Fly fishing behaviour
- sharing the water with common sense

Fishing instructor, fly fishing tuition and fishing trips based in Scotland. Salmon and trout fishing advice, flies and articles.

On association water a fly fisherman's clear obligation to the next man is to disturb the pools as little as possible.

The guidelines.(article and photos by Ally Gowans)

fly fishing behaviour
Association water - fly fishing

On public or association water a fly fisherman's clear obligation to the man who comes after him is to fish in such a way that the pools are disturbed as little as possible. The river being fished should be regarded as being in trust, take from it your pleasure but try to cause as little disturbance as possible for the next angler. Many rivers are small, too small to be fished from both banks simultaneously without the possibility of destroying each other’s sport. It is very rude to wade and begin fishing at the same time as someone is fishing on the far bank. If the river is wide and you cannot possibly interfere with one another then it may be OK but it is always courteous to make contact and seek approval. Remember the boot may be on the other foot next time! If the banks of a river are on different beats it is permissible to cast as far across as you wish, but you must not turn towards your own bank and continue to fish. Never fish across the man on the opposite bank, or wade in deep ahead of him into water he will presently wish to cover. As far as possible extend to anglers on the other bank the same courtesy that you show to those on your own side.

If you must wade to fish a pool enter the water carefully and quietly to avoid disturbing any fish lying close by. Fish are very easily disturbed by the noise of an angler striding heavily into the river, or by the scraping wader studs on gravel or on rocks and those who fish in the dead of night for sea trout will be most conscious of just how difficult it is not to make any noise and keep your balance at the same time.  

Move down the pool a metre or more before every cast, but not normally when the fly is swimming round because its drift will be spoilt (in most instances). Be sure to move if there is someone waiting to follow even if a leaping salmon or rising trout tempts you to linger! (Salmon often do leap after being fished over). Should you wish to change a fly or line whilst fishing down a pool it is perfectly reasonable to go ashore as briefly as possible to make the changes and any anglers fishing behind may either elect to wait for you to rejoin the procession or carry on their progress in which case you should maintain the distance in front of the following angler so as not to disturb his fishing. If someone starts fishing in front of another without agreement the first angler has right and would be justified in asking the intruder to come out of the water and wait his turn to fish behind. If you are fishing behind someone, always keep at a minimum distance of 25 metres or so to avoid any interference with his casting or fishing. This also gives you a better chance because the water you will fish has not just been thrashed. Whenever someone fishing a pool hooks a salmon, nearby anglers ought to reel up and make for the bank quickly to avoid interfering with the tussle. If requested they should also be willing to offer any assistance with landing the fish safely and ensuring that it is handled correctly if it is being released. If your fishing has an arrangement or custom to change-over beats at a certain time then be ready to do so at the appointed time and expect others to do likewise.

So far I have discussed mainly river fishing. Boat anglers of course have a similar set of rules. If you are anchored do not “hog” the hot spot for too long, leave whilst the fish are still active and your fellow anglers will be impressed. Do not motor close to another boat which is fishing, or cross their drift, do leave as much space as possible and certainly not less than 100 metres between the boats. Do not enter a drift in front of another boat, pick a different drift or go in behind with a gap of at least 100 metres. If you do end up drifting a short distance from another boat do not start a noisy engine to move away, rather row a little distance first. Modern electric motors cause much less pollution and disturbance than petrol motors and can be used instead of oars. It is especially important to give other boats a wide berth and move as quietly as possible when conditions are calm. Foot ware for use in boats should be quiet and not studded or noisy because that too can cause needless disturbance.

If you new to a water take  the simple precaution of reading the rules or asking the owner or your host a few questions about fishing methods, ownership of the other bank, geographical limits of the beat and attitudes or rules pertaining to killing of fish. If in doubt about whether a fish should be killed the simple solution is to return it and the only exception to that rule is if you find an invader in the form of rainbow trout or fish of farmed origin in wild fisheries because these should always be disposed of to minimise disease and other risks.

In these days of increasing angler pressure and over-crowded waters it is vital, I believe, that the courtesies should be observed and the highest traditions of good sportsmanship (and good manners) be maintained. Fly fishing is a delightful pastime and relaxation-not a struggle to get to the river first or to catch the most fish. . . however tempting that may seem.

See also fly fishing manners and fly fishing rules

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Copyright 2007 Alastair Gowans AAPGAI and FFF Master and THCI, APGAI. All rights reserved.