Fly fishing is a sport/art/science that has been practiced and enjoyed for hundreds of years. A variety of manners and customs have evolved to help make the sport more enjoyable for everyone. The following “golden rules” establish the etiquette practiced by most serious anglers:
THOU SHALT NOT ENCROACH UPON THY NEIGHBOR
Every person on the stream ahead of you, upstream or down, has the right to fish the water for a reasonable period of time. The person who was there first has the right of first possession on the stream. If an angler is fishing upstream, he has the right of unimpeded water above him. The same goes for his movement downstream. Cutting in front, hogging the best water, making excessive noise or allowing your dog to jump in the water of another fly fishermen’s pool is strictly prohibited.
THOU SHALT NOT TRASH THE ECOLOGY
Environmentally conscious river runners have a motto: “Leave nothing but footprints.” This applies to fly fishermen as well. Cigarette butts, beer cans and other non-biodegradable material have no place along a pure mountain stream or anywhere else.
THOU SHALT NOT TRASH THE PROPERTY OF OTHERS
Cutting or breaking down fences, driving on pastures where roads don’t exist and cutting trees on private land are all serious offenses that have no place in a fly fisherman’s repertoire. Ask for permission to trespass, close all gates and treat the animals and property with the same respect you would if you were the land owner.
THOU SHALT NOT MISTREAT A TROUT
It is rewarding to see so many fishermen practicing catch-and-release fishing. But some anglers don’t know how to properly release a trout. Once you have quickly, but adequately, played the fish to net, begin by wetting your hands and holding the fish gently as you dislodge the hook. (Using barbless hooks or flattening the barb with pliers in advance makes this job easier.) When you return the fish to water hold him facing upstream so that his gills can re-oxygenate to give him strength. It might take several minutes for a released trout to swim on his own. With careful handling most fish will revive, allowing others to catch them again, even though that particular fish will be a little wiser.
THOU SHALT NOT HOG FISH
Even if regulations state that you may keep a dozen fish, why keep so many? If you need to show your friends how many fish you can catch, put them, along with your ego, in a cooler with doubtful refrigeration for a couple of days and see how good they smell and taste. Trout are a culinary delicacy only when eaten fresh.
If every fisherman practiced these simple steps, we wouldn’t need any other customs, statutes, laws, rules or regulations. So go fishing, but remember the golden rules. Come to Jans and we’ll help you get going!
By Jan Peterson