Stream Etiquette: How Much Should We Be Involved?


The issue of how anglers treat each other when they’re on the water can sometimes have as much impact on “quality fishing experiences” as things like the health of rivers and lakes in the first place.  And this problem pops up everywhere, from the crowded tailwaters to the wild grayling streams of Alaska.  It’s one thing to lead an effort to respect the resources–and TU is no doubt the vanguard in doing so for anglers–but I’m wondering aloud whether we should also voice an opinion in TROUT magazine and otherwise about the issue of stream etiquette.

I put down some thoughts on the matter earlier today over at the Fly Talk blog at  To me, this issue all boils down to common sense, and doing unto others as you’d have them do unto you.  Still, you’d be surprised how many hoppin’-mad letters and emails I get from people who have seen bad encounters on the river.  They usually roll in this time of year, at the end of the summer, when the season’s winding down, the guides are tired and cranky, and yet the pressure on many streams has reached a seasonal high.

I do think that guides bear the responsibility of taking extra steps to make sure everyone’s space is respected.  But I also think that standard should apply to veteran anglers who fish on their own.

If you see something you don’t like, fix it.  Politely.  Cordially.  The expert should yield to the novice, and accept novice mistakes.  Sure, if you’re on “the spot” and somebody else bounds into the river directly upstream from you, that’s a foul.  All I’m saying is that there are good ways and bad ways to deal with these situations.  In some cases, when you have plenty of experience and a solid plan B, maybe it’s just best to avoid conflict and move on.

And in many situations, the onus is on us anglers to ask questions, and tell others what we plan to do (where we plan to fish) to avoid conflicts in the first place.

There’s a lot of water out there.  And thankfully, many fish swimming in that water.  The better you are, the more adept you become at working around challenges.  Still, there should be some general guidelines on stream etiquette that are understood and embraced by all… from newbies to old timers… and especially the guides.

I think the best stream etiquette starts with pure respect of the river, the fish, and so forth.  But I wonder how much those things must be clearly articulated, how much should be implied, and what TROUT magazine’s role might be in furthering the cause, in either regard.  I am eager to read your responses.

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