This last week, I ventured high into the eastern Idaho backcountry to chase native Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat trout on a small mountain stream that clears early from runoff and sports some sizable trout for a stream its size.
I’d scoped out a large bend in the creek that, I had calculated, would have me start on the downstream side of this gorgeous piece of public lands real estate, just before the creek dived into a canyon for a mile-long swift run. At the top end, I knew from past experience, rests a deep pool that collects the stream after it leaves another canyon on the upstream side. This pool is perfect—deep, cold, clear and full of fish structure. In the past, I’d pulled some really big cutthroats from it, including one that topped 20 inches just last summer.
That pool … well, that was the planned dessert after what I expected to be an hour or so of “main course” fishing around the bend. There are some good runs and a couple of sweet plunges, but the pool at the end of the run? Small-stream nirvana.
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As I rounded the tail end of the bend, I popped up out of the creek and started striding along the stream-side game trail, heading to that heavenly pool, where the stream collided with a rock wall and scoured a hole so deep I believe it to be dive-able from the cliff above it. I was having some pre-game jitters, knowing that I needed to be cautious as I approached. I might get three or four drifts before my presence put the fish down, so it paid to be deliberate.
That’s when I saw the other angler. And he saw me, moving toward the deep pool. He looked at me, and rather than wave or stop to chat, he quickened his pace and stepped into the stream just below the pool, about a 100 yards upstream. He clearly wasn’t going to let me get to dessert.
“Dude…” I whispered.
I was high-holed.
The video above featuring Russ Miller from Fishpond is unbelievably salient today. I don’t mind encountering other anglers on the water, particularly on public water that belongs to everyone. In fact, it’s often nice to meet up with a stranger, compare notes and see how he or she has done on the water up to our meeting time.
But stream etiquette is a must. And, it appears, it’s become a lost art.
It’s simple, really, as Russ points out. If you see another angler, take the time to determine their game plan. If they’re fishing upstream, give them some room and move downstream to fish. If they’re fishing down, space out some room and fish up.
And, for crying out loud, wave at them to let them know you’re there and that you’ve acknowledged their presence. You might even say hi, and let them know your plan. It’s simple manners. Practicing those manners makes everybody’d day on the water better.
— Chris Hunt