend to come across that those fishing upstream are superior in anyway nor am I trying to pin the blame for problems with etiquette on downstream anglers. I simply chose two things that I have recently noticed. I fish downstream quite often myself and love swinging soft hackles. Sadly, in many of the cases where I've been frustrated by downstream anglers, they were NOT fishing with a method that works better downstream and in fact probably the opposite direction would have helped them put more fish in the net. I still maintain that in most cases, one will do consistently better by fishing in a general upstream direction. It is only fair to mention that I stalk a lot more large fish than the average person and it is clearly much easier to approach these fish from downstream to avoid spooking them. In fact, a lot of my fishing consists of slowly walking the banks looking for large fish. Thus, my opinion is somewhat biased already.

    Still, I find it interesting that you have not heard of the idea that upstream anglers have the right of way (or maybe I misunderstood). I'm not trying to argue that it is superior, but it is a time honored tradition, if only one that has developed over the last 100 (perhaps many fewer) years and perhaps from the "dry fly snobbery" as you call it. However, if it wasn't for the development of the sport over the years we would still be stuck using a stick with string fishing for our supper. If you Google "Fly Fishing Etiquette" you will get many different sources on the subject and most if not all mention that general guideline (one example is found at http://parks.state.co.us/NR/rdonlyres/183E7A96-01EC-4FB6-A7DC-580D1083F98A/0/FlyFishingEtiquette.pdf). It is by following these types of established and generally accepted guidelines that we avoid hurt feelings, confrontations, etc., on the stream. When I fish downstream, I have no problem getting out of the water and going around upstream bound anglers. I always try to do so by leaving as much unfished water above them as possible.

    Sure, we could just as easily say that upstream anglers should yield to those moving downstream, but my goal is not to reestablish a new line of etiquette but to remind anglers of what I have widely read and been told are accepted standards in the sport.

    Clearly each region and even individual streams and rivers have developed their own sets of local guidelines. When I fish the Taylor River in Colorado, I'm often no more than 40 feet from another angler and sometimes even closer. If I had someone get in the stream that close to me in the Smokies I would naturally be a bit upset. On the Barnes Pools on the Madison in YNP during the spawning run, anglers start at the head of the pool and fish slowly downstream. However these are locally acknowledged to be exceptions to the norm. Yellowstone area fly shops go to great lengths in their online fishing reports to detail this expected etiquette on the Madison.

    I would be interested if you have any sources that specifically argue that there is no established protocol for onstream etiquette with respect to fishing direction.

    Maybe one of these days we can get together and fish wet flies and softhackles...I don't do it as much as I used to and kind of miss how much fun it provides...

  14. This is fun. I took your advice David and read two pages of Google links to get to the bottom of this. Of all the sites I visited, I only saw two that made mention of the upstream angler having a right of way...and only one of those gave any sort of a reason for the so-called rule. And, the site you referenced discussed etiquette put forth by a Trout Unlimited chapter out in Colorado...ample evidence that this claim to right of way was dreamed up by effete snobs whose only wish is to lord over and control their lesser brethren. I submit that someone’s etiquette can be another’s nonsense.

    “The angler working in a downstream direction covers more water, more quickly, and has the potential to disturb more water. Careless wading could send silt or debris washing downstream to alarm fish someone else is approaching from behind.”

    This quote is OPINION only. Who says he moves faster? Who says he kicks up more debris? And who says he is careless? And since when is the average dry fly fisherman innocent of all these charges. This kind of logic can only come from one that hopes to achieve superiority.

    Public waters are just that...open to the public, even the downstream fishing riff-raff, and for a bunch of latter day River Runs Through It graduates to think they are somehow something special and worthy of setting the “rules” frosts me to no end. Yes, I’m a crotchety old codger, but I’ll be danged if I’ll give in to this kind of nonsense! Maybe I’ll form a club of like minded old fools and we will create a new etiquette. We could go a couple of ways with it. It could be considered a breach of etiquette to appear on a trout stream with waders sans patches, or we could say that tweed jackets are mandatory and that no cast, un-preceded by three false casts, may touch the water. We could then create a website to promote our variety of proper behavior.

    In conclusion...although great fun to debate, the whole thing is quite silly. Just be nice to one another and we’ll all be fine.

    ps. Thanks for getting it started!


  15. Anonymous8:53 PM


    I respect your opinion, but I definitely have to disagree with you on this one. Maybe there isn't much literature on the "right direction to fish", but think about the people creating literature these days. Most of the sites you referenced on Google have not been created by the "older"(I'm not trying to offend anyone) fishermen. The fishermen that have taught me about proper stream etiquette don't even know how to use a computer (or care to learn for that matter).

    There's a very simple argument for fishing upstream: When feeding, trout face into the current (which means they are generally facing upstream). When you fish downstream, you are easily spotted by the trout. For this reason, it is logical to fish upstream.

