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Read Learn What Trout Really Eat by Michael McAuliffe in Kype Magazine

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Stream Etiquette

Over the past thirty years I have had the good fortune to share many of our nation’s best rivers as a catch and release fly fisherman. In that time, I have encountered all manner of fishermen.  Most are a pleasure; a few would do well to read this document.

We all need to take personal responsibility for our actions. This is especially true when the topic is our precious natural resources and the time we are afforded in enjoying them. Outlined below you will find general guidelines designed for just that purpose.

Before You Fish

Check local Fish and Game Regulations. Make sure that you are fishing with the proper license/permit/stamps, during the allowed times and seasons, with legal tackle, and targeting permitted species. Ignorance of the law will not get you out of a summons.


Do not spread invasive species. Some rivers have harmful species of snails, algae, and organisms that can be spread by anglers. Check with Local fly shops or fish and wildlife services to see if any special precautions need to be taken to protect the environment.

Make sure you are parking in an approved area. Never park on anyone's lawn or block roads, driveways, or train tracks. Nothing will spoil a day of fishing quite like an expensive ticket or long walk to the tow yard.

Be respectful of any local homeowners. Many public parking areas for fishing access are close to homes. Keep noise to a minimum especially near dawn and dusk. Beyond not littering, remove any other trash you see. Garbage and litter remove the scenic value of an area and will harm the eco-system. These parking areas are not bathrooms! If the homeowners are not happy with the conduct of fishermen they will complain about it. If they have valid complaints, your favorite parking access could be closed.

Conservation for future generations. Consider responsible catch and release practices. I have not harvested a Trout since the age of 14. A single barb less hook is more than enough to catch a Trout. There is no need to use barbed treble hooks considering the size of a Trout’s mouth. If you are trout fishing in the warm summer months, make sure that the water temperature is less than 70 degrees. The Trout may seem unharmed when released, only to die later from lack of oxygen and lactic acid build up.


Navigating the Water

Do not fish where you are not welcome. Avoid private and posted property at all costs. If you really want to fish posted areas, find out who owns it and attempt to secure permission. Offer to do some trash removal while fishing. For the cost of a trash bag and a little sweat, you may gain access to some great fishing.

Respect the streambed. Walk next to the stream, rather than in it, when moving between areas you plan to fish. The streambed is fragile ecosystem that will be negatively impacted by careless steps. Wading in the wrong place at the wrong time can harm trout eggs and fry, insect populations, and weed beds. When these are harmed fish populations suffer.

Do not go swimming. When you are wading, do so carefully, and with the proper gear. Polarized sunglass will help you see the bottom and where you are about to step. A wading staff and good wading boots will help you to stay vertical. If the water seems to fast or deep err on the side of caution.


Encountering Other Fishermen

Give them a wide birth. When I say this I am referring to anglers and fish. Walking too close to the water can spook fish and ruin an angler’s day. Walk quietly a few yards away from the stream. This will keep your shadow from scaring away fish. If you are crossing the river near another angler, do so courteously. Find a safe spot a few hundred feet above or below the person fishing. While crossing step lightly and quietly so as not to disturb the spot.

Assess the situation. When you see another angler fishing in or near where you want to fish, ascertain what they are doing. If the angler is moving down or upstream as they fish, do not enter the water right in their path. If the angler is on the bank or appears to not be fishing, do not assume you can walk in to the spot. They may be resting the water or engaged in observation.

Possession is nine tenths of the law. If someone is not moving up or downstream, and is already in the spot you want to fish, they have the right to continue to fish it unmolested. If the spot is large enough to reasonably accommodate more than one angler, try asking if they mind some company. Many long standing friendships have been made this way. If they say you may join them, still respect their space. Give the existing angler a few casts worth of space.

Yield to the upstream angler. If you are already fishing your way downstream and encounter an angler fishing their way upstream, they have the right of way. When you get within a few casts distance slide to the bank and let them pass or trade places with them. If you are the upstream angler, you have the right of way.

Fish on means lines out. If you are sharing the water with another angler who has a fish on, pull in your line. If the other angler needs to travel up or downstream to land the fish you should get out of their way. When an angler travels while fighting a fish, their absence does not grant you the right to move in to their spot! They should be able to resume fishing the same water after hopefully landing the fish. If the angler is having difficulty landing a nice fish, ask if you can help.

Locals Rule. These are general rules pertaining to wade fly fishing for Trout. Salmon and Steelhead fishing have a completely different set of rules. These are also different sometimes based on location. When in Rome…


Take it easy.

Colorful language. This is unnecessary, especially around children.

Remember where you came from. Be tolerant of the inexperienced angler. Remember we were all beginners once. If someone asks for help, take a moment and impart some of the knowledge you were fortunate enough to receive.

Have Fun. Because that is what it is all about.