Etiquette anyone? [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Etiquette anyone?

07-07-2002, 11:37 PM
Given the hits shown in a recent thread, I do think there is an opportunity here for a healthy discussion on fishing etiquette.

To my way of thinking, much of the bad feelings between those of us who swing, cast and step and those who fish indicators or those that fish gear can be traced to the practice of moving or failing to move through a run. This is not to say that everyone that fishes a SI or drift fishes with gear camps in the hole but enough do that it appears to be the norm.

Then there is the despised practice of low-holing. Nothing can make a person more upset then starting in at the top of a run so as to make sure you fish the entire run even though you know the sweet spot is 3/4 of the way through and then having some bubba walk into the slot and start chucking his offering.

Now I would be hypocritical if I didn't disclose that I have encountered both of these situations more than I care to admit and I have not always been proud of my reactions. This is too bad because I'm sure my anger and belligerence did nothing but reinforce the stereotype of the elitist fly fisherman. As I think I have made clear in other posts, in my mind, this is indeed a low life form. Until we all, no matter how or what we fish, can mend fences, we will be doomed to pissing away at each other while the resources we all cherish are allowed to disappear forever. As Dave Bailey, a friend of mine is fond of saying, "United we bargain, divided we beg".

This brings me to the point of this post. Could the root cause of all this be traced to separate etiquette beliefs? Just because we believe it is good manners to cast and step, does the same hold true for our gear fishing counter-parts? And while most of us would never think of starting in down run from another angler without asking permission, for some fishing types this is not seen as bad manners at all.

While I am a proud American, I must once again tip my hat to my Canadian friends. Not only do they do a more enlightened job of managing their anadromous stocks that we do but they have tried to standardize fishing etiquette. Just pick up a fisheries pamphlet and read the accepted way to cast and step so as to give everyone a chance.

I am curious as to others thoughts on this topic. I know it is easy to point out the ones who abuse the privilege but I am more interested in the accepted norms. Maybe once we understand where the other groups are coming from, it will be easier to find common ground.


07-08-2002, 12:00 AM
It all boils down to selfishness..

even if a person to chooses to do some drift fishing with a fly rod they can still do so in a manner that shows respect for other anglers and the fish. This whole standing in one spot until the fish bite is something that is brand new to steelheading (last 15 years) before the everyone worked through the runs even bait slingers. occasionally someone would low hole you but not very often!!!

Proper etiquette starts with the understanding that everyone else on the river is just as important as yourself and has every right that you do. Doing something that you know will a negative impact on someone else is selfish and intollerable..

If you do not have respect for other people then go golfing you have no place on a river..

Also pounding on fish drift after drift after drift after drift although effective shows a great ammount of disrespect to the fish and in my opinion is just as wrong as low holeing.
If a fish does not want your offering switch flies. if it still will not eat go find another fish.

I don't know what the debate has been about lately but it sounds Umpquaish and I just want to say that regardless of what anyone else says these two issues are why indicator guys were kicked off the river and the river is a better place for it. Thoes who love the river will fish it anyway and those that do not shouldn't have been there in the first place..

One other thing to remember. the whole ethics thing is really only an issue on crowded streams because people want an exuse to be unhappy or to blame their lack of action on.
simple thing is if you are going to complain about crowded conditions understand your part of that crowd and just as much of a problem to the next guy as he is to you... So you see it's all about respect and I say respect people and the resource or get off the river....

07-08-2002, 12:23 AM
Rob, I'd say it's been longer then 15 years. I've seen it in all of my 25 years of steelhead angling (sitting in one place that is) and my Dad (from hearing his tales of old days of the late 40's to present) as well people anchoring in one spot and fishing. I personally like to move through, but I hate being low holed in the "sweet spot". It always happens, unless you go to some of the more secluded spots. When there are days that I just want to wet a line, I start at head of hole and work my way through. But if I WANT to catch fish, then I hit the sweet spot. I'm not afraid to say this. I fish because I LOVE to fish. But I also like to catch fish every now and then. I've caught way too many salmon and steelhead to count in my young life. I'm lucky to hit some incredible rivers during the last of their glory years.