    Anyone who spends time fishing the Smoky Mountains cannot argue that downstream fishing is more effective (even the most talented wet fly swingers I know will generally fish in the upstream direction).

  16. The direction one fishes in has more to do with the types of water being fished than anything. For some reason I don't quite understand, fshing downstream got converted into streamer and wet fly fishing. Some streamer and wet fly fishing is done downstream, of course, but many western anglers and some eastern anglers (mainly spring creek and slick tailwater fisherman) fish downstream with all types of flies. Many western anglers fish dry flies in a downstream direction, presentation and movement wise. I fish up and across and down and across with soft hackles and wet flies. That is the best way to fish a caddis pupa imitation, for example. I fish dry flies downstream in many streams including Slough Creek, and any of the other meadow streams in YNP. The meadows of the Madison, Gibbon, Belcher, Firehole, etc. and streams such as Henry's Fork, most all of the eastern and midwestern spring creeks, NY's Delaware River, Silver creek and on and on. I don't fish the short riffles and occasional run downstream. I switch to upstream cast but I fish the smooth water with downstream cast and in a downstream direction. I fish downstream on the South Holston as much as I fish upstream. It is very effective anywhere the trout are picky, the water is moving at a slow speed and the trout get a good view of the fly. When you allow your fly to drift downstream, done correctly the fish sees the fly before anything. Tippet and leader will spook trout in many smooth water cases. On many western streams you will get a hard look from other anglers if you are fishing in an upstream direction, never-the-less, I fish both ways and pay no attention to what others do. I just get out of their way. If I am fishing upstream and meet a downstream guy, I wouldn't want to fish the water he just covered and vica versa. I alway yeild to the other guys. I can fish when I want too anywhere I want to and I want let me greed overcome my courtesy.
    I fish all pocket water in an upstream direction. I almost never, except for caddis pupa, fish in a downstream direction in the Smokies. Smooth, slick surface water is usually better fished in a downstream direction. There is no such a thing as a time honored tradition of fishing in an upstream direction. That is something that is standard in the Southeastern small stream and rough water, stocked tailwaters but not nationwide by any means. There is also a big misconception about the fish facing upstream. Trout can see all around themselves except for an area of only about thirty degrees directly behind the direction they are facing. If they move slightly from side to side they can see all around themselves. If they are within inches of the surface they cannot see anything outside of the water around them except for only a very small area. Anyone that really wants to know and understand this should study Snell's circle. I don't want to take Davids site up going on and on. I'm amazed at the interest in this and will take advantage of it and write about it more on my own sites. We have scripted, but not shot, a program, "Perfect Presentation", that deals with this subject.

  17. David,

    I have a rule of thumb. The more popular the spot....the more I expect to see bad etiquette. The only way I can deal with the idiots is to tell myself this whenever I fish a popular area. I expect it to happen so I try not to get as upset........I try at least.

    Great post and thanks for sharing,


  18. David, I too agree with you about river etiquette. One comment you made (Boaters are a completely different story that I shouldn't get started on) hits home with me, for years I wade fished the Caney Fork and got quite tired of every one fishing on top of me. So I got a Gheenoe so I could get away from them, this is where my concern is. I sometimes have to pass a fellow fly fishermen or woman in a river that is very narrow in some places (Lancaster) for one and there is only one way to get through and unfortunately it’s right where everyone wants to fish. I try to avoid these areas just for that reason, but sometimes I cannot evade them. So I try to ether take my Gheenoe behind them if there is room or I apologize for having to float through and most of the time anglers understand. One more than one occasion I have had anglers get downright belligerent. Now I know that no one in particular owns this river and I understand that it is a pain when someone floats over top of us, it still happens to me when I fish. My point is that we all have to share this beautiful river and PLEASE understand that if there is no room to go around you, there is no other choice and I apologize for that.

    Thank you all, and tight lines.

  19. Trout Surveyor,

    Thank you for being one of the polite boaters on the river. The ones that drive me crazy are the ones that have the whole river (for example at Happy where the river is wide) to maneuver around me but still choose to float right over the spot where I'm drifting my flies. Yes, this has happened more often than I care to remember. I also get frustrated when powerboats come through on low water running 60 mph...once I almost thought about throwing rocks at the dude...completely irresponsible and extremely dangerous. There needs to be some type of regulation and enforcement with that kind of nonsense.

    I'll admit (and I'm not that proud) that sometimes I get grumpy at all the boats going past, even the ones like you that do their best to be polite. If you ever float past someone that looks like me and get a glare, its probably because the genius in the jet powered boat just came by and I still have a sour taste in my mouth...

    Hope to run into you on the river sometime. If you see me stop and say howdy and maybe we can wet a line together...

  20. I think the key is just to respect the other fishermen on the water. Regardless of upstream, downstream, or across stream (or driving down the road for that matter) as long as we offer general courtesy and genuine goodwill the whole issue disappears. Sadly there will always be those people who treat the river like a 4 lane highway they think they own along with their road rage. Maybe it's the same guy who leaves his beet can on the side of the stream? Great post David.

