We are fortunate to get to take out a lot of individuals and groups who are new to fly fishing. We love this opportunity as we get to help them explore an activity that we have a great passion for. There is a great deal to learn when starting out, so while learning the basics of casting, fly selection, and hooking is important to the fishing process, we also try to impart some of social aspects of fishing as well.
Fishing etiquette may sound silly to some, but to any fly fisherman out there who have had their long-awaited trip interrupted by someone who lacks this sense of courtesy, they know full well the importance of this knowledge. It seems like anyone who has fished long enough generally has a story about this.
So what does fishing etiquette entail?
- Give others space. If you approach another fisherman on the stream, try to respect the fact that they want their solitude. Often a knowing short greeting or simple nod and smile will suffice. If they want to converse, they will.
- Do not fish directly up stream or down stream of them. Continue to walk upstream or down and find another place. You can always come back. Fishing directly above or below could spook the fish they are working on, and honestly- they were there first. We recently took our Fly Fishing Club on their trip. While working with a young man on a particularly nice run, another fisherman approached on the opposite side and began to fish our run. The man apparently had no idea that this was wrong, and in fact started talking to us while throwing his line over the top of ours. I instructed my student to reel in, and we had a great conversation later about what not to do. A teachable moment on the stream.
- Pack out all trash. This includes line and strike indicators. Leave only footprints. In Iowa, we are lucky enough to fish private land where they permit public fishing. Don’t do do anything that jeopardizes that.
- Pay it forward by offering to help someone that looks like they may need it, and I am speaking more in a physical sense- climbing a slippery bank, safely crossing a fence, making a stream crossing. Fly fisherman are generally a generous community and will come to the aid of others, but don’t assume that someone wants your help, especially when it comes to technique.
It really comes down to common sense and the golden rule while out on the stream. Respect one another and the land that you are privileged to fish and everyone wins.