Ok, onto my .02. You know what needs to be done? EVERYONE, and I mean EVERYONE needs to get off the "classifications" and admit we're all ANGLERS!!!!! Because once you classify yourself as a "fly angler", "gear head", "drift fishermen", "bait angler", etc. etc you're splitting the ranks. Then you add on top of the the bankers vs driftboat vs sled and you've upt the division 100 fold. I guess I'm VERY blessed, since I've personally have been in every shoe that's listed in most of these forums. From meatlining the sound to tossing a spey and EVERYTHING inbetween (except intentionally snagging, I never cared to go for that). Why do you think in Washington especially we as sportsmen/women can't do a damned thing? We can't unite to save our lives (or our sport). If one sanction of "angling" is a "go" for it, then the rest have to shoot it down. It's crazy. I guess I try not to judge too much, especially in the "gear" department because I'm well schooled. I fish alot of different methods depending on my mood, time of year, river fished, and conditions of said river. My mood is big dictator to me. There are times I just have to swing a fly. Even if conditions tell me no. And same thing goes through the spectrum. I still have almost all the gear for all the different areas I could ever think of fishing (even my old meatline is hanging in my garage). I just wish so many of you who try to impose "ethics" would just be happy that someone is TRYING to flyfish. Some of those who uses SI's are novices on the wetfly swing and are using a crutch. Give them their stinking crutch and let them fish. My word, what has this world come to? I can understand if they were out there with a fly rod, indictor, and a big 6/0 weighted treble in gin clear conditions snagging fish. But come on. Just call them training wheels. If they never come off, so be it. They are still an ANGLER out there FISHING. I feel we should just throw these "labels" aside and just be a bunch of ANGLERS. I take my kids fishing all the time. They love to dunk worms, and I let them. My daughter is old enough I could get her to swim a fly, but she prefers to help Daddy "tie them" then throw them. I won't ever push fly fishing (or conventional fishing) on her. If she wants to throw a fly, then I'll gladly teach her. But I'm not going to say she (or my son) is less a fisherman/woman. And, from the status of some, those who use bait are "less" of a fishermen then those who throw flies. I was so proud when I landed my first steelhead, all 19 # of hen on my SnG and eggs. I was highly praised by the old timers on the Puyallup that I played her so well for being a 7 year old. Had I been scorned it may have been a different scenerio for me today. Just live and let live. Who knows, the person you tick off today, could've been your best fishing buddy tomorrow. I know this first hand, a good buddy of mine I fish with now was someone that we hated each other in school. But we never burned our bridges so to speak.

Ok, I'm off my high horse, just tired of hearing all of what was being said in previous posts.

07-08-2002, 01:08 AM

I was not trying to say one method is "better" or more ethical than another. What I am saying is that there is ethical and unethincal behavior and unethical behavior stems from either disrespect for other anglers or disrespect for the resource.

Your right when fish are moving it has always been common for boat anglers and plunkers to stay in one spot all day. However in my expereince for other types of fishing this is a new thing. I can't help but think that it has come largely from the popularized methods of blue creek on the Cowlitz. where shoulder to shoulder standing in one place all day long is both the norm and effective. That however should not be used as a model of how fishermen should conduct themselves.

As far as training wheels go. I have nothing against Indicator fishing other than I do not think it is flyfishing under any deffinition. Also I think very few people use them as training wheels. Most of the guys that use them on the Umpqua are very accomplished anglers and others are anglers who are skilled but lack integrity so much that it become about always putting as many fish on the bank as possible. That is disrespect for the resource! There are many very "prominant" anglers who indicator fish some of them almost exclusivly (Kem Morrish for instance) They do it not because they lack skill they do it because it's damn effective There is nothing wrong with the method but when it's becomes about how many fish can a person can put on the bank the person has become a disgusting abuser of the resource..

I want to clarify quickly one thing I used Kem Morrish as an example of a well known angler who uses indicators a lot. Not as an example of someone who I find disgusting.. That is why I do not use any weighted flies and I never use any additional weights to my line. I refuse to be a part of the "whatever it takes to catch a fish " crowd. I have caught more steelhead in my life than I deserve now I am just happy with whatever comes to my unweighted swung fly. Do I catch fewer fish? absolutely. Do I care? absolutely not. If I want to catch a fish that bad i'll break out the drift gear and go pull plugs on the North Lewis.

