River Etiquette

My husband and I recently travelled an unfamiliar river in our kayaks. We are not amateurs nor are we level fives. I have always been told when approaching fishermen in the river to try to pass them (usually behind them) so as not to interfere with their fishing lines. Well, at about 6 bends in the river we came across flat bottom river boats with paid guides each with one fisherman that was fly fishing the width of the river. These were all treacherous bends - lots of eddys and fallen trees. NONE of them gave heed to us. This involved two quite nasty wet exits after we passed them because we were forced into areas that we had to travel but, knew were unsafe. I don’t mind sharing the river and I also fish. However, shouldn’t they have quit casting when we were passing them? I appreciate your opinions.

A lot of fishermen will pull in their lines at the last moment before you pass and will cast out directly behind you as you pass. More then once, I have seen a fisherman catch a large fish directly behind me that was apparently following my boat.

I usually try to give fishermen a wide berth as I pass if it is safe to do so but I would not put myself in a position of danger to do so.

Speak up
The reality is, you can’t expect every fisherman to be innately considerate of others’ needs. As most are not kayakers, they might not really understand why it is more difficult for a paddler to pass behind them rather than in front of them at a particular spot. Let them know, in friendly words and with a smile, your intentions to cross in front of them, and thank them after you pass. Most of the time they are going to quit until you pass, and be equally courteous about it.

I would find a fly fisherman who was casting right in front of my boat or right behind to be a very rude fisherman. He may be a master at landing his line at the precise spot he wants, but he’s a stranger to me, and I have no reason to have confidence in his casting abilities.

Opposite side of the coin. . . .

– Last Updated: Sep-09-07 1:26 PM EST –

When I'm fishing out of my yak, and hear a power boat coming up the river, I pull my line in. Obviously I don't want my line cut by their motors, but it's also a courtesy so they don't have maneuver around the line at the last minute. I find they rarely even try to avoid coming too close to me, just wave or nod their head as they pass by me within 10-20 feet, sometimes slowing down, sometimes not.

When I'm moving along and come up on a still jonboat with two three lines coming out of the side, I'll get away from them if safe and if they leave some room, but if I can't achieve both my safety/convenience and staying away from their lines, I choose me over them. I've only had one time when I actually went over a guy's line and all I said was "excuse me" with a smile and a nod and he just stared as I went by. That was actually a bank fisherman on a very narrow, swift, shallow section with lots of rocks. He couldn't have caught anything there anyway, but my concern was much more aimed at slamming into a boulder 1" below the surface than messing up his line.

My view is to follow the line you want, especially w/ safety considerations. If someone is in your way, adjust only as much as they do, and if they don't move their line, go right over it, maybe missing a stroke or two as you go out of courtesy. Say excuse me, pardon me, hello, act oblivious to their potential objections, whatever. But never apologize. That presumes you did something worth apologizing for, and you didn't.

At the end of the day, don't sweat the little things so much. And hope they don't.

a little
conversation will help. “Nice day on the river,eh” as you paddle your non-compromising line will help break the ice. I paddle the farmington river in Ct. a lot, and it’s loaded with trout fishermen, about 5% of whom are total a-holes. On occasion, I’ve had to yell “coming through, yo, movit” when the idiots standing in the middle of the only line available. I have found the best way to deal with the “zen-like” trout fisherman is to (okay ,you’ll need a canoe for this) stand up and take out the 12’ copper tipped wood or aluminum 1.5" dia. pole and start poling. If they thought your paddling was bad enough, the sound of a pole bouncing off granite rocks as the 6’2" 220 pound slightly crosseyed one eyebrowed standing madman passes by will have them counting their blessings next time it’s just some quiet paddlers. Alternative is to follow a group of 20 drunk college kids in rentals. Once again, the fishermen will count their blessings when it’s only you… :slight_smile:

Its the age old question of
learning “sportsmanship”. Some people teach it to their children, some don’t, some learn later in life, some don’t care at all. This applies to all sports and outdoor activities, not just paddle sports. When in doubt, observe the “Golden Rule” Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.

I try to find an eddy and wait quietly
for maybe 5 minutes or until some reasonable break point. Then I come through and trust them to act in their own best interest.

…I’ll ask them how I can stay out of their way,

if they have a preferred line for me to take.

But I wouldn’t put myself into danger to avoid them.

Thanks for Responses
Thanks to everyone for responding to my River Etiquette posting. Looks like I should have been more concerned with my safety. I must say, I did go right over one guy’s line when he did not move. I just told him “going over your line” when he did not budge. That was after my frustation with the previous 5 fishermen who would not move.

Not wrecking for their entertainment
Try to keep clear if you can. If not, call out and let them know where you MUST go. If they want to reel in fine. If they want to hook my boat and get their line cut fine. No use putting yourself in danger.

Be polite, act like you don’t know what the hell your doing and tell them oops, got to go through there. Unless they come stomping out to tip you over, you are in pretty good position to do as you wish. But try to avoid direct impact with fishermans body, most will object.

Atlanta Metro Hooch
The Cochran Shoals section of the Chatachoochee in Atlanta is the prettiest paddling there is within 10 miles of my house.

I’ve had the frequent displeasure (maybe it’s the same group of guys?) of having anglers casting across the ONLY line across the shoals, seeing you coming down the faster water and somehow expecting you to walk on water when you reach their area! Angry cursing, arguments not rooted in the physical sciences of the modern times etc.

I guess they have right of way or something wether you pass behind them if you can (or not if you can’t)?

I heard that they (local homeowners?) were trying to get that section declared unnavigable and therefore closed to paddlers but I do not know the details. Must be nice to have your back yard all to yourself.

Until I hear that the authorities have limited the use of the river to certain activites on certain days or times of the day then anglers will just have to learn to share. IMO, if they want solitude they need to hire a bush plane in Alaska or something. I fully expect to share the river with rafters, dogs, tube floaters, anglers, jet prop boats, sculls etc. I saw a brochure with a picture like that somewhere!