The Importance of Manners
The sun was shining, the sky was a deep azure blue, the surrounding
mountains gleamed brightly with their mantle of late winter snow that
still clung to their highest peaks, a soft summer breeze rippled
through the meadow grass, the trout were rising, and life was good.
By Neil M. Travis, Montana
An hour of careful observation had resulted in the location of a
good trout rising along the bank just below a tuft of meadow grass
perched precariously on the shoreline. The water was thin, and the
angler knew that the trout felt very vulnerable and extreme caution
was necessary if success was to be realized. It took nearly another
thirty minutes to cautiously wade into position in order to obtain
the proper casting angle, and several more minutes of observation
to determine the timing of each rise. The angler prepared to make
his first cast when, to his horror; he saw a group of anglers
approaching along the bank. They were chatting among themselves,
and either completely oblivious to his presence or ignorant of the
fact that he might be working a fish rising along the bank. The angler
knew that if he attempted to wave them off that he would spook the
trout so he tried to call out to them, but they merely waved and
continued walking. With a thrust of his tail the large brown
streaked from the bank as the tread of the approaching anglers
announced their presence far in advance of their appearance.
"How's fishing?" inquired one of the anglers as they marched passed.
"It was good" he replied, thinking to himself, until you came.
The group continued on down the bank and out of sight apparently
completely unaware of what a breach of angling etiquette that
they had just committed.
Angling etiquette has always been an important aspect of angling
practice, but on today's increasingly crowded waters it has assumed
a far greater importance. When I was growing up trout stream etiquette
was something that you learned from your elders, but many of today's
anglers did not grow up with an angling tradition as part of their
upbringing. In addition, many younger anglers view angling as a
competitive sport and that changes everything.
The rules of angling etiquette are really quite simple, and the
first rule is simply to be observant. Simply being observant and
aware of other anglers can help avoid most conflicts.
First in time is first in right is an old maxim of jurisprudence
I learned long before I became a judge. Applied to angling it
simply means that the guy that arrived first has the right to
fish the water without interference. Unless they are part of
your group, an old friend, or they invite you to share the water
they deserve to be allowed the freedom to fish the water without
your interference. Don't walk down the bank near where they are
fishing, and if you cannot easily get passed them either wait
until they are finished or go elsewhere.
Anglers who are wading upstream have the right of way over
anglers wading downstream. Never intentionally wade into water
directly above another angler when they are fishing their way upstream.
If you see an angler sitting on bank they may be resting the
water or waiting for the hatch or a particular fish to show.
The wading angler upon encountering such a person should exit
the stream and detour far enough around them to avoid disturbing
the water that they are watching.
Don't assume that everyone you encounter wants to carry on
an animated conversation with a perfect stranger. A nod of the
head or a wave of the hand will usually suffice to acknowledge
another angler's presence.
If you are floating remember you can cover miles of river
in a short period of time while the wading angler is limited to
a relatively short stretch of water. Don't float through the
water where they are fishing unless it is impossible to do
otherwise. If it is not possible to avoid floating through
their fishing water do so quickly and don't continue casting
while you float through. Likewise give other floating anglers
the courtesy of staying far enough behind them to allow them
to fish the water. When passing other floaters do so quickly,
and pull far enough ahead to give them ample room to continue
fishing without interference.
On large western rivers when fishing for steelhead or salmon
anglers will often share a large pool or long run by rotating
through the pool in an orderly fashion. An angler will start
at the head of the pool or run and slowly work their way
downstream. When the first angler has worked downstream a
sufficient distance the next angler begins to fish his way
downstream. When the first angler has fished his way through
he will exit the stream and walk back to the beginning and
repeat the process. In this way a number of anglers can fish
a given stretch of water without interfering with their fellow
anglers. If you encounter such a situation be certain that you
wait your turn before you barge in.
An angler who is fighting a fish has the exclusive right of
way to fight their fish, and all other anglers in the immediate
vicinity should get out of the way without delay. Don't presume
that an angler fighting a fish will welcome your help in landing
it. Stay out of the way unless they request your assistance.
Mostly it's just common sense, but unfortunately common sense
doesn't seem to be common. Just do unto others as you would
like to have them do to you, and your time on the stream will
be much more pleasant for you and everyone else.
The sun is shining, the sky is a deep azure blue, the surrounding
mountains gleam brightly with their mantle of late winter snow
that still clings to their highest peaks, a soft summer breeze
ripples through the meadow grass, the trout are rising, and
life is good. ~ Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona
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