At the end of a tough day on the White Clay this past weekend I was pondering the events of the day and I came to three conclusions. 1) This winter has been brutal, these cold temperatures are as harsh as I can ever remember. 2) Those same cold temperatures have made the winter fishing uncharacteristically tough. 3) It is very evident that river etiquette is lost on quite a few people. I would like to share with you two very different scenarios from the same day. Scenario #1; as I pull into lot number three I see two members of the White Clay Fly Fishers gearing up. We say our “hellos”, talk for a bit and proceed to head to the water. They were in the lot first so I ask them what their plan was. After a little discussion they decide to head to a spot below the second bridge. I decided I would head to the upper section and fish the area between the first and second bridges. Through a little friendly communication we ensured that we would not be on top of each other fishing through the same water. I did not see them the rest of the day and hope they had better luck than I. Scenario #2; later in the day I had worked my way into one of my favorite spots and was waiting for the water to calm down from my wading before I started to fish. Before I could start a group of 4 anglers came down and started fishing right on top of me. The one fella was Nymphing downstream and his indicator was drifting right past me. I could have reached down and picked it out of the water. Aggravated, I decided to let them have this spot and I waded out (without saying a word) and moved to another spot down stream. Shortly after I got to this new spot I looked up and the same 4 anglers were coming down the river. Knowing there was no way they effectively fished the spot I had just left them I decided to watch them and see what they do. I was half heartedly drifting my Nymph rig as I watched them move closer and closer. At one point one of them was fishing so close to me I could have literally hit him in the side of the head with my rod, something in my younger days I may have done! As my blood pressure continued to rise and I pondered how to handle this situation.
As our sport becomes more and more popular there seems to be an entire faction of anglers that may not have had the benefit of people to mentor them and teach them the proper way to handle themselves while on the river. Each situation is different with several factors to consider, and I understand that. Here are a few suggestions you may want to consider the next time you head out. Following these simple rules may make the day of you and your fellow anglers more enjoyable.
1) The first person there gets first choice: Just as mentioned in the opening paragraph, it is my belief that if two people are gearing up in the parking lot at the same time they owe it to themselves to communicate. Let the first person decide where they would like to go and then fish somewhere else. It is a big river out there with plenty of spots to fish. Fishing on top of each other will only decrease the odds of both anglers.
2) Give them plenty of room: If you come upon another angler while on the river take a minute and assess the situation. Are they at the end of their run? Are you at the end of yours? Are you both fishing in the same direction or are you going to cross? Who is in the best position to get out and walk around? Again, some simple communication here will go a long way in this situation. As a rule of thumb I always try to give at least 50 yards of river to another fisherman, and I hope the favor is returned.
3) Don’t drop in on somebody: This is probably the most violated of all of the etiquette rules and is the one that will usually draw the ire of most people. Weather a person is working up or down river NEVER jump ahead of them in the same run. I don’t care the situation or the circumstance it is not acceptable to low or high hole a fellow angler, ever! You have two choices here, you can wait a bit and fall in behind them (assuming they are fishing up stream) or you can walk a run or two above them and start to fish. I have seen first hand the kind of confrontation this can cause and it just is not worth it!
4) Use common sense: The reasons we fish can be as varied as the fishermen themselves. On some level we are all out there to have some fun. Nobody wants to deal with drama while on the river, we get enough of that in our day to day lives. Employ a little common sense and conduct yourself with some decorum. I read a quote the other day that I think fits well here “would your Grandmother be proud of the way you are acting right now”? If the answer is no, than you should probably re-think your position.
Back to scenario #2 from the first paragraph. As mentioned I was getting a little upset. Just then the guy that was standing less than nine feet from me asked me about the strike indicator I was using. Well, it turns out all four of these guys are total beginners to the sport. Here I was thinking these were the actions of some brash, cocky individuals that were only looking out for themselves, in reality they just didn’t know. Maybe I should have taken my own advice and communicated with them first, my mistake. We had a nice conversation, I answered a bunch of questions and helped them with some rigging. After we parted ways I was thinking about the many people that have helped me to become a better fly fisher, many of whom I still lean on today. I would be lying if I didn’t think a little part of me may be responsible for these guys sticking with the sport. Helping out a fellow person…that is something my Grandmother would have been proud of. Till next time…