Like it or not, unless you’re one of the lucky few anglers who have access to private water year-round or hike endlessly into the wilderness, fishing with other people around is a reality we all have to deal with. Most anglers believe that especially in fly fishing there should be some river etiquette involved when you are fishing around others, but you should consider going a step beyond just being polite and make an effort to pay-it-forward on the water this year and stack up some fish karma for the season to come.
#1 – Fill Your Net with Litter You Find
Whether it’s your trash or someone else’s, we all carry a nifty little trash carrier to help clean our streams and reduce our impact on the waters we love. My friends and I always try to pack out at least a net full of litter we find on our hike out of our fishing spots, this way we know they will be cleaner for the next time we make an appearance and more pristine for whoever discovers it next.
#2 – Net a Fish For Somebody
We’ve all been there, big fish on the line, pulling drag and you’re wondering how in the world you’re going to land that fish. Netting a fish is sometimes the trickiest part of the fight, and one of the easiest ways to break a fish off. Help out the anglers fishing the section of water you are and net a fish for them. Not only do you shorten the length of the fight for the fish (this will improve the fish’s chances for survival after it’s released), but you also get to share in the glory and celebration with your new fishing buddy!
#3 – Give Someone a Fly That Will Work
When I had just begun fly fishing, probably around age 10 or 12, my dad and I hopped in the car to catch an infamous hatch on our favorite creek. This was going to be my first time fishing the hatch, I had a few flies picked out that I figured would match the hatch, and my dad and I started fishing into dusk. As darkness fell, and the hatch reached its crescendo, so did my frustration, none of the flies I had were getting any attention, fish were rising all around it but none would take my fly. An older angler fishing about 20 feet below me noticed my frustration and waded up beside me. He pulled a fly from his pack explaining that this is the only fly he fishes during the hatch and hands me a couple for my fly patch. I tie one on and Bam! fish on. Everybody on the water should be like that guy, if you see a new angler struggling to hook fish and you are landing fish, take a minute and ask them if they want some help, or give them a fly, a nod and be on your way.
#4 – Share a Productive Fishing Spot With Someone New to Fly Fishing
Now I hope you read that right, not “give away your honey hole”, just share a fishy spot with someone new to the sport. The best way to encourage and get someone excited about fishing is actually catching fish, and some people may not know where the fish are. Take, for instance, a young person who has only ever fly fished in a farm pond for panfish and bass, they won’t know how or where to find trout in a creek. This is a perfect opportunity to share a fun place to fish and to help expose that person to a new location to fall in love with fly fishing.