Smoke Bomb in a Tree Fort   Leave a comment

Hidy Ho Good Neighbors,

It was my eleventh summer and a group of my neighborhood buddies and I pooled our resources and engineering prowess to construct a very fine tree fort. This fort had everything, windows that opened and closed, quick exit trap doors, radio antennae, and a rope ladder. We were kings of the tree tops.

Our inaugural sleep-in night was upon us and just after we settled in for the evening someone tossed a lit smoke-bomb into our abode. I remember clicking on my flashlight and being surrounded by stinky blue smoke. We bailed out as quickly as possible, but the night was ruined. All that preparation and anticipation went right down the tubes. We were ticked.

I thought about the smoke-bomb incident the other day as I was standing in a well-known front range tailwater. I spend a lot of time guiding other fly fishers and every so often; I get to hit the river by myself, which is always a treat. I plan, re-rig my fly rods, spin a few special flies, and no matter how tired I am from the weeks work, I’m always up early and anxious to go.

I arrived much earlier than the other anglers, and had settled into a favorite run. This run has room for one angler, is choked with willows on the anglers backcast, and the perimeters can be easily reached with a decent roll cast. In other words, it’s a small section of river that a modest fly caster can cover top to bottom and bank to bank, without moving an inch.

Crowded rivers can lead to poor etiquette, unfortunately.

 

I had settled in, and put a couple small rainbows and one decent brown trout in the bottom of my net in around fifteen minutes.  I smiled to myself after landing the last fish, relaxed a bit, and lit my pipe. Just then, I hear splashing below me in the run as two anglers step into the drink. They both look at me as I angle my head to the side, hitting them with a “What are you going to do?” non-verbal cue. One of the guys stops in his tracks, the other proceeds to place a roll cast into my run while trying to avoid eye-contact. His first cast, had I been in a drift, would have crossed my line!

I turned facing him and uttered, “Really, this is the best you can do?” He didn’t say a word, backed out and took his partner with him.  I stood there for a minute shaking my head. I stripped out some line and readied for my next upstream presentation, when all of a sudden, those two knuckleheads bust through the willows on the bank above me, waded in, and began to fish. I could have easily cast over both of their lines. Smoke-bomb in the tree house!

I rigged up my rod and slogged over to the bank. Just before leaving I reminded them that they needed to learn some manners, and mentioned something about trout in public places, and we not only need to respect the fish, but the fishermen as well. They heard me but neither had the courage to make eye contact. I’m still pissed.

Can’t always be like this, but we can play nicely…..

The majority of anglers know fishing etiquette. Always ask folks which way they plan to fish, upstream or downstream, give them plenty of room, and extend to them the same courtesy you would expect from others. Don’t walk the banks above an angler working a run.  That’s a good way to spook fish he is working.  Always try to give them the run they’re in and the shelf above it. I’ll often ask if it’s ok to hit the run above them, if it’s a good distance above the shelf that marks the top of their run.

Maybe that’s part of it, folks don’t know how to read the river, which gives them no discernable start and stop places.  Maybe they simply need to learn a typical run; riffle, shelf, pool, glide, tailout, riffle. Frankly, I’m not confident that will solve the issue, this comes down to a “me first” mentality.  An ”I need this fish picture for my social media”, mentality. Yep, I’m still a little pissed.

I am more than annoyed at what fly fishing has become on our crowded rivers in Colorado. So many anglers, packed into a few miles of rivers. Still, I think with a healthy dose of etiquette, we could have fun days even on highly pressured waters. I have been preaching fishing etiquette for as long as I can remember, and there are days when it’s certainly more than annoying, but we have to keep teaching protocol one angler at a time. Fear No Water!

Simply remember the golden rule

 

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