About other angler groups I draw no lines anywhere because most steelheaders like you and me are crossover anglers who fish using all methods. The only groups I would cast out of the equasion are thoes such as the wildcat steelhead club and that only because they do not care about the future of the fish,only the future of their fishing.

07-08-2002, 05:54 AM
If you have read all of these long posts, my hat is off to you. You have the dedication to the sport that's for sure.

Some of the most passionate threads we have had on this forum thus far have had to do with ethics. Frankly that is exactly why I participate here. Without informative discussions and debate I'd much rather spend my valuable time off fly fishing or catching up on my tying. We are probably not going to change anyone's mind here but at least we are bringing out some of the issues that will make us all better stewards of our resource. We have all heard the saying that there are several stages a fisher goes through:

1. Any fish
2. The most fish
3. The biggest fish
4. The most difficult fish
5. Conservation of the resource

It is some what human nature to attempt to teach others what we have learned through everyone of those individual stages. Even though what we have learned my be totally wrong in someone else's eyes. For example, is a cannibal wrong for eating people? Not in his opinion.

The difference here is that people that "low hole" or "hole camp" very often know exactly what they are doing. Here again it is the same human behavior that we have all here shown at one point or another. To take some of the emotion of fly fishing out of it I'll use a parking lot analogy. Ever linger in a parking spot at the grocery store a little longer than you should? Ever speed to get to a parking spot that you saw open near the front entrance before someone else got it? Have you ever gotten mad when someone else did that to you? Do you put your waders on a little faster when another car pulls up to the access while you are putting in?

The best thing you can hope for is to live by example. If someone is "low holing" or "hole camping" they just want to catch fish. Maybe even to the point that they are willing to be rude to achieve their goal. Maybe the proper thing to do at that point is to offer them some help. The next time they see you one the river they will be more courteous, I can assure you.

If that doesn't work try pelting them with a double hauled split shot. Now that you have their attention................:smokin:


07-08-2002, 02:34 PM
Sink & Others, I believe that hole camping and the low hole mentality has evolved from the many anglers who frequent the terminal fisheries. Unfortunatly this mentality has carried over into other areas of river system, etc.

In last 25 years there has been a increase in terminal fisheries and the unofficial rules in these fisheries are different compared to what is viewed as etiquette out of these areas. To the terminal fisher it's acceptable behavior to not move or to step in below someone as long as there is an opening. Many of the anglers who frequent these fisheries enjoy the social element as well, so crowding in the terminal areas is an expected part of the atmosphere. Something to think about.

07-08-2002, 04:11 PM
A good question.

As 'tip mentioned, our Canadian brothers have really got a step up on us in this regard. I've encountered float fishermen on the Thompson who courteously follow flyfishermen thru runs. Since many gear (float and spoon) will work thru a run like "swinging" flyfishermen, the smart flyfishermen will ask a gear fisherman already in a run if he's "fishing down". Some won't fish all the way, as the shallow tailout might be too snaggy for a spoon or gear offering, and will offer to let you jump in there instead of having to wait till they finish fishing the head (usually where they spend most of their time).

Rich also made a good point - that the "hatchery hole" or "plant site" mentality is different in that everyone crowds together arse-to-elbow.

I liked Rob's point as well. You can use indicator fishing techniques to "abuse" a resource. End Result??? Regulations Changes!!!:devil:

The same thing happened on the Deer Creek run that happened at the North Umpqua. Skilled indicator fishermen fishing repeatedly over native steelhead parked in a holding pool at the mouth of their natal stream. Warm water conditions heightened stress and, when combined with the repeaded stress of being hooked and landed (these fish bite really well :) ) leads to a mortality above and beyond that produced by other methods of flyfishing.

I could cite many examples of guys swinging flys trying to snag salmon in the shallows, using leadcore to "plunk" nymphs in front of steelhead holding in deep pools, etc. These practices have even less appeal to me than indicator fishing and at least one illegal, yet each was "swinging" his fly. Make of it what you will! :rolleyes:

If we're to escape the European way of Ghillies, expensive beats, etc. then we better start working with the Canadian's method of educating the angling public. Otherwise we'll end up with a uniquely American way of Resolving Disputes - bring a gun to the river!! :hehe: Fastest draw gets to fish the run!

