Fishing Etiquette
By Paul Prentiss


Every summer, a large and growing army of fly fishermen begin their advance on the public fishing areas across Colorado.  While the majority of these folks are considerate, a few simply don’t know how to conduct themselves in an appropriate fashion.

Rule number one is: the first person in a given location has the right to fish that spot.  If you want to fish it, you'll simply have to wait.  Trying to nudge him or her out by getting within casting distance is a serious breach of etiquette.  If the individual is not fishing (could be resting the hole) you must ask permission to fish.  On the other hand, don't hog a good spot.  We’ve all seen anglers camp out on a particularly good hole for hours at a time - very bad form.  Even worse, are guides with clients that tag team holes as they work their way down river.

Give each angler plenty of room.  This means several hundred feet if possible.  I’ve had anglers step into the stream so close that I could touch them with my rod!  If someone is working up-stream towards a good lie never ever step in front of them.  I've had this happen and it's the height of rudeness.  If an angler is moving upstream and you’re working downstream, he or she has the right of way.  Retire from the water and circle around.

Walking down along a bank someone is fishing towards is comparable to throwing a rock in water in front of them.  Moreover, never enter the water on a small river or stream directly across from another angler.

No one likes to fish where the water has just been disturbed by another fisherman, so leave some unspoiled water between you and the other angler before entering the water. The distance is a function of the number of fishermen on the water.

An angler always has the right of way when they have a fish on.  If the fisherman has to move into your area, reel in your line and try to stay out of the way.  I always ask if I can help or take a picture which I’ll send to him in the future.

Trespassing on private property is not only expensive, but gives all fishermen a black eye.  When in doubt ask!  On the other hand, if you’re positive that you're on public property, stand up for your rights.  When confronted I’ll offer to go back to my vehicle where we both can look at a map of the area that identifies the public property and/or I’ll suggest that we jointly call the sheriff’s office.

Boating etiquette prior to or after fishing needs attention.  When it’s your turn to launch your drift boat or raft, do it as quickly as possible.  The boat ramp is no place to practice backing up a trailer.  After getting your boat in the water move it away from the ramp and move the trailer to the parking lot.

Never wade or maneuver a boat through a spot other fishermen are working.  Circle around, get behind them, move to the far side of the river, or wait.  If possible, limit your oar use as you pass an angler. Under no circumstances should you cast into any spots just upstream from them.

If you have rented a boat and are not responsible for loading and taking the craft out of the water, always move the craft down-stream from the ramp then tie or anchor the craft, out of the way of ramp users.

When you start a float trip, try to space yourself out evenly from other boats. Slow down if you’re getting too close or speed up to put a little space between the boats that may be behind you.

Etiquette on the stream is a simple thing to do and it makes your experience and that of others more enjoyable.