How to (not to) piss off someone steelhead fishing

“If only common sense & courtesy were commonplace…..”

I guess I’ve been fortunate for the most part in that I have witnessed very few incidents so many others speak of in my short career fly fishing…only a little over 3 years.

It may have as much to do with my physical limitations and unwillingness to engage in a fight anymore as anything else, but…..I studiously avoid fishing where there is any sign of “combat fishing” occurring and the resultant mess of debris, garbage & human excrement strewn about, (the Puyallup, ie.).

The only place that is still easily accessible to me that I’ve tried so far is the Flaming Geyser area on the Green River (the small beach just below the RC field). While not normally crowded it can get busy at times – it does get combative during the Chum run last year and the Pink run this year so I avoid fishing there during those times. I will sometimes just observe and/or take some pictures but usually do not fish because I do not wish to be associated in my mind, or anyone else’s mind for that matter, with the mayhem and disrespect for others AND the fish that occurs. Old fashioned as hell I suppose.

My fishing skills and knowledge are crude and in the very early stages although my life is closer to the end stages and I don’t wish to muddy it up with negative or destructive emotions towards others – so I avoid situations that piss me off….as much as possible.

This is all leading up to the following acknowledgement: The last few times in particular that I’ve been to that spot, I’ve had numerous gear fishermen (the scourge of the planet, hehe!) come down to the waters edge and politely ask me if it’s okay to fish there….either above or below me. I always say, “sure” and/or, “of course, and thank you for asking!” Not all ask of course but are usually 5-10 yards away and no threat to my exclusive rights to catch fish anyhow. That’s a joke….as I rarely catch fish anyway and am just there for the casting practice (somewhat obviously, I might add). I just recently learned on this forum that one is supposed to cast, step, cast, step and so forth until you’re clear of the “run.” I had thought this technique or method was for Spey casters only. I usually only move up or down maybe 10-20 feet in an hour or so (unless it’s more wadeable), not realizing I may be “hogging” a run, a hole….or somebody else’s opportunity! Now that I’m aware I’ll try to move more often.

My worst bad experiences fishing were all at Dash Point Beach/Pier two years ago during the Pink run and again this year when I just went to take a look at the beginning of the season & decided it wasn’t for me. I will say that the vast majority of the fishermen there were respectful of one another – but there are always those few that give us all a bad rap. I really felt bad for the residents along the beach that had to put up with all the trash in the parking lot, the yelling, noise and profanity from 5:00 AM onward throughout the day. Maybe the price you pay for nostalgic “public beach front housing”,…..seems a bit steep tho!

As I said, I am still learning and have far to go….very far in fact!


Still don't understand the logic or should i say the entitlement that some have, seeming to think they have the right to your rock, when your standing on it, thinking they own the river and feel they can walk right on down thru you, and having the nerve at that, to call you names for not stepping aside. i understand well established rotation methods at crowded popular runs, such as the Ronde mouth, but i do not believe this ass logic should be tolerated everywhere. twice this last weekend on the Met river, at a long run all bymyself, i had fellow flyrodders, show an hour or two after my arrival, work their way down the run, maybe 300 yards, and then yell at me for one: not moving, and two, for low holing.
so i disagree, let the swingers swing, just as long as they swing around me and stf up while doing so, really getting sick of elitist asses out there. vent over!

IMO, if you got there first and you are fishing on one rock you can have that rock. I will first ask if I can fish down to your location. I'll get out when my fly is swinging close and ask about fishing below you a good distance. I would expect you not to free line a couple hundred ft of line in to a drift to be an ass and I won't start 20ft below you. We all share the river, it not my or your rock, it's ours.

If a run isn't big enough for rotation angling I'll ask you if you are working you way thru, if not I go elsewhere.
I have to jump in on this thread.