Respect and river courtesy have to start somewhere. I agree with FlyfishAR - we can't force a flyfishermen to be somewhere they're not on the Flyfishing Evolutionary Continuum. We were all at the "most fish" or "biggest fish" stage at one time. Putting those who are still there down is a waste of time - that's why we have the DFWs - to set the regs to protect the resource.

The one key point for me is to not get stressed or angry (probably the hardest thing to do under these circumstances) when I encounter the lowholer or Immobile Hole Hog - then I can communicate with my fellow angler calmly and find out "where they're at" and act accordingly. Once I know that, i can either offer suggestions, arrive at an understanding, or just find a new piece of water to fish.

my .02,


07-08-2002, 05:12 PM
FlyfishAr (John)

For the record I have been in stage 5 for at least ten years, probably 15.

Have not had the time to fully review and respond to this thread but I would say there has been a distinct lake of fishing ethics training through out the U.S. No state I am aware of requires anglers to attend any type of orientation or training. At least hunters in all states have to take some type of basic training class on at least the safety aspects of the sport.

BC does seem to have more comprehensive fishery rules and information available to anglers, in my limited time there.

Our national fly fishing organizations like FFF and Trout Unlimited touch on fishing ethics at times but they are more focused on the fishery resource conservation as far as I can see. It appears that Europe is further along on fly fishing ethics then we are.

How many rivers in the U.S. have river keepers like they do in Europe and the canadian atlantic salmon rivers ? I don't think there are any in the U.S.

Fishing ethics are a difficult issue, since most every one wants to catch fish. It does not matter to me any more but I am the exception like other long time fly fisherman on the forumn.

State DNR and the national fishing organizations need to do more in this area.

I do a lot my fly fishing in fly fishing only sections and believe me the ethics there are normally below what has been stated as acceptable behavior in the previous threads. On open fishing sections it is even worse at times with people walking through the area you are fishing and low holing etc..

I normally just move on rather than to try and rationalize with the other angler, which usually just results in a negative discussion.

Perhaps we need a National Fishing Ethics course ? Basically the same set of ethics could apply to all types of angling I think, not much is unique to fly fishing other than the equipment used.


07-08-2002, 10:10 PM
That I do like AR's list of 5 steps, but I'd have to say that 4/5 would have to be one in the same, not seperate. Once you go wholeheartedly into just the resource, you are more a conservationist at that point then a fisherman. You have to try and get that hard fish, WHILE helping the resource. I always thought it was hypocritical that someone goes out and buys a state of the art rod/reel/line in excess of thousands of dollars, and then say "I'm not out to catch fish, I just love being out on the water." Why spend that type of money in the first place when a low end Sage (hell, even a sweetheart combo) will MORE than suffice. It's like buying a Ferrari and saying "I'm only using it to drive to the corner store for milk." You have to be somewhat into catching fish, if you have no love of the bend in your rod, or the peeling of line, why fish? It's MUCH cheaper to walk the hoh river trail and observe the fish from the bank. There has to be an even want to help resource AND to fish while you're out there. I have heard for years by some that with age you'll change, but noone in my family has yet. My grandfather still loved to fish up to his death at 98 a couple years ago. He hated seeing runs decline, and would release alot of his fish. But there was nothing like the smile on his face when his rod was bent and reel was screaming. He loved to be outdoors, but he loved to catch a fish too. He saw runs that most of use will NEVER see. But he would never have went fishing just to be there, if he was on the water, he wanted to pursue his prey.

Rob, wasn't saying that you had said it was more ethical/unethical. Just letting you know that I've seen this method for quite a few years, and I RARELY ever fished Blue Creek. I hate combat fishing. I've seen this all over the OlyPen and lower Puget Sound Rivers. I usually will work a slot, but when you come up to a hole with people camped out in the good spots, it's hard to do a drift, then walk around them into a little piece of water, and so on and so on. I grew up mostly in DB's/pram's anyways, so we were always moving. But, if I was fishing a river (and usually alone with my Dad back in the 70's on the Eastside OP rivers when most had good runs) I would thoroughly work a slot.

