Eye of the Guide


Tom Travis - Jul 1, 2013

Sysadmin Note
Part 7 can be found here



The subject that I am about to cover, is not sexy; and it will not help to better understand the trout. However, it may impart the knowledge that will allow you to enjoy your days on the trout stream more completely. To me, fly fishing is fun and I do not care for those few individual who display bad manner and loud poor talk on a trout stream that I am fishing. However, it is possible that these boorish individual have never been educated in the proper etiquette and manner to be used on the trout streams of the world. Therefore I wish to share the following information.

In the year 1496, "Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle" was published; the author was Dame Juliana Berners. That was the accepted beginnings of fly fishing literature as we know it today. Since that time thousands of volumes have been published dealing with the various subjects which covers fly fishing. Also, there have been millions of newspaper and magazine articles published dealing with this same subject, fly fishing.

Therefore, a logical person might assume that all areas of fly fishing have been thoroughly covered. But alas, that is not the case. Most of the magazines and books published in recent years have neglected to cover the subject of fly fishing etiquette!

YNP part 7

Unless you are extremely wealthy and can afford to buy your own stream, you are generally sharing the water you fish with other anglers. Now, I have had the great good fortune of making my home in Livingston, Montana, where I have been guiding and fishing the area waters for over thirty-five years. Within a two hundred and fifty mile circle of Livingston are some of the finest wild trout fishing to be found in the world. Yet seldom, am I the lone angler or guide on the water. In my role as a teaching guide I have often been asked; "What is the acceptable procedure for sharing the water with other anglers?" And "What should I do or say to those individuals who are rude or crowd in to close to?" The first question is fairly easy to answer. Fly Fishing Etiquette is simply nothing more than common sense and the best way to define etiquette is: "Do unto others as you would have then do unto you."

In Webster's New World Dictionary the word Etiquette is defined as follows: "The forms, manners and ceremonies established by convention as acceptable or required in society or in a profession". After reading this definition you would think that fly fishers would have no problems with each other, that acceptable manners come very natural to most fly fishers and therefore seldom would there be any clash between them. However, there are those few who either by deeds, words or both show that they have no manners or common sense, thus creating problems for themselves and the anglers around them.

Sometime anglers who feel that their space has been invaded cause problems by yelling and swearing at the offender. Me, I don't do that and feel that it accomplishs nothing positive. I will, offer to explain what fly fishing etiquette is and how it works.
Sometime, when being crowded, I will walk up to the individual, extended my hand and softly say; "Hi, my name is Tom, if we are going to be fishing this close together, I thought I should introduce myself." Mostly I get a handshake, an apology, and room to fish in.

I would also like to caution anglers about yelling at someone who is crowding them, on some eastern streams, which see a lot more anglers than we do in the west, 100 to 150 feet is an acceptable distance. Some anglers in the west would feel that 100 yards would be to close. However, let us be realistic and learn how to be polite and share the water with others.

For the wading fly fisher most problems can be avoided if we use common sense and make an honest attempt at being courteous. Here are a few simple rules that work for me.

1. If you are fishing downstream, yield the right-of-way to the angler fishing upstream.

2. When you are fishing along a stream and chance upon another angler, get out and move around the angler, giving plenty of room so you don't spook the trout.

3. Never crowd anyone. Other anglers have the right to their own space without someone edging in on them. If you're not sure, ask!!

4. If you encounter an angler who appears to be sitting on the bank resting or watching an area, be kind enough not to jump in and start fishing. Also, you might ask, so you can move around the angler without spooking the trout being rested.

5. Don't trespass or litter and treat all property and streams with care. If a gate is closed, make sure you keep it that way. Don't build unauthorized fires. Obey all rules set by the landowner that allow you on their land to fish.

The angler that uses a boat to fish faces some other problems that must be considered.

Editor's Note
Except on lakes and ponds there is no floating allowed in Yellowstone National Park

6. Never float over the water a wading angler is working. If the river is narrow, stop the boat and ask where you can pass so as to not disturb the trout being worked.

7. Remember that being in a boat doesn't give you any special right and simple courtesy to other anglers who are floating or wading will make for a more enjoyable day for everyone.

8. Don't race your boat to beat someone to a spot. If that is the ONLY spot to fish, try another river.

9. Always be aware of the other anglers in your area regardless of whether they are wading or floating. This will keep you from crowding someone.

10. Never yell at other anglers because they may be fishing a method different from yours. With this I am not just talking about those who may be fishing with lures or bait. I am also referring to certain individuals who believe that their fly fishing method is the only fly fishing method. In history the most famous example is the battle between the dry fly anglers and those who were fishing nymphs. A few years ago I watch battles between anglers over the use of strike indicators.

11. When fishing on the water, lower your voice, the stranger upstream may not enjoy your conversation.

12. Know the fishing laws of the stream you are fishing.

These are the rules I operate under, regardless of whether I am fishing or guiding. I have never had a problem that could not be dealt with in an easy and peaceful manner without resorting to yelling or other poor actions. I could list rules for the still water angler or those who fish the shorelines of ponds, lakes or even the beaches of the oceans. But, I think with a little common sense and courtesy it is easy to figure out those situations. For those of us who are long time fly fishers it is our responsibility to educate the new angler to the etiquette of fly fishing. It we do not, the sport of fly fishing will pay the price.

I have heard other anglers say that they don't fish certain rivers because of the crowds, which is a choice that each angler must make as an individual; however I never let the number anglers or boats stop me from enjoying the day on the river.

YNP part 7

Remember that fly fishing is supposed to be fun and I will not let anyone destroy my enjoyment. You must realize that you will be sharing the waters with other anglers and not all of them are going to have good manners. However, some of them are new anglers and no one has explained what good manner are on the trout stream and the others, well all I can say is it not a perfect world so don't expect everyone you meet on the water to be perfect. When fishing in the Park you also have many people who are not there to fish and don't realize that they should give you room and will often walk right up to where you are fishing and occasionally spook the trout you are working, be calm and tolerant. Yelling at the wildlife watchers will gain you nothing expect a possible reprimand from a Park Ranger.

Enjoy & Good Fishin'

Sysadmin Note
Part 9 can be found here


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