I have been a gear guy for quite a while, and am making the transition to fly's. With the past experience I have observed the skok this year and to be blunt I have never seen such a perversion of fishing etiquette, or morality. Within 5 minutes of being there I had to leave. I'm not afraid of a fight, but there were just too many people to fight. :(

I believe there is karma that come with good practices. Last year while fishing a spot on a local river I observed a couple of older fly guys with mobility limitations. I saw where they were fishing was relatively a dead spot, but they were taking pains not to be rude and crowd me. I had already caught and released a small native in my tailout I was at, and saw them headed my way. Out of curiousity and decency I offered them my spot. We talked for a bit about the spot, the way it laid, and where I had hooked up. On cue to prove I did not know what I was talking about a fish jumped in another spot. :beathead: Long story shot. They accepted my spot and began fishing. Shortly after, while I watched what they were doing, one made the call "Fish on"! It was a small native (bigger than the one I caught) and the guy was like a kid at Christmas. I tailed the fish for him and took a picture, then promptly released the fish. Come to find out that was his first Steelie for years on the fly. I still keep in contact and have fished with him a couple of times when the opportunity presents itself and yes now it's with a fly rod. I will never forget the expression he had when fighting that fish, or my own sense of happiness knowing that I was part of that.

Guess my opinion on this is that there's enough river, the question then becomes are we practicing the behavior that makes us worthy of the river and the gifts it bears?

Tight lines and best wishes to all those who do. I enjoy the stories yet to be told.

Charles Sullivan

ignoring Rob Allen and Generic
Swing and rotate. It just makes sense.

I started flyfishing in upstate NY on a river entering lake Champlain. We fished October through May for landlocked atlantics. Fortunately the use of lead shot was illegal in the fall and all but useless in the spring. This kept everyone swinging, which in turn kept everyone in rotation. Streamside conversations were generally pleasant and many flies were exchanged. Even the French were nice.

When I moved to Syracuse NY, noone roatated. Everyone was nymphing. In my experience nymphers and gear fishermen seem less likely to rotate. Flyfishermen all seem to rotate. I moved out here to flyfish for steelhead and because I knew that pool rotation had long been the norm except that noone ever rotates through hatchery holes. I think that says a lot by itself.

In Washington, people always rotate on the Skagit and the river to the north of it. Those are the rivers I fish most. This is mostly because nymphing the Skagit is a humorous thought, and spey rodders/ swingers are predominant.

Anglers that are camped in a spot are irritating as are low holers and gear guys that throw lures at your feet. I've experienced all of them and realize that there is nothing that I can do about them. I do know that I won't join them in being rude to the other anglers. So now I generally just keep my mouth shut and move on.

Pool rotation has long been the accepted practice amongst steelheaders. If you don't want to practice it, then please open your mouth and let those above you know that you aren't going to move. That's what I would do if I was breaking with common practice.

Go Red Sox,


Active Member
The rotation method sounds great.

Have anyone experienced this rotation method at a State of Washington river?

If so, please tell me about it.

I fly fish for trout in the summer, so my fly fishing never includes fishing shoulder to shoulder with other fellow fly fishermen.

I have experienced first hand in the combat steelhead or salmon holes at Blue Creek, Reiter ponds, Tokul Creek and Puyallup River. Most of these holes require tossing corkies and yarn. Don't snicker; shoulder to shoulder drift fishing is a fun way to fish if you are good natured and tolerant. thumb:

I have found very simple rules for drift fishing in a combat fishery.
1. Always ask before taking a spot.
2. If new to the fishery, ask what the etiquette is.
3. When drift fishing shoulder to shoulder, cast after the person downstream of you casts.
4. Expect tangles and display a huge dose of patience when tangled.
5. Reel up when someone is landing a fish, use the time to chit chat with the person beside you.
6. Always use the same method of fishing as the majority. Try to match the weight of line, amount of lead and terminal tackle so it drifts at the same rate as those fishing in near you.

I would love to try the rotation method some time if I could find a local river where it is practiced.
Thanks for posting this Greg. The swing, step or rotation method is prevalent among the bigger rivers like the Skagit and Sauk. If one were to "take a spot" and not budge at all at these rivers, you would end up pissing a lot of people who want to swing through run if you don't let them know that it's ok for them to swing around you. Hogging a spot in run that people typically swing through would be just as bad as one who swings through unannounced through a combat, shoulder to shoulder drift fishery where everyone has their spot marked. Much as you would want to go with the flow in a shoulder to shoulder situation drift fishing, it would be advisable to do the same in a rotation/swing fishery.


