During busy periods at peak holiday times, situations can arise where the
traffic on our rivers and streams can become congested. Compared to other countries
this is less of a problem here in Australia and even less in Victoria where
rivers are not privately owned. Plenty of access points help to spread the
crowd and disperse fishing pressure. If there are too many cars at one access
point then I will seek out another spot where there are none. Never the less
there are days when there are plenty of fishermen about.
The protocols for fisherman of all types, bait, lure or fly, apply equally.
First and foremost is that the first person on the spot has the right of way.
Whoever is in place fishing has the right to expect courtesy from anyone who
comes along later.
If you arrive to find someone else fishing you must defer to their preference
every time. It works like this.
Approach quietly and stay
well away so that you do not interfere with their fishing. When the time
is right, after they are aware of your presence, do the usual conversation
stuff….How’s it going? … Doing
any good?....What are they taking? Etc.
Then you can say…..What’s
your preference? Where do you intend to fish so that I can give you a wide
berth? After they have nominated their preference then you should suggest
what you might intend to do. This gives them a chance to review what they
have said in light of what you are offering. Usually people are generous,
aware that today is busy, and you may even get an invitation to fish in the
The problem arises when you happen to be first, and fishing carefully only
to have someone come blundering in you and the fish you have been patiently
stalking for an hour.
Although it is difficult,
try not to be angry, but be firm. Explain carefully and calmly. Question
them to see if they understand the protocols first and then if it is obvious
that they don’t, then clearly, firmly and without
confrontation point out that there is a process that they should have followed.
The conversation starter should go something like this….
“Excuse me, Im stalking a fish here, could you please stand back a bit?”…..
“Do you mind not coming any closer until I have finished with this fish?”….
“Are you aware of the normal streamside courtesy? Normally I get to
nominate what I intend to do first and then you offer a suggestion of how you
would like to proceed”….
This is the normal protocol we use to share the availability of fishing space.
Most people will understand that this is the best way for all involved. While
there are many small rules that we can delve into, if this one is applied it
would solve 90% of grievances that arise on the river bank.
Sometimes people are amazed to discover that there is in fact a proper procedure
and a friendly discussion will ensue as they learn about streamside etiquette,
generous sharing of the resource is often the outcome. You must volunteer to
lead this discussion as the other person is obviously unaware. Never back someone
into a corner, humiliate them or be aggressive, rather try to be firm and fair.
If after all of the explanations they continue to behave badly then feel free
to give them a tongue lashing, as publicly as possible. Everyone on the river
within earshot will then be aware of the rude bastard who just blunders in
I will never forget the
day I was guiding on the pondage and a bloke stepped in between my client
and myself and then proceeded to flick his lure across the water we were
casting into. I gave him a serve. He looked stunned when I let him have the “Oi, Oi, Oi…Don’t you know what good
fishing manners are mate?” I shouted at him. He looked confused, he obviously
“You’re supposed to talk to us first before you do that” I
said referring to the lure wobbling its way in. “What you mean?” he
said. Five minutes later the shock subsided, oi, oi, oi was replaced by an
invitation to come and do a fly fishing lesson and a brief description of the
I still see him from time to time. He gives me a smile and a wave as we pass.
He did come and do a lesson and is now a competent fly fisher, and now and
then we have a laugh about how I picked on him for not knowing the streamside
etiquette that is essential equipment for all fishermen.
The Mates Guide
to Etiquette - The Art of Sledging
Whenever two Australians
see flies crawling up a wall, they will want to bet on the outcome. Such
is the nature of men, suddenly there is a competition. We will bet on the
outcome of anything, cricket, football, ferret racing, the dogs. You name
it, we will wager on the outcome. So it is with fly fishing. And as expected,
the worst offenders when it comes to competing with you will be your best
Just as the fish opens
its mouth to take your fly your ‘friend’ mentions
the upcoming airline strike. Then as you lift the rod and feel nothing he will
make a remark about your premature ejaculation problem. At this point you are
a trembling mess of jangled nerves and all attempts at coolness or control
have been totally lost.
Having hooked the tree
for the third time your so-called friend implies that you are “casting like a B-Grade movie” or “swinging like
a rusty gate”. Just to boost your confidence.
Sledging is a time-honored method of destroying your competition. Use a camera.
Stand closely behind and click it next to his ear just as the fly drifts into
the perfect spot. This is enough to cause an involuntary strike that drags
the fly enough to put any fish in the vicinity down. This one is great in the
age of digital cameras as you can capture the moment of failure as an added
Leave a little bit of grass
on the hook after generously climbing back up the bank to untangle your friend’s
poor back-cast. This is a great one as no self-respecting fish will even
look at the fly with an ugly bit of detritus hanging from it, the added bonus
being that your friend will not suspect a thing, instead assuming that they
fouled their hook on a subsequent cast. The benefit of this method is that
there will be no repercussions. You can even rub it in and reaffirm your
own innocence by saying that their casting is shocking anyway, citing the
previous help you gave them as an example.
Yes anything goes in love,
war and fly fishing. Try playing tennis with your friend’s fish so
that it gets off before you can net it and get a photo. Particularly if it
is bigger than anything you have caught that day. Sometimes this can happen
unconsciously, your innocence is assured as he has probably lost the previous
for fish due to your earlier sledging yet blames himself.
Encourage your mate to
have a go at an impossible cast. Once he is hooked up on the low branch on
the far bank you can casually fish on past him and through the best part
of the pool. Catching a fish at this point will surely break whatever spirit
remains. A flippant remark implying that ‘the last
fish really belongs to him’ is what I like to call the icing on the cake.
A sure fire way to get
him twitching is to vaguely hint at infidelity with his wife, or mention
that the stick at his feet looks ‘awfully a lot
like a snake’. These are but a few of the tried and tested methods I
have come up with and I am sure you all have many of your own to share.
You must however exercise
a degree of restraint in order to ensure that you do not ruin your own day.
Once the rot has set in, a gentle sledge from time to time will keep him
on the edge, but not boiling over. Should a boil over occur then you have
lost the game. A state of collapse will ensue, you will inevitably have to
assist him back to the car, thus putting an end to the day’s
fishing and negating the purpose of the tactic in the first place.
The new season is now here. This represents a great opportunity to sledge
as a fly fisherman just coming out of hibernation is prone to missed strikes
and short tempers without any help from his mates. Personally I am going to
save my sledging for a friendly NZ trip this November. There is a brown of
about 15lb we are going to be chasing with a camera crew and I reckon seeing
David stuff up in high definition widescreen is just too good an opportunity
to pass up.