By Karen Gebhardt

Most anglers agree that courtesy and ethical behavior on the river enhance the whole fishing experience. River etiquette, simply put, is respect.

 Respect local and state fishing regulations:

  •  Know these regulations.
  • Fish with a valid fishing license and have it on your person while on the water.
  • Report poaching or violations to the game warden—it is best not to confront another angler.

 Respect the landowners:

  • Ask permission to use private property.
  • Don’t litter
  • No fires
  • No loud noises
  • No alcoholic beverages or use of firearms

 Respect for other anglers:

  • An angler moving upstream always has the right of way.
  • Anglers with a fish on have the right of way to move where needed on the water.
  • Anglers have the right of way over those floating the river.
  • An angler already at a pool or run has the right to stay there as long as he/she chooses.
  • Anglers sitting on the bank may be just resting a pool—they still have fishing rights on that pool.
  • Enter the water with common sense—do not walk in a pool where someone is already fishing.
  • Walk quietly keeping splash and noise to a minimum.
  • Keep your shadows off the water near other anglers so you do not spook the fish.
  • Be courteous to other anglers—help net, share information, catch a few fish out of a pool, and then let another angler give it a try.

Steve Haupt from recommends “rotating the pool.” This tactic is best used when there are other anglers fishing one area. The process is to start at the top of the pool, cast and retrieve, then take a step or two down stream. Cast, retrieve, and take a step or two down stream again. When you reach the bottom of the pool you head back up stream to do it all over again.

  • Always give a heads up when walking behind another angler to ensure safety.
  • If you are not sure always ask

 Respect the environment, river, and fish:

  • What you take on the river comes off the river—leaders, trash, and the like.
  • Try to walk carefully in the river being aware of spawning areas or redds.
  • Walk on land without trespassing whenever possible.
  • Practice catch and release.
  • Do not use treble hooks, and always fish with barbless hooks.
  •  If you deep hook a fish, cut the line versus removing the fly.
  • If you foul hook a fish, cut the line, and let the hook in the fish—they will eventually rust out.
  • Try to play the fish as little as possible to eliminate stressing the fish.
  • Upon landing a fish, make sure your net is wet before handling the fish, and touch the fish as little as possible keeping fingers out of gills and using common sense.
  • Revive any lethargic fish by holding the tail, facing upstream, and moving back and forth in the water.

This list is by no means all inclusive. Check your local fly shops, other respected anglers, and online for more information on river etiquette. (One good site to use as a reference is The bottom line is use basic common sense, and treat other anglers as you would like to be treated while on the water. Using this basic knowledge will enhance your fishing experience and that of other anglers you may meet on the river.