07-08-2002, 11:55 PM
I have also head stories about how polite Candadian steelheaders are...I understand that even on crowded waters like the Vedderm, pretty much everyone gets along and everyone gets water to fish.

Doublespey and Rich bring up a good point about terminal areas...the idea that it is only indicator fisherman parking in water in holes such as Fortson is assonine.

Today for example, I watched a fellow fishing a sinktip not move for over 2 hours... :rolleyes:

There was a gentlemen with his wife and two kids fishing...another fisherman got to the water just a few minutes before I did. Since there were other tip-fisherman around, I decided to go through first with a tip. I sat back and waited for the fellow to work his way down...he hooked a fish right off the bat and told me to go through next and he would follow.

I fished through and looked like a total was one of those days were half your backcasts end up in the trees or your running line catches on something...and the times when you do make a decent cast, you can not seem to get the setup you want or grab bottom.

I worked through...crossed the tailout, made a couple casts below the logjam just for the Hell of it and went and fished above the creek.

During that time a younger gentlemen walked in fishing tips and parked himself in front of the big rock (he was there for the better half of a day)...once this happened, the process of moving through the hole was ruined for the day.

I finished working a tip above the creek, put on an indicator and fished over a pod of fish with differnt flies and depths for a good portion of time.

It is sort of hard to walk through when no one else is and at places like Fortson I can tolerate long as I get stuck with the good water. :devil:

It is also fisheries like this that indicator fisherman got labled as lead-footed...if a fisher fishing tips doesnt move through he is labeled as ignorant, if an indicator fisherman doesnt move through it because he is f*cking *sshole indicator fisherman...and it was at fisheries like this that many other flyfisherman were first introduced to indicators and the people that fish them.

I'm done rambling... :)

07-09-2002, 12:03 AM
I have been concern about the changing of the ethics of our sport for sometime. After much thought it seems that it is a natural out-growth the substantial increase in fly fishers competeting for limited resources. This is both from just the normal increase resulting from popualtion growth and the new recruitment as fly fishing has become the lastest yuppie fad.

When I began fishing (fishing for more than 50 years, fly fishing for more than 45, and steelheading for 40) it was common that new anglers were mentored by a gray-beard that taught us the ropes including proper interactions with our fellow anglers. Lacking a mentor there was always a well established hirerarchy of anglers with the respected local legends setting the standard for the rest. Today with the rapid growth of the sport and increased mobility of the anglers and the huge information flow that has all broken down. People now expect to have more or less instant success without pay what once was considered "dues". With more disposal incomes and time new anglers have access to better equipment, information on the latest hot spot, and tutoring (either from the information stream fueled by the internet and media or access to guides) on the short-cuts to success.

This has resulted in the kinds of behavior discussed above as well as hogging of hot spots to catch big numbers (inflate egos), willingness to fish for protected species (targeting salmon during closed season), and a general lack of consideration of fellow anglers and the resource we love. Over the last 15 years these kinds of behaviors have become worst. It seems that we as individaul anglers have three choices; 1) accept the situation and make the best of a it; 2) Drop out or at least avoid areas fished by other anglers; or 3) attempt to set an example by our own behaviors. The first is unacceptable to me. I have to admit that I often take the easy way offered by my second choice and now spend less time targeting steelhead but rather fsihing for "secondary" species or at off times. However recovering "lost ethics" is much like recovering depressed stocks; that is we must fight for both.

In the last several years I attempted to returned to the ethics of my youth. When I encounter other anglers on water that I wish to fish I ask "if its OK to fish behind them" or just sit patiently on the bank waiting for an opportunity to fish the water. If I encounter an "anchored" fisherman I fish down to them, politely step around them giving them space and continue fishing. If I'm so fortunate to successfully catch a fish and other less skilled anglers are sharing the water I take the time to offer them the "hot" fly or if they desire a word of advice. On water that obviously hold several fish that I'm sharing with others after take a fish or two I'll leave the water to them and move to new water.

