Fly fishing manners and etiquette
- sharing the river with other users

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

Fly fishing manners and etiquette has evolved over many years to ensure peaceful sharing of water. Here are the principles. (article and photos by Ally Gowans)

Fly fishing manners - sharing the river with others.

Fly fishing manners is really about etiquette that has evolved over the years to ensure peaceful sharing of water based on give and take, on mutual understanding. Apart from the common practice of printing rules on a fishing permit, especially on heavily fished association or public waters and the like mostly the guidelines are unwritten, derived from customs developed to make fishing a more pleasant experience for everyone. Of course the whole thing depends upon anglers displaying goodwill as they go about their business and the avoidance of the all too common attitudes of greed and jealousy that have the capacity to destroy the atmosphere and occasionally give rise to “rod rage”, which is the last thing that anyone goes fishing for! Nowadays etiquette extends beyond salmon, trout and coarse anglers to encompass other water and bank users because like it or not they may have a right to be there too and only by responsible behaviour and mutual understanding can we continue to enjoy angling.

Like others before me I write about this subject with some diffidence, because manners goes hand in hand with good-fellowship on the waterside and that depends on mutual tolerance which may be severely tested if on arriving at your favourite spot you find others destroying your chances. Except for being civil and friendly towards other rightful users, giving and expecting cooperation which for the most part works very well, there is little else to be said.

Pleasure canoeists are often criticised by anglers and I don’t know of anyone who really cherishes the thought of them parading through the pool in front of them, but my personal experience is that usually they are cooperative if given the chance! Usually I give them a friendly wave and direct them to navigate where they will cause least harm and wish them a pleasant day. So far that has always worked for me and if one day it fails I will shrug my shoulders and think of all the other, more successful outcomes!

However its often a different matter with many commercial "adventure boating" operators who, since the Scottish Land Reform Act was enacted, have blatantly disregarded other users of the countryside. Their main "adventure" appears to be to cause as much disturbance as possible to everything around them causing fish and wildlife to leave the areas concerned and deprive those who enjoy peaceful pursuits in long standing harmony to seek pastures new.

Other anglers are another matter and it is indeed sad when they do not respect the water and the countryside in an agreeable, peaceful and law abiding manner. I mentioned law because illegal acts have got nothing to do with etiquette. On that basis “fly only” does not include live maggots nor do parts of a prawn tied onto a hook to constitute a fly. Litter or irresponsible fire making are another couple of examples that does the reputation of anglers no favours. Waste monofilament is particularly dangerous to wildlife and especially so if hooks and bait is still attached. Every effort should be made to recover lost tackle and make it as safe as possible without causing further damage to the environment. Anglers need access to the countryside and the countryside needs anglers to bring wealth and so it is wise to establish good relationships wherever we go. There is plenty to discuss here without repeating the country code but we must not forget it.

See also fly fishing behaviour and fly fishing rules

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