Learn about fly fishing etiquette in the Northern Sierra.

Fly Fishing Around Others

A recent text from another guide about a negative interaction with an angler has me thinking about etiquette in general. What is etiquette and why is it important when it comes to fly fishing? In this article I will go into the details of etiquette and why it is important to fly fishers.

Let’s first take a look at the definition of etiquette.

. et·i·quette noun noun: etiquette; plural noun: etiquettes the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group.

What is proper etiquette? The easiest way to describe proper etiquette is to relate it to the golden rule- do unto others as you would have done unto you. In a nutshell, be courteous and kind, respect other user groups, pick up after yourself and leave the resource better than you found it. Try not to be entitled and have a plan B and C and even D if the water is popular and be willing to be flexible. How do we put this practice into play while on the water? I will attempt to go into more detail in the following paragraphs.

For the purpose of this article, we are walk and wade anglers. A good rule of thumb when you approach another angler on the water is to ask which direction they are fishing: upstream or downstream and then go the opposite direction to give them plenty of room. If by chance you are headed in the same direction, then give the other fisher at least a couple hundred yards of water before you step in to fish. Be clear communicating your intentions. NEVER step into water that someone else is already fishing without their permission.

Be observant as you approach the water. Look for other anglers, observe which way they are moving and proceed accordingly. I recently had an interaction where an angler started to step into the water across from me as I was actively fishing. I said “You are not going to fish there” to which he looked up, noticed me and replied “Sorry, I didn’t see you”. He picked up and moved on, thankfully, thereby avoiding a potential confrontation.

Try not to be a hole hog. This is especially important on popular, heavily trafficked public access waters. I recommend fishing through a piece of water once, maybe twice and then moving on. Another approach is rotating through a piece of water that is too small to handle more than one angler at a time. My point being allowing other anglers the opportunity to fish through productive waters and not hogging it so no one else gets the opportunity to fish there.

If fishing crowded waters, give other fishers enough room to cast safely. At least 100’ between folks is enough room, but sometimes we are allowed less room by the water we are fishing. Try not to cast across another s line or target fish that they are targeting. Gear anglers will often times fish shoulder to shoulder as they don’t need as much room to cast. As fly fishers we need more room for casting. Never walk behind someone while they are casting without letting them know that you are there first.

A great day on the water can be marred by poor etiquette. Be courteous, respectful, and leave the water better than you left it.


Jay Clark - Professional fly fishing guide for the MIddle Fork Feather River and Truckee River.

About The Author

Jay Clark is a lifelong outdoorsman that enjoys being near the water. Starting out with fishing as a childhood pastime, Jay has honed his skills over the years, evolving from a hobbyist to a seasoned fly fishing pro. Jay’s passion runs deep – offering guided fishing excursions along the Middle Feather River, Truckee River, and serene stillwater spots in the Northern Sierra.

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