Now I have to admit that many days I find some of the above difficult and that is when I drop back to option 2. However if in the frame of mind to deal with others the "old ehtics" have helped to keep my blood pressure down, given me a chance to share with others, and by moving on I'm exploring more new water and generally finding renewed enjoyment in my fishing.

One angler's feeble attempt at setting an example.

Tight lines

07-09-2002, 12:15 AM
Ryan brings up a point I was hoping would surface here and that is the differing norms between various user groups and the perception of each.

if a fisher fishing tips doesnt move through he is labeled as ignorant, if an indicator fisherman doesnt move through it because he is f*cking *sshole indicator fisherman

Ryan is dead on as this is the way these folks would be perceived by the swing, cast and step crowd. Once again I am not speaking for everyone in an user group but what I personally see as the norm. My point in starting this thread was that what one group sees as ignorance, another sees as the way things are done. Now one is no more right or wrong than the other, just different.

I would argue that fishing over pods of schooled fish aside, cast and step (regardless of presentation or tackle type) is more effective and in that it allows everyone a shot at the entire run, and thus is more fair to the individual angler. I would also argue though that the camp and chuck method allows the most anglers to access a run during the day. As Spock would say, do the needs of the many outway the needs of the few, or one? :hehe:

Watching the ballet of syncronized casting and fish fighting that takes place at a terminal fishery is amazing and glorious. It is not for me and my long rods though. It works for a lot of people though and if I was to label it wrong, then I would just be living up to the snotty elitist fly fishing snob that my kind is perceived to be. What might be wrong is me going to this same terminal fishery and expecting to be given room to swing, cast and step.

So what can be done to educate the various groups and facilitate getting along and tearing down the stereotypes????

I have some thoughts but want to hear what the board has to say.

07-09-2002, 12:23 AM

You jumped in while I was typing :smokin:

Some good food for thought. This mirrors a discussion Doublespey and I had today regarding reacting to perceived bad ethics and opportunities to educate.

I especially liked your comment about "the information stream fueled by the internet and media or access to guides". While we sit here and ponder the ills of the sport, are we our worst enemy? Maybe so. What is that about the road to hell....


07-09-2002, 05:25 AM
IMHO: Stereotyping is not directly an ethics matter, it's a separate and perhaps more important discussion. But again in my humble opinion it's not the cause nor the cure of ettiquette on the water.

On the other hand I think there are powerful points made in this thread that are at the core of the ethics issue. As many pointed out, it's each practitioner's perspective that leads to the methods and behavior he/she practices on the water, and these perspectives differ dramatically.

In order to have a notion of ethics that aligns across these groups we would either need to inject regulation, education, or get everyone to do the same thing. Of the three, regulation is most common, education is perhaps the least used, and any suggestion of conformance around one technique is going to go over like a fart in church. I'd be leaning toward the first two options where regulation is probably the most effective for the masses and education is probably the most unobtrusive.

In any case - I really like AR's 5 levels of evolution, although we never lose part of #3 (tell the truth boys!); and keep #4 throughout our lives or we would not be fishermen. I think the advanced angler looks for big, difficult fish with a greater concern for the resource itself than his own personal indulgence in the resource. He would, if needed, put down the rod and take arms to protect the river. This is without typecasting based on the type of gear he uses.

There are actually more levels, like...
(3.5) Enjoys a C&R fishery


Just in my years in the PNW, I have drift-fished Blue Creek, bounced octopus chunks off Swiftshure for halibut, trolled cut plug herring off Neah Bay for hooknoses, backtrolled divers for springers on the Lewis, pulled plugs on the Bogey, a little of everything - before settling into my fly-only funk in the late 80's. I just like it the best of all the methods. So now I stereotype everyone but not because of the techniques they use. ;)

I'll make a personal confession here, the whole ettiquette thing never bothered me much. Guys low hole me all the time and I've probably low-holed others by their definition (but not mine). The only time it bugs me is when the guy stepping in below is a total fish magnet and I have no chance in hell following him, or if he steps too deep into the water and fouls up the pool. Otherwise I always think I have a better chance than he does :devil:

I don't like leading thru a pool either, I am always thinking about the guy behind me. Others have mentioned this same feeling about leading too.

