Sunday, March 18, 2018

Stillwater Angler Fishing Report

River etiquette

Every year by about this time, I’ve seen a few questionable incidents and practices on the river that are cause for concern. So, I thought it might be worthwhile to devote a few words to the subject. I think a lot of incidents are unintentional due to a lack of knowledge, so hopefully we can educate a few folks as to proper practices.
It always amazes me when someone comes floating past and asks, “where’s the take out?” Now, there’s always the first time down a given stretch of river for all of us, but even so, it’s always a good idea to go with someone experienced, or at least identify a prominent feature or easily identifiable landmark in the vicinity of the planned take out to go by. An accidentally extended float can turn into more than just an embarrassment.
As for anchoring when floating, unless you’re the only boat on the river, pull over and anchor as much as possible out of the main channel or flow. Use caution too when dropping the anchor. I suggest not to drop anchor anywhere you can’t see the bottom and/or fast moving water. In many places, particularly the deep, fast currents along rip rapped banks, the rocks are often large and angled, and if an anchor manages to wedge down between them, it isn’t going to be pulled back up.
I also know of incidents where an anchor was dropped and caught in heavy water, causing the boat to start taking on water in the stern and requiring the rope to be quickly cut to avoid swamping the boat. So, exercise some care when deciding where to drop anchor. (Now, by way of full disclosure, I do run a fly shop and sell anchors!)
A couple of quick words on river etiquette are in order too. On a few occasions as I’ve readied my boat for launch at one of the access sites on the Stillwater, and while backing up my trailer, I’ve had to navigate a maze of oars, coolers, dry bags, frame parts, and fishing gear that were strewn all over the ramp while a couple of guys were busy inflating their raft.
The boat ramp, either putting in or taking out, shouldn’t be used for anything other than just that; launching or landing the boat. Tying up the ramp to inflate or deflate a raft, load or unload gear, string up or tear down rods, etc., is discourteous to fellow floaters and anglers. I suggest getting completely ready somewhere else in the parking area before launching, and when landing, get the boat pulled up on the trailer and again, move elsewhere at the access area to tear down.
The other point concerns proper etiquette for boats and float anglers versus wade fishing anglers. The fundamental rule is that the wade fisherman has the right of way. Now there are those occasions, particularly on the Stillwater when the flows are low, where a floater encounters an angler wading up to his waist in some constraining water and there’s simply nowhere else to safely pass except directly through where he’s fishing. If this is the case, the guy on the oars should at least acknowledge the fact and make an apologetic comment to the wade fisherman.
One time, I was wade fishing my client in a spot on the Stillwater that was at the head of a riffle bend at the bottom of a fairly wide chute that was easily passable. Despite having an easy and safe alternative path, this guy comes screaming through literally in the water we were fishing without so much as saying boo, then proceeds to anchor up immediately below our boat to fish the run. So, bam, that’s two bad moves right there.
This past Monday served as a good reminder to us all about just how violent and hazardous weather can be. Getting wet with strong winds and a significant temperature drop can cause hypothermia to set in pretty darn fast. Always carry rain gear regardless of what the forecast says. It’s also easy to lose control of one’s boat in the heavy extra mindful about short anchoring too and make sure the boat is well secured if pulled over, hopefully in a position where the wind is blowing it towards shore. Finally, put rods down and pull over if there’s any lightning in the area whatsoever! Trying for one more fish simply isn’t worth it!
I would like to point out that in general, anglers and guides are very courteous and helpful. Just the last week or so I’ve personally seen several examples played out on the river. Everything from one guide loaning gear to another guide’s client, to a guide loaning out a rod to a complete stranger who just broke his at the put in, to a guide helping another guide load his boat up in the wind, to a client putting together a small assortment of flies to give to their lodging host who had theirs stolen. Random acts of kindness like these are fairly common and should be commended.
Keep an eye on water temperatures as flows continue to drop and continue to minimize the stress placed on the fish. We caught a nice break with the cooler weather the early part of the week that really helped drop the water temperature, at least for a while. Tight lines!
Chris Fleck owns and operates Stillwater Anglers Fly Shop and Outfitters in Columbus.