Trout Stream Etiquette

Respect the fish.

Most newcomers ask me “how much room should I give someone else fishing the same stream”?  The answer is more complicated than one might expect.  In general you should allow 25 to 30 yards between you and any person fishing (or preparing to fish).  Read on now and get, as they say “the rest of the story”.

People go fly fishing for numerous reasons and surprisingly not all of them involve catching fish!  If you ask any dedicated fly fisher why they fish, somewhere in their answer will be the surroundings they fish in.  How do you impact on this?  Well it may be fun to fish with a couple of buddies and when you reach the stream spread out to give yourselves casting room then yell at each about every manner of thing you think is important (it may well be for you!) but you forget that you share the stream with other fly fishers who came for the peace and quiet!  So save all the chat for a break in fishing or the journey to and from the stream.

Most accomplished fly fishers welcome newcomers questions at the right moment so if you are desperate to know just why that particular person is catching so many fish then pick your moment to ask.  Don’t hog the fishers time because they are there to fish as well.

If you head to the stream in a large group remember that you don’t have complete claim on the water and you should honor the solitary fly fisher who has every right to fish. A club outing to a particular section of stream may seem like a good idea until your group swamps the accessible water to the exclusion of some poor soul who only has that particular day to fish.

When you guide try to coach your clients in a quiet manner by standing close to them and giving your valuable tips on casting etc without shouting.  All too often guides with wading clients will spread them apart and then stand somewhere in between yelling instructions to one or the other.  This is offensive to others using the same water who might not appreciate your well timed “SET” every time the bobber goes under.

Respect the fish.

Generally it is accepted etiquette for a fly fisher wading upstream to have the right of way.  If you are working your way downstream and see another fisher below you, it is correct practice to leave the stream and walk around them.  This way you won’t cloud the water the downstream fisher is working.  If the vegetation or stream laws make this impossible, you should reel in and move around the fisher without casting to fish in his vicinity.

Just because a fly fisher is tying on a new section of tippet or sitting on a log by the streamside , it doesn’t give you the right to muscle in on his spot and begin fishing.  Move on and get your own spot.

DO NOT trespass!  Some land owners take this very seriously particularly in States with high levels of NRA membership!  Make sure you know the law regarding that particular section of water, some States have different laws to others.

Follow the Hikers code and leave only footprints.  If you bring it with you then take it away with you.  Discarded leaders and tippet material are a source of danger to wildlife so dispose of it correctly in streamside re-cycle containers or take it home.

Respect the fish.

If you fish in a Catch and Release section then ensure you obey that law, use barbless hooks or remove the barbs if necessary.  Some C&R areas don’t allow multiple flies and that applies to droppers.  If you fish in an area where keeping fish is allowed ensure you know the limit and what size of fish you may take.

If you are floating a stream and approach a fisher, reel in and don’t fish until you are well past them.  Ask which side you should pass, and make every attempt to be as quiet as you can when passing.  If possible, stop rowing until you pass.  This also applies to guides, just because you are a “professional” doesn’t mean you have any more rights than the vacationing fly fisher.  Don’t let your clients cast into the water a wading fisher is working.  If necessary pull the boat to shore and walk it around the fly fisher, it is no good offering a friendly “sorry” after you have rowed through their feeding fish!

Some people who fish trout streams just don’t get any of this and the best advice is to ignore them when they row over your fish, wading into your casting arc, sing their favorite song or smoke a damn cigar up wind of me!  Move to another section of stream, take a deep breath and enjoy the moment, it’s just not worth raising the blood pressure.

Oh and by the way, respect the fish!

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