I think if you dig into the issue a little deeper it's mostly a problem of human crowding around resources that are most convenient to fish. If one reaches out beyond their comfort zone a little there are vast waters to tap in the pacific northwest. Although you'll find less people, I would argue that the ettiquette is much better in near-urban rivers than out in the sticks!

Anyway, if the objective is to create a unified notion of river ettiquette within the near urban / sub-urban river systems, then it's going to take education, regulation or conformance around one method as it had in the United Kingdom and the Canadian Maritime states for atlantic salmon.

Until this notion is unified, there will be many discussion like this. My approach is to deal with it, keep smiling on the river, and be freindly to everyone despite their perspective (gear, approach, etc). There are going to be a*holes, that's a given.

Perhaps a discussion of river ettiquette at angling clubs (regardless of gear preferences) would be helpful. Of course acceptance would depend upon the clubs perspective. You could get cheered or booted out.

If we could assemble a river ettiquette brochure that balanced all the different fishing techniques, we would have accomplished something. Until then we will only be able to hold this discussion among people who practice the same methods in places like the FORUM.


07-10-2002, 09:14 PM
Anyway, if the objective is to create a unified notion of river ettiquette within the near urban / sub-urban river systems, then it's going to take education, regulation or conformance around one method as it had in the United Kingdom and the Canadian Maritime states for atlantic salmon.

I don't know if that is really necessary. I have a simple motto that guides my behavior on the river and that I think covers about 95% of situations that one is likely to encounter regardless of what method used. It goes something like this: if it feels wrong, it probably is.

A few examples to illustrate my point: I fish for steelhead on many rivers where the predominant users are gear fishermen. On these rivers I commonly witness anglers "low hole" other anglers who are clearly camped on a spot without anyone even raising an eyebrow. And why is that? Well it's because the "offending" angler knows that he is not impeding the activity of the other angler, i.e. the upstream angler has no intention of moving through the run - he's quite happy camped out where he is. On the other hand, I've had members of this same group "low hole" me and judging by their posture and guilty glances upstream, know they were in breach of angling ettiquete. And why is that? It's because they KNEW I was on this piece of water first, I was step casting through the run and they were cutting me off before I could get to the fish they were about to cover.

Conversely there are a handful of spots on these sames rivers where I KNOW that step casting through the run with the expectation that no one will get in my way is, in a way, a breach of angling ettiquete (or good sense anyway). And why is that? It's because I KNOW that these spots have such a long history of heavy use by gear fishermen that it is silly to expect to have the place to myself, if even for a short period of time.

A final and personal example. Once many years ago I was parked in the early dawn above the lower of two prominent tailouts on the N. Umpqua river waiting for the day to begin. Another car came by, slowed, and apon seeing me parked in the spot, moved on and crossed a bridge below me. I surmised that the other angler was going to park on the other side, and hike up the trail to the tailout above me. Now I had planned on fishing both tailouts that morning and calculated that if I immediately drove to the upper tailout I could already be fishing the water as he got there and still have enough time to beat him to the lower tailout when he turned around and hiked back. And it worked out exactly as I had planned. When he arrived at the upper tailout out I was already there, and when he turned around and hiked back to the lower tailout, I was there again at which point he politely turned around and moved on.

Now technically I suppose I was not in breach of any formal angling ettiquete, I just ace'd him to the holes. But I felt guilty while I was doing it and felt even worse about it for a long time afterward.

There are usually good reasons why we have formal rules of ettiquete, but they can never adequately address all the situations and nuances that one might encounter. When in doubt listen to the little voice inside...

07-20-2002, 11:56 AM
I'd just like to start by making the comment that this type of discussion of ethics is both pleasant and useful as it is respectful of "other" opinions - we should take note and keep it in mind for future application.

As a Canadian I cannot help but be flatterred by the references to our politeness on rivers. While this can definitely be the case, we too have our less than memorable moments. I think that many of the things mentioned are on the right track, Juro's feeling that it is a matter of crowding is undeniable, a new(er) style of not moving by gear-fishers is also true, but I think that Sinktip's supposition that the real problem is a lack of understanding of the the different requirements for use of the water that gear, fly and indicator fishers have is the crux of the matter.

