OK. At the time of this writing, I am sitting at my in-laws computer in western Ohio. The air temp outside is hovering around 25 degrees. The wind is blowing somewhere around 20 miles an hour which means the windchill compensated temperature feels like about 11 degrees Farhenheit.
Most of you already know I am a SoCal boy born and bred. Though the sun is finally shining, the world on the other side of the double insulated glass is … shall we say, stinkin’ cold and disorienting to a guy like me.
The sun is out, it should mean shirt sleeves and wet wading, right?
Between the in-laws house and the hotel where my beautiful bride and I are staying there are several small, interesting rivers. As we drove over them today, I glanced at the dark, swirling waters and my thoughts were not of potential Trout nestled up in the eddies and holes behind the bridge abutments but rather, images of Clarence, the angel character from the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, flashed in my mind. Instead of picturing myself landing a massive Brown Trout, all I could see in that brief instant was me in water-filled waders flailing helplessly, screaming for help and hoping that a man of George Bailey-like character was nearby.
It was a sobering image.
After a hardy Ohio style breakfast of eggs and bacon (yeah, I know, but it is Thanksgiving weekend) complete with ketchup (appearantly there are only three spices in Ohio kitchens: salt, pepper and ketchup) I felt a little better and went outside in an effort to come to grips with this new-to-me phenomenom called stinkin’ cold.
I was doing alright until I ventured over to my father-in-law’s pond and saw his fish swimming beneath a sheet of clear ice.
I retreated back into the family home, grabbed the biggest cup of hot, black coffee I could wrap my numbed fingers around, waited for my earlobes to regain feeling and sat down in the comfort of the computer room.
Whilst thawing, I came across an interesting article written by a fly fishin’ Buckeye (that’s how folks from Ohio refer to themselves) which included a nice summary of fly fishin’ etiquette.
After noting the condition of my sister-in-law returning from her Black Friday pre-dawn shopping raid (rural America can be brutal), it seemed only appropriate to pass along such a timely article on the fundamentals of human behavior as it relates to our chosen passion.
Now I realize that this set of guidelines doesn’t include tips on what to do in the urban setting like what to do if you stumble across a drug deal or how to safely skirt a cultic altar or how to disguise your car to look like a homeless encampment rather than a mode of transportation but it is a useful set of rules that we, as fly folks should always strive to practice.
So, with that in mind
By The Fly Fish Ohio Curmudgeon-in-Residence
Below are some of the traditional rules of stream etiquette:
1. When wading a stream, the fisherman wading upstream has the right of way. If you are fishing downstream and approach a fisherman coming upstream, get out before you kick up lots of mud (about 100 yds upstream) and spoil his fishing. Walk around and get in well below him. If the density of stream side vegetation or local laws make it impossible to go around, ask him which bank he would like you to wade by him on and stay as close to the bank as possible. Reel in and DO NOT cast to a rising fish in his vicinity.
2. If a fisherman is sitting on a log or standing near the bank in front of your favorite hole, he is resting it and it is his to fish. Suffer in silence and move on!
3. Don’t trespass. If there is no easement along the stream, don’t get out and walk through some farmer’s field for a short cut! Morons who behave like this cause the rest of us to lose fishing rights.
4. Don’t litter (cans, candy wrappers, tippet material, etc). If you can, pick up other peoples litter that you find and carry it with you.
5. Don’t be a kiss and tell fisherman. If someone reveals a secret spot to you, do not reveal it to anyone without his permission. If you find a great spot, only reveal it to a limited number of trusted friends. Many great streams have been destroyed by passing out too much of this kind of information. Do other fishermen a favor and allow them to actually learn something for themselves.
6. Obey fishing regulations and catch and release whenever possible. If you must keep fish, limit your kill. Leftover trout are as tasty as cold tofu!
7. If you are floating a stream and approach a fisherman, reel in and don’t fish until you are well past him. Ask on which side you should pass, and make every attempt to be as quiet as you can when passing. If possible, stop paddling until you pass. If you are in an aluminum canoe, good luck at being quiet!
I Would also like to add a few “curmudgeon” rules of stream etiquette.
1. A trout steam with any significant current can be a noisy place. Don’t stand in the stream screaming at the top of you lungs trying to communicate with your buddy 50 yards from you! Fisherman are not only there to catch fish, but also to enjoy the peace and solitude and commune with nature. Therefore, shut your pie hole and save it for later, or learn to use hand signals.
2. Don’t be like a “chatty Cathy” doll when approaching strangers. They may there to fish and enjoy the peace and solitude, or they may be there to make new friends. Try to determine if they look like they want to talk before asking a bunch of question about what they caught and what fly they are using.
3. Don’t go to fish a small stream with a big group of people. Split up and go to different locations on the stream and limit the group size considering the available water to fish. Don’t assume your group will have the whole river to fish. Think of the poor guy who used a week of his vacation to come and fish this river, only to find you and an army of your fellow club members at all the access points.
There you have it. Though our urban settings may a long way away from the dark, swirling waters of Ohio and though we, urban fisherfolk, may have to add and subtract as relevant, it is still a good set of rules and a good reminder of why I love this addiction called urban flyfishin’.
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