On the Water Etiquette

We’re all quick to recognize impolite, rude, or discourteous behavior on the water. The folks who bring their boom-box and set it on the bank blaring away, or the angler whose dog barks loudly and then bounds into the water every time someone gets a fish on are as disturbing as the angler who wades right into the pool you’re fishing or gives you so little space that his or her cast crosses yours. So, here’s some suggestions about proper on-the-water behavior to help you set a good example.


  • Always give an angler already in the water the right of way. That rule goes whether you’re floating or walking the bank. Try to move on up-river, if possible. Never intrude in front of another angler. Ask if you can enter the pool or run he or she is fishing, and if given permission, always enter up-river of the other angler, giving that angler plenty of space.
  • Take your line out of the water for an angler that has a fish on to give that person plenty of space to land the fish. This rule holds especially true if you’re fishing down river of the other angler. Never move into another anglers space while they are on the bank landing or releasing a fish.
  • Be quiet on the water. (Leave your radio and your dog at home). Not only do you want to preserve the peace and quiet of the river or the lake to avoid spooking the fish, but you also want to avoid disturbing other anglers. People are incredibly unaware of how sound carries over water.
  • Be willing to help out another angler. Whether it’s retrieving something of theirs that is floating down the river or lending them some tippet material, a friendly attitude makes the day more pleasant for all.

Now, having said all of the above, I must also advise women to be assertive when on the water. It’s o.k. to say to someone whose intruding right in front of you, "excuse me, but I’m fishing here. Will you move on, please?" Or to ask, "will you please take your line out of the water for a few minutes so we don’t get tangled while I land my fish?"

All too often women who are reluctant to speak up are taken advantage of by other, more aggressive anglers. If you’re the first angler in the pool or the run, you do have the right to expect that others will behave courteously to you on the water, and it’s o.k. to ask them to do so. Everyone has a better experience when we all follow some simple rules of common courtesy. Some people just need a small reminder.