Doublespey refers to the courteous gear guys on the Thompson, surely Brian you can't forget the "fenceposts" at the Nicola. The difference I think is the level of understanding of the needs of flyfishers by those veteran gear guys - that and the fact that they don't feel very threatened by our floating fly lines - is what accounts for their courtesy. Gear guys (or otherwise) with less experience don't "get" the needs of fly-guys and most often just don't understand that their walking into the lower part of a run is in any way offensive, as far as they are concerned they have given the fly-guy plenty of room! This explains the suprised and often angry response a fly-guy gets when he confronts a low-holing gear guy - they are on a different wave length.

I will agree with Sinktip's assesment of BC's attempts to educate new anglers in river etiquitte. However, government pamphlets will not do it alone, fishing clubs, individual anglers and forums such as this one need to take the "bull by the horns" and be pro-active. As well, I think that we as fly-fishers need to take the initiative, we have the most to gain, many of us as former gear fishers have an understanding of both sides and we have a bit of an image problem with run of the mill gear guys re being "elitists".

Personally, I joined a fishing club that may have been the highest profile "gear club" in BC for the past 40 years or so. While my primary objective was to hang out with some of the very best steelhead rods in the world, my secondary purpose was to take a step in the direction of mutual understanding. I think that my involvement with them (and now Dana's as well) has had a positive effect on gear/fly relations on and off the river - and will continue to do so.

I will sum this up by urging those who are concerned with the health and conditions of our sport to stop and consider what they as an individual can do to educate and improve the fishing experience for all concerned.

07-21-2002, 01:12 AM
Gordon, I think you make a great point here:

"Conversely there are a handful of spots on these sames rivers where I KNOW that step casting through the run with the expectation that no one will get in my way is, in a way, a breach of angling ettiquete (or good sense anyway). And why is that? It's because I KNOW that these spots have such a long history of heavy use by gear fishermen that it is silly to expect to have the place to myself, if even for a short period of time."

I think in many cases we fly anglers create our own ethics/etiquette problems by presuming that everyone should adapt to our way of doing things. On many waters "when in Rome" applies and should apply, whether we like it or not.

I think as fly fishers we sometimes believe (whether we like to admit it or not) that we are at the top of the pecking order, or the most "advanced" anglers on the water. In countless conversations with countless anglers I've heard (and have been guilty of uttering variations of it myself once in a while) the evolutionary steps of steelheaders:

1. bait fishing with cheapo gear
2. bait fishing with pricey gear
3. float fishing with artificials
4. gear fishing with spoons
5. fly fishing with indicators
6. fly fishing with sink-tips
7. dry line fishing
8. waking fly fishing
9. dead drift dry fly fishing
10. whatever Harry Lemire is doing this season.

Of course it is always the fly guys having this conversation (and usually the fly guys at levels 7-through-10); the gear guys are usually having a good time chatting about how much fun they're having and whether or not the Leafs will get another run at The Cup this year.

I think we need to spend a great deal of time thinking about and discussing angling ethics/etiquette and respectfully challenging conventional thinking on and off the water in an effort to better enjoy and appreciate the gifts that are rivers and the fish that swim them, and to celebrate and share the fabulous opportunities we have to enjoy our sport. But perhaps more importantly we need to think about and discuss what to me are the real threats to the sport, everything that interferes with, reduces or eliminates wild fish in wild waters. The more time anglers spend arguing amongst themselves about who gets first crack at this run or why fly guys are a bunch of snobs or why bait should be banned, the more time other "user groups" (commercial fishing, industry, forestry companies, etc etc etc) have to ensure that their needs are being addressed while no one speaks for the rivers.

Let's face it: bait bans and indicator fishing and jet boats and dry lines are all pretty much non-issues if there aren't any wild steelhead around.

07-21-2002, 12:29 PM
Bingo, Dana is dead on.

07-22-2002, 11:56 AM
Hey Ryan,

That guy that hooked his fish and then let you in, that sure was an ethical and damn nice thing for him to do. :hehe:

07-23-2002, 01:07 AM
Originally posted by KerryS
Hey Ryan,

That guy that hooked his fish and then let you in, that sure was an ethical and damn nice thing for him to do. :hehe:

Yes it was...and for that, I thank you. :)