January 24th, 2000

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Common Courtesy

By Certified Trout Bum

I know that most fly fishers are a courteous bunch, I've witnessed this many times, but on a recent trip to Arkansas I was astounded by the lack of it! I want to make three references to things that I either saw or actually fell victim to on the North Fork of the White at the end of the year. I will say that 99% of the people I met there were very friendly and I spent as much time socializing as I did fishing, but it's that other one percent I want to harp on today.

The first thing I was just witness too, but it was very perturbing and made me wonder where this guy left his common sense. I was sitting on the bank watching a gentleman fish midges to rising Cutts (Cutthroat Trout). He had landed two already and was fishing to a third. I was watching trying to learn something and I learned something I wasn't expecting. The gentleman I watched hooked into another Cutt and was playing it well when from downstream came a eager Rottweiler!

The owner was yelling to no avail as the dog ran in. The dog caught the line and soon after the fish was lost. The owner apologized profusely and to the credit of the fisher I was watching he didn't lose his temper. I'm sure I would have been raging not only was the fish lost but the hole was spooked.

Now don't get me wrong I love dogs and even shared lunch with another dog on the stream the very next day. The main difference was this dog was well heeled and sat quietly on the bank while her owner fished. I'm saying that if a dog isn't trained to obey, at least leash the creature, or better yet leave it at home. This dog wasn't through because not ten minutes later I saw it and another dog fighting, both owners screaming and several onlookers just shaking their heads.

I think Old Rupe is right about carrying a sidearm, not for would be thieves, but for loosed and dangerous animals. I'm kidding of course but please if your dog isn't trained then leave it at home before it gets you into trouble.

The second common courtesy is just good manners.

I was the victim (if that word isn't too dramatic) of this lack of discretion. I made every effort to get into a cast position on a little piece of water that looked good. It took me over 15 minutes just to get ready for my first cast and my effort payed off with a couple nice browns. This attracted the attention of another angler who without even a wave walked up and began fishing the same hole. I don't mind sharing a good hole, but he didn't ask first.

Second, he waded right in on the other side casting his shadow across the pool. The last thing he did was just wade right in making too much noise and spooking the fish. I saw three fish head south when he came up.

Now I didn't own the water, but I felt like I had been stolen from. I made some nasty comments to the intruder then made a bad cast purposely and left. While my behavior wasn't much better, I was just a little put off.

If he had used any sense of courtesy he would have asked if I minded. I do ask, only takes a second and most people appreciate the thought. While this isn't the first time this has happened it was a 'first' by someone carrying a fly rod. This situation is similar to the next incident.

The idea of being situationally aware comes to mind as I think about this breach of etiquette. I'm talking about moving past another fisher person so as not to spook his fish. I noticed in Arkansas that even the thinnest water seemed to hold fish, so once you stepped in the water you spooked fish.

While it sometimes couldn't be helped, I also noticed people just wading through without even looking to see if they were spooking fish that others were fishing. What I do in these situation is to wait until I can make contact with the other fisher - then ask where he would like me to cross. I know from experience that most really don't seem to care, but if at all possible try this. I try to avoid crossing until I have to, but as anyone who has fished the fork will tell you it's not always possible.

Another thing is to cross downstream from others so as not to dirty up the water, however in Arkansas they may not care because your crossing dislodges scuds and sowbugs that create feeding frenzies.

While my trip to Arkansas was great, these little things stuck out as much as the good things. I plan more trips there in the future and hope that all of you get the opportunity to go as it is incredible.

Just remember that courtesy is something you share and like the ripple effect it spreads. Good luck and God bless. ~ Certified Trout Bum

Publishers Note: If you are unsure of Stream Etiquette, or don't know such a thing exists, read Fly-Fishing Ethics. ~ DB

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