Fly fishing can be an intimidating sport to get into due to things such as the different techniques, proper equipment and the often times forgotten – fly fishing etiquette. Many people become acquainted with the sport through a guide or friend, which in our minds helps decrease the learning curve. It should, and we say should because not all guides take this as seriously as they need to, but they should teach you the base level of etiquette along with how to fish. In certain ways, fly fishing is similar to golf in that it’s a gentleman’s or woman’s sport. Therefore, while you’re out to have fun, escape the chaos in your life and catch as many fish as you can, you need to take the other anglers into consideration, because at the end of the day, they are looking to achieve the same thing as you. We’ve outlined some basic etiquette tips to keep in mind while you’re on the river.
Respect space: Colorado is becoming more populated by the day and the fly fishing industry is growing at a remarkable rate. So, unless you’ve found a secret creek or river, the odds are you’re going to come in contact with other anglers. Coming across another angler doesn’t mean you need to pack up and leave, but it does mean you should respect their space. The best thing to do is to start down river of the angler. If you find yourself working your way closer, it’s courteous to approach the angler and ask their intentions. If they plan to keep moving upstream, ask them if they mind you jumping upstream from them. In most cases, they will say yes and at this point, you should try to move roughly 150 feet up river from them. If there is a fishy hole that you think they are working their way up to, move past it and allow them to complete their progression to the hole.
Eliminate disturbances: This guideline falls in line with the first point. If you pass an angler to fish upstream of them, do your best to not spook the fish they are currently or eventually going to target. This means keeping a reasonable distance from the bank to not cast your shadow over fish and refrain from wading unless you are a good distance from the other angler. Nothing is more frustrating than another angler stomping through the run you were planning to fish.
Speak softly: The degree to which trout can hear you is debated and may vary depending on the calmness of the water. When we fish with friends, we try to keep our voices at a level only they can hear.
Don’t leave trash: This guideline is plain and simple – if you bring food or drinks to the river, put the trash away in your pack. We love fishing with some river beers and we always make a point to buy cans rather than bottles. They compress nicely and don’t break.
Keep your dogs on a leash: We love fishing with our dogs as well as meeting new four legged friends on the water. With that said, if you’re going to turn your dog into a fishing buddy, make sure they are well behaved. If they are happy sitting by your side on the bank, great, but if they’re not, make sure to keep them on the leash so they don’t disturb the other anglers or fish.
Keep your cool: We’ve all had encounters with anglers that stomp through our section of the river or fish too close us. This can be incredibly frustrating and may drive you to flip them the bird or yell, but we encourage you stay cool and approach them calmly about the situation. More often than not, they aren’t aware of what they are doing or how it is negatively impacting your experience. So instead of cursing at them, pass along your etiquette knowledge and hopefully they apply it in the future.