Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Stream Etiquette? We Still Do That?

Not to get all nostalgic or anything but there is a point. As a youngster I remember one particular side pond to a rural lake on the edge of Grand Prairie, TX. My dad liked this pond because it was as close as we could get to a sure thing for a long string of “eatin’ size” bluegills. Dad worked a good portion of overtime, far beyond the regular 40 hour week in order to keep us in the chips. On a rare Saturday when he wasn't working we set out just first after light for this little side pond in hopes of a couple hours fishing and s mess of bluegills for supper. On our arrival our hearts sank because there was already someone in his favorite spot.

Being one who didn't suffer disappointment very well I suggested we crowd in next to the other man and catch our fish. Dad explained in details I can’t remember nearly fifty years later but what I do remember is this. On a public piece of water he who gets there first gets the sweet spot. This is what dad called fishing manners. Our options were to wait him out, fish the other pond or pack it in. These days we call it etiquette though I’m not sure the entire fishing community knows what that word means.

Over the past few weeks I've been fishing one of the better known trophy rivers not too far from here. Last year I was able to get up there this time of year and did fairly well. For the most part the people I encountered were quite affable and courteous. This year has been a whole different story, so much so yesterday may well turn out to be my last trip for a while. Over the years I have had the great fortune to fish in 16 different states from Florida to Washington. I can’t even count the number of days spent on the water let alone the hours. Yet in all that time I have never encountered more “river rudeness” than I have on this piece of water.

In four outings I've had three encounters where anglers have come in on the top of a run and started fishing down toward me. One encounter when a man slogged around behind me at a quick pace and started fishing again less than 30 feet away through the run I was working. Last week I had a young fellow shoot past me at a dead sprint so he could set up in the run I was headed to. When I broke through the bank willows to confirm he had taken the run I was after I found him hunched over catching his breath. There was however a moment of pure satisfaction later on when “Usain Bolt” took a dive after hooking a trout that circled around behind him. I did ask if he was alright once I stopped chuckling inside. I know it was naughty but sometimes a guy just has to laugh at karma. As a side note I ended up landing as many trout as I had originally hoped from the riffle and slot just downstream. I just had to rig up a bit differently and change out my fly selection.

I have to ponder what it is that causes some anglers to forego etiquette, any kind of etiquette, when just plain common courtesy should prevail, forget formal stream etiquette. I’m not saying that I've never caused anyone grief on a river but in every case it has been an honest mistake and I go out of my way to apologize. I understand newcomers to the sport making etiquette mistakes but they are easily spotted and I don’t mind giving them a quick overview, and almost always without any four letter words.

The individuals in question here, that really get my goat as the saying goes, all appeared to be angling veterans and in more than one case professional guides with sports in tow. I often wonder if on these famous streams there is more “grip and grin” envy than some people can handle. It is no secret where the sweet spots are on such famous rivers. I suppose envy is just another byproduct of the instant gratification syndrome. You know what I’m talking about, that urge we all fall victim to, it’s human nature. I want it all and I want it now; the expensive rod with a high dollar reel and the perfect fly so I can catch the one fish that will make all my friends jealous. It’s no excuse for river rudeness.

I am pretty sure that the specific culprits of which I speak won’t be reading this but for the rest of us. How about we spread the word. If someone is working a run stay back and see which way they’re going and don’t cut them off. If the urge is too great then at least speak whit the angler working the run. You might be surprised at their response to a few kind, inquisitive words. Personally I can’t ever remember refusing to share a run with someone who asked. If they do agree keep some distance and don’t crowd without being invited. I would have been happy to surrender the run that was invaded yesterday if the fellow would have just asked. That way I could have worked the risers I was working toward before he waded right into them to high-stick them. Seriously if the angler you’re cutting in on can hit you with a 30 foot cast YOU ARE TOO CLOSE!!!!!!!

Rather than confront these “princes” I often just hit the next spot that was on the daily agenda. But there are exceptions and they know who they are when it happens. I have found that a few of them think they own the river because they pay taxes, yes I have heard that one. Seriously? You can have it when I’m done, I pay taxes too you know, we all do!
Then there was the guy who thought I was working the water too slowly. This ain't golf buddy cool your heels. He blazed by upstream at the pace of a guy who had a very short life expectancy. Who knows?
Let me not forget the fellow who came blazing downstream chucking a streamer and worked right up into the space I was casting into. In his defense, a flimsy defense but a defense, he never looked up from what he was doing to spot me even from 30 feet away. When I asked him what he thought he was doing he said “it’s okay we’re not fishing for the same trout!” Whaaaaaaaat? My reply was “No my friend you are wading through the risers I was targeting!”
Anyway, you get the picture.

Don’t get me wrong it hasn't all been bad on this famous river. Quite a few trout have been hooked by yours truly and some have even made it into the net. I also made a very good acquaintance last week and we ended up fishing together for over two hours taking turns on two pods of risers. He was working downstream and I was working up. We stopped at a good separation and discussed the situation. He landed a nice trout on a nymph and shared his set-up with me. I spotted the risers while we were chatting and I shared the pattern of the day with him. All in all it is encounters like this one that keep me from losing my mind on the river. This all happened in a section of the river far away from the “Usain Bolt” incident that same morning.

Okay rant over.

On that Saturday long ago we hit the next pond over. As it turned out we ended up catching nearly as many bluegills that were just as big as we would have expected from the other pond. It was plenty enough for the fish supper dad promised. Go figure.

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