Two experiences in two days left me with two very different feelings.
I spent a couple of days fishing in North Carolina a couple of weeks ago. A dear friend came in from Colorado and gave me the chance to share some of our eastern rivers. We had two close encounters with other anglers which proved to be lessons in stream etiquette. One a great example of how to share the water, the other not so much.
Stream etiquette is often complained about but seldom taught. What’s expected on the river changes from place to place but there are some simple ideas of respect and tolerance that are universal. If you’re not sure what’s cool and what’s not, I hope these two examples are helpful.
My buddy and I arrive at a favorite piece of water with about an hour and a half of light left. The run is down in a gorge and we inspect it from above before hiking down. There’s no guarantee that it hasn’t been recently fished but no one is there now, so we head to the water. We are both fishing tenkara rods and my buddy is ready to fish but I want to make a fly change before fishing this new spot. I line up across from the first pool and start rigging while my buddy heads to the next pool upstream. Just then another angler rounds the corner and calls out. He has hiked up from down stream and was out of sight when we inspected the water.
To my mind, this is his water. As I see it, any angler already in the water has the right of way. I immediately apologize. I tell him we didn’t see him and will move on. He asks where we’re from, we talk a bit and he asks about the tenkara rod. I insist that he try it. After the briefest possible introduction, he catches his first fish on tenkara. Again, I insist that we will leave and he insists that we stay. Everyone catches fish and we part friends.
The next day my friend and I arrive at a different stream. We park in a pull out on the forest service road and follow a trail about 200 yards to the creek. There is a beautiful bend with an obvious honey hole. My buddy, who is still a fairly new angler, makes a couple of casts and catches a fish but he has questions about his presentation. In order for me to give a little instruction we move about 40 feet downstream, below the run. This way he can practice a few drifts without spoiling the run.
In the middle of our lesson another angler appears, having come down the same trail as us. He asks how we are doing and I tell him we just arrived and haven’t really started fishing yet. He doesn’t reply and feeling sure he will move on, I get back to my lesson. Having spotted the camera around my neck, the the fellow interjects, “My granddaughter is a photographer.”
I will admit that this innocent comment set my teeth to grinding. No one who makes their living with a camera wants to hear about your granddaughter’s photography unless she’s Annie Leibovitz. I respond politely though and return to my lesson. Then the old fellow says, “Well, I’ll just be here fishing,” and when we turn to look he is beating a froth on the water of the honey hole. We rig up our rods and head back to the truck to find new water, a little steam rolling from my ears.
Stream etiquette isn’t rocket science. It really just boils down to showing some respect and taking the time to think about what the other guy is doing. I don’t think the angler in the second story meant to chase us off. I think he was just clueless and self involved. Had he taken the time to ask what our plan was, we could have shared the water just fine. Instead, he saw a choice piece of water and he took it. Never mind that there were two anglers 40 feet away who were clearly working towards the hole.
The best way I could think to handle it was to move on. I guess I could have given the old dude a piece of my mind. But what would that accomplish? He needs to be taught better but I’m not in the habit of teaching unless I’m asked. That’s just condescending and doesn’t usually take. So we left.
To my mind, the proper thing for him to do would be to ask where we planned to fish and then find some water that accommodated us all as best as possible. That’s what I’d have done anyway. Tell us what stream etiquette issues you run into and how you handle them.Louis Cahill Gink & Gasoline www.ginkandgasoline.com email@example.com Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!