What is Proper Fly Fishing Etiquette?

As our streams become more and more crowded, fly fisherman are constantly faced with the ‘etiquette’ dilemma. While some people are simply rude, I don’t believe that it is ok to be rude to another angler simply because “other people did it to me”. It is easy to jump into a crowded stream next to everyone else, but none of us like it very much when we are working are way upstream (or downstream) and another angler jumps right in front of us. I have been asked many times over the years, “What is considered proper etiquette?”

How much space should we allow to other anglers? Should we always enter a stream downstream, or upstream of other anglers? What if the other angler is not moving? What if they are camped out in a hole or a run and they are not moving at all?

I believe that the whole etiquette topic can be summed up with kindness, space and common decency. The only thing that I may add would be related to a problem I have encountered on many trout streams of the west. Many anglers have learned to fly fish using only one technique, be it dry fly fishing or nymph fishing upstream, dry fly or wet fly fishing downstream, streamer fishing, the sawyer method, the brooks method, deep nymphing and the list goes on and on. The problem comes when an angler assumes that other anglers use, or should use the same technique as he or she. I could recite many examples of how having this attitude becomes problematic but I think it is obvious.

My suggestion and the solution that I teach is to simply observe anyone fishing in the vicinity of where I want to fish. Don’t assume that just because you want to fish upstream, they do too. After a small amount of observation, common courtesy will point out the proper course of action to take. And if and when there is any question, don’t be afraid to ask another angler what his intentions are or if it would bother him if you enter a stream in a certain place. I have been asked many times by other anglers, if it is o.k. that they fish near me and it gives me an opportunity to point out where I intend to fish and the result is that everybody is happy. While many of us a can be quite annoyed when someone is discourteous on a stream, most anglers are completely content and unbothered when another angler has the courtesy to ask before he jumps into their water. Incidentally, I have formed several long term friendships with people after conversing briefly in this manner.

Eddie Robinson