It’s January, it’s cold, it’s snowy, and for many of us, our fishing opportunities are closed or limited. This is the time of year when we keep our minds busy with tying flies, preparing gear, repairing gear, and even sliding down mountains on skis or boards, enjoying nature’s bounty before it enters the rivers for later enjoyment. It is also a good time to think about your fishing experiences over the prior year and how to improve them over the next year. Maybe it was a fishing trip that didn’t go as planned or one that went so much better than planned that you want to do it again. Maybe it was a lost fish of a lifetime and the things that went wrong during the battle that ended in the fish’s favor. Or, maybe it was a confrontation on the river that could have been avoided.
The year 2020 was a curveball that encouraged missed swings throughout the year, but one thing that is for sure is the growth in the outdoor industry as a whole. More specifically, the fly fishing industry experienced the largest growth since “A River Runs Through It” debuted and flooded the rivers with “shadow casters.” More people had the time and the drive to either begin fly fishing or restart their fly fishing endeavors than so many years before, leading to one specific foreseeable aspect; more people on the water. With more people on the water, it will be more important than ever to remember the Golden Rule.
Yes, that Golden Rule, the one that we were all taught in the early stages of life and may even have been printed in large letters across the wall of our elementary school gymnasiums. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Period.
Diving into specific “river ethics” would take a book, but it can be as simple as the golden rule. Back in my days of teaching beginner fly fishing classes, I had a list of river ethics that every student learned. It was a long list that took a long time to create and recite, so I took to a simpler version: fish around others the way you would prefer others to fish around you.
Instead of jumping into that pool next to another fly fisher, first think, “Would I be upset if somebody fished that pool next to me?” If yes, find another pool. If No, communicate to be sure the other angler feels the same. A simple line of communication with other anglers on the river will proliferate quite the enjoyable hatch, and you may even find a new fishy friend.
The golden rule can be applied to almost every situation, which is why we were taught that rule as young kids. In fact, there may have been fewer curveballs in 2020 if people would refocus on the golden rule. Let’s use 2021 to spotlight that behavior on the water and even trickle throughout the rest of our daily lives for many enjoyable seasons ahead.
Happy New Year, and remember to always fish around others the way you would like others to fish around you.