Thursday, December 24, 2009

Steelhead Etiquette

By Scott Richmond

What's the right behavior when you're on the river?

If angling behavior were limited to the letter of the law, everyone's enjoyment would suffer. This is especially true when steelhead runs are strong. A strong run brings out anglers who don't normally fly fish for steelhead, and this creates a situation ripe for conflict.
I think most confrontations come from ignorance. To be sure, there are people who are going to be jerks no matter what, and there's nothing you can do except shrug your shoulders and move on. However, most people want to do what's right, if they only knew.
So here's my take on good steelhead fly fishing etiquette. If you have additional suggestions, click "contact us" below and e-mail them to me. I'll compile some of the responses and publish them in a follow-up article.

1. The best advice for behavior on and around the river is the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," where "others" includes the entire ecosystem. Communicate with other river users in a positive and courteous manner. Expect people to do the right thing, and usually they will.

2. If someone is fishing near an area you want to fish, ask if you will disturb them. If they are sitting, and not fishing, they may be resting the water or waiting for the light to change. In any case, ask before you fish--and if they say "No," find another run. If someone is camped, ask permission before fishing in front of their camp; if no one is in the camp (holler around a bit before concluding this), you can regard the water as available.

3. Don't be a hole hog: don't monopolize the good water for long periods. Give someone else a chance.

4. If someone is fishing a run for with traditional tactics they are probably working their way downstream. Don't wade into the river below them, or near them on the upstream side. If you are not sure how far downstream they are going, and you want to fish the water, ask first. If you enter the water downstream, you should stay at least 150 yards from an upstream angler. This rests the water for about an hour between anglers.

5. If an angler is using indicator tactics, they could be progressing in either direction, so ask before wading in above or below them.

6. If you are floating the river in a boat, give bank anglers a wide berth. Notice where they are casting to, and give them lots of space. If you aren't sure what water they're fishing, ask them. Try to stay at least 30 feet away from the water they're fishing, and pass by quietly without splashing or making other noise that will be transmitted through the water.

7. Don't pull your boat or raft into a backeddy until you are sure no one is fishing

8. There are basic boating right-of-way rules, such as: down-river-bound traffic has the right-of-way; and boats should bear to the right when meeting. However, once a powerboat is in a rapids it cannot back down, and drift craft need to wait to enter the rapids until the power boat is clear. At the same time, a powerboat should not enter a rapids if a drift craft is already in it or is about to enter it.

9. Anglers and boaters of all persuasions should recognize the right of anglers and boaters of differing persuasions to use the river. Manners are contagious. Which kind do you want to perpetuate on the river?

10. Don't target or harass spawning fish. Recognize spawning redds and don't wade through or anchor in them.

Scott Richmond is the author of several fly fishing books for the Pacific Northwest that include: Best Fly Waters, Deschutes River (two editions), Cascade Lakes, Endless Season, The Pocket Gillie for fly anglers as well as the Rogue River and Craine Prarie: Deschutes Headwaters River Journals. You can find other writing from Scott in periodicals and on Westfly, a non profit based website with a blog and forum available to help educate the general public and advance the quality of fly fishing in the West. For those of you who want to explore the waters of the Pacific Northwest and especially the Deschutes River, this is where to do your research.

Scott's Fishing Oregon's Deschutes River is a key ingredient to success on the Deschutes River. This second edition includes way more secrets then we need to know and the 152 pages has some of the best photography ever done on the river by Brian O'Keefe and Jim Schollmeyer. For those of you who want to explore and find success on the river this is a must read, worthy for all trout and steelhead fishermen.

For those of you who are interested in hearing a recent interview Scott did with Lani Waller, you can find it here on Westfly. They cover a wide variety of topics that include etiquette, history, river stewardship as well as tips and tactics.


Apocalypse Now, Steelhead said...

word up mr. Richmond except one thing. If you're bobbercatin' for steelhead, work down stream like the rest of us. Thats how the system works. If you really want to fish downstream...go back to fishing the Yakima

Apocalypse Now, Steelhead said...


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