Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ethics on the Water

If you saw someone fishing like this would you run downstream and jump in the pool just below him?
If there is one thing that drives me crazy about other anglers is a lack of ethics when on the water. Some of it is just from a lack of awareness of the impact you can have on other people that are fishing in the area but some of it is just plain rudeness.
Big wide open river- don't crowd people!

Let me give you an example of a total lack of ethics that I ran into last year. I had three clients out on a trout stream in October but just a couple of days before we had a massive storm front that rolled through and blew out all of the rivers. Things were returning to normal slowly but there wasn’t a lot of water to put these gentlemen on- the bigger rivers were way too high and dangerous to put anyone on. We had found a decent spot that does produce pretty well. It was also right next to the road which was pretty important because one of these guys was a bit older and less than steady on his feet. I got these guys set up spread out along a good stretch with some water downstream that I planned on moving them into after we worked what we were on. Seemed like a fantastic plan.

A car pulls up and parks right in front of our vehicles. Two guys get out and gear up. I thought that it was pretty obvious that I was guiding three people. I didn’t have a rod in my hands and I was walking back and forth between my three sports checking on them. They started down to the river in front of us. They had some trouble getting down the bank and turned around. I kept my eyes on them as they headed downstream. I could not believe what I was seeing. Not 5 minutes later one of these two guys was about 25 feet from one of my clients fishing.  I wasn’t going to tolerate this so I confronted them. I called them out on what they were doing.
The response was “We are just going to take a couple of casts”. I told them that I was guiding clients and it was rude to jump in like that. “What’s the big deal man?”.  Clueless. Absolutely clueless.
Oak Orchard Creek- lots of people and the ethics are lacking

This is not an unusual occurrence unfortunately. I have quite a few other stories just like this one. Now if I pull up to a spot that I want to fish and find a couple of cars already there I move on. If I look into the stream and I see 4 guys there, I am definitely not going to fish there. The last thing I want to do is to fish on a small stream with a pile of other guys. It is really not too appealing to me and I don’t know how it is appealing to anyone else. There are exceptions of course- like fishing for migratory fish on Lake Ontario tributaries- but even when I fish those I walk and try to get away from all the people. Plenty of bad ethics stories there.

Please, if you are new fly fishing or fishing in general, spend a little time and read a bit about on stream ethics. It will really help you understand why you can really ruin someone’s day. Now, I have to admit that I am not much of a traditional angler myself- upstream dry fly only fly fishing makes no sense to me. But, I get the need for a code of ethics and the reasoning behind it
Take a gander at the code of ethics from the Federation of Fly Fishers:  It definitely gives some good guide lines for ethics and ones that make clear sense. There are plenty of other places you can find them too (even in state rule books if you take the time to look at them). 

I’m not going to make this rant any longer than it needs to be. Ultimately what it all boils down to is this: respect other anglers and respect the environment.  Makes sense to me, does it to you?


  1. I luckly have not had many bad stuff like this, mostly I fished on private land with permission. So normally I was usually the only one there other than cows

  2. My biggest bitch is guys driving 5 feet past you at full speed in a boat when wade fishing. Ignore the fact that the river is 100 feet across and they could have gladly gone out of my way a bit. They are the reason we are not allowed to carry fire arms.

  3. Thanks Drew, someone had to speak out.
    During the migratory runs I'd rather be a spectator of the "circus" than part of the spectacle.