  21. Anonymous2:27 PM

    I'm trolling, and I'll freely admit it. I'm not terribly impressed with the attitude of fly fishermen. The "river runs through it" yuppie description fits so aptly. People share the waters, and they have all kinds of recreational pursuits. The waters are public waters and we all pay for licenses for fishing or boats or both. As there are an increasing number of "fly-fishing only" streams and other protected waters, I am not going to feel bad if I troll for trout, or waterski or whatever else on a recreational reservoir, or if I walk downstream with a worm on my line sinking it deep into good holes on your favorite stream. There's a limited number of places to fish. There's a much more limited number of decent places to fish. If people crowd you a little while you camp out all day in the best holes, I feel no sympathy. I think that you're trying to use "etiquette" as an excuse for hogging the resource--just the thing stereotypical flyfishermen accuse others (baitfishermen,etc.) of doing. Beyond that if you're flyfishing regularly, you're constantly going to be stirring up the stream, and causing whatever ecological damage comes from stirring up the dirt. Beyond that, if you are catching a lot of fish and releasing them, even with a relatively low mortality rate, you're probably killing more than the worm angler who walks through the stream once a year, throws and empty bud on the bank, and then goes back home. Further, the fish you kill are more likely to be "trophy" fish because on your 2lb tippet, you probably fought the fish for 15 minutes--until he was near death. Regardless, I think that fly fishermen need to be careful about how they come across to other people.

    As for me--I'm not a bass fisherman, I'm a fisherman who occasionally targets bass. I'm certainly not a fly fisherman, I'm a fisherman who occasionally (and generally quite poorly) uses a fly rod and fly to fish for trout.

    Just giving you another perspective, because if you can't smell the self-righteous elitism coming off this post, then I must have been too soft on you.

    And I was a little too hard on you. But I get frustrated to no end by self-righteous catch and releasers who use way too little tackle for the fish they are targeting, and throw back tired out and (soon-to-be) dead fish. If you're on a stream full of 6 inch brookies, then fine, but if you're on a trophy stream, I think it's socially irresponsible to use super-light tackle just so that you can fight and likely kill the poor critter for 15 minutes.

    If you don't fit into this category of fishermen, then fine, but I'm sure your readers could use a little reminder that if you throw a fish back dead, that's worse than quickly landing the fish, humanely killing it, and bringing it home occasionally for sensible consumption.

    Sorry that your blog had to be the one to catch the rant on C&R and all the other elitist fly-fisherman crap I have to put up with. Delete if you want.

  22. Anonymous, I am not going to delete your comments and actually appreciate them much more than you can imagine. My post was not intended to target non-fly fisherman so I'll have to assume that either I wasn't clear enough or you didn't read carefully enough. It was towards the fly fisherman who profess to "know the established etiquette" but continually disregard it. When it comes to spin fisherman, I personally have nothing against them and recognize that they are used to fishing in a different manner than most fly fisherman. I routinely see three or four guys chucking bait close together and recognize that it is generally acceptable to them. Fly fisherman don't fish that close to others, largely because of the potential for tangles, etc...

    As far as everyone paying equally for licenses, I agree fully and as long as it is legal, I have no problem with it. I would like to see recreational boaters pay a fee just the same as us fisherman because on area rivers the canoes and kayaks are really out of control. Sadly, I have found that it is very very rarely the fly fisherman that "forget" to purchase a license whereas I have routinely seen spin fisherman caught for fishing without a license. Again, if they have purchased a license and it is legal, I have no problem at all. Some of the nicest people I've met on the stream are spin fisherman and I fish with a few on occasion as well.

    As far as fisherman killing more fish than the guy dunking worms, sadly you are largely correct. I want to holler at other fly fisherman often more than anyone else on the river. I've actually seen a fly fisherman with a large fish on that was ready to be netted pull line off the reel to encourage the fish to run again. Sad but true... There are lots of fine fly fisherman that are very good at quickly landing fish on light tackle. I fall mostly in that category and when my skills aren't up to par, I have been known to break a large fish off rather than stress it too much... I feel that leaving a tiny #22 hook in the fishes mouth is going to be much easier on the fish than playing it for the 15 minutes you suggested that many fly fisherman do.

    I do plan on addressing the issue of overplaying fish or not playing them properly in the future so please check back and let me know what you think when I get around to it.

    Finally, even if you don't agree with catch and release, you must admit that the fish has a much greater chance to grow larger when it is released as compared to if it is put on a stringer and taken home. Again, if it is legal, I have no problem with people keeping a few fish but I do hate to see good fish leaving the river...

    You have obviously had some run ins with so called fly fisherman. I hope that your future experiences are more pleasant. Maybe I'll run into you on the stream some day...if you see me please say hello...

    Oh, and I was trolling a little myself with the original post...