Fly Guy Eat Pie
ah the classic combat fishing areas. I think the worst combat fishing I've ever seen was this past year's pink salmon run. I swear everyone and their grandmother's dogs were out with their Walmart setup trying to snag fish by sweeping across the river.

There was one occasion, my friends and I got to a popular hole early morning but by the time we got there, there were already a good dozen guys drift fishing the area. We didn't think much of it and joined in. This is very common for gear fishing, no concerns of low-holing, you just watch their line and yours and hope you get the fish, but you each take turns casting one after another to not cross eachothers' lines.

Anyway, a hour or so pass, people are hooking up here and there and everybodys having fun, when this big trailer-trash type guy comes strolling in wearing sweatpants and a lawn chair with a 5oz sinker and a treble hook and a can of sand shrimp. The guy lobs the damn thing diagonally across the river, crossing over everybody's drift and doesn't move. Now the guys that were wading in to the right of him are pissed now since they almost got their head dented in with a 5oz pyramid sinker. The fatass stands there looking like he owns the damn river and crosses his arms, revealing a pistol tucked away in his shoulder holster under his fat armpit.

Needless to say, i'm not about to start shit with the roughneck kind, so literally 5-6 of us just decided to move upstream away from the guy. 30 minutes or so later, what do you know...the guy's decided to move upstream and is now plunking diagonally across us again. At this point, a friend of mine decides to voice up and tell him he can cast forward atleast so he doesn't cross everyone's drift in which he replied in a dickish scoff and saying "sorry man" with a little smirk and doesn't move at all.

from then on, I vouched to never hit the community river holes ever again. Needless to say, I'll be skipping Reitors and Tokul this season.


Well-Known Member
Greg Price,

I learned about the rotation method of steelhead fishing on the Fortson hole on the NF Stillaguamish River in the early 70s. I was told it had been in practice on the Stilly below Deer Creek for decades before that. The Fortson hole was about 2 1/2 times its present length prior to the Christmas flood of 1980, and as many as 60 or 80 steelhead would stack in there in the fall, attracting maybe a dozen anglers at a time.

First guy there began at the head of the pool, followed at about 50-75' intervals by successive anglers as they arrived. When you finish the pool, you get out and return to the top and start over, or take a break, or go somewhere else. There was incomplete agreement about what happens when you hook or land a fish. Some anglers felt you're obligated to go back up to the head of the pool, and some felt you could resume fishing where you left off. No one ever made too big a deal about it beyond questioning the act, and it didn't really matter in the scheme of things of keeping several anglers cooperatively sharing a productive piece of water.


Fish the way you want, but understand that by tradition you were the one fishing out of synchrony. Not that it matters, but why would you still be fishing the same pool after 2 or 3 hours? I can see how you would be perceived as a hole hog, but if that's how you want to fish, just tell the approaching anglers that and they can fish around you. It's not in the catagory of things worth getting hot and bothered about.

Erik Helm,

Beat rotation is different than fishing rotation in a pool. In the UK a beat is a river reach consisting of several pools. The fishing is private and highly regulated. My understanding is that a couple of rods are assigned to a beat, and typically you switch beats around noon with another pair of rods from a different beat.

As far as any kind of fishing etiquette in designated combat fisheries, it's non-existent.



Active Member

Even on beat rotation you don't always get your own pool. When you don't pool rotation is still the name of the game. Whether you fish bait, spoon, spinner, or fly- pool rotation is how it is done.



Active Member
There are so damn many ways to steelhead fish, there are bound to be conflicts. Swinging flies, nymphing, pulling plugs, side drifting, boondogging, bobber fishing, etc. The way I look at it is simple, if I'm fishing a spot and was here first, you get the opportunity to fish around me. Upstream, downstream, I don't really care. Just be aware of the technique I'm using and stay the hell out of my way. I'll do the same for you.

I have no patience for fishermen who think that just because they are working the top of a run that everyone else on that section of river has to stay out. If you want to fish the "bucket", start there. Don't be pissed off when somebody comes along and starts fishing the bucket while you screw around fishing crappy marginal water. I hate people who act as if they own a section of river. There are pleanty of fish and fishable water to go around.
I believe two things could solve these problems, courtesy and willingness to share. Planting yourself in a hole on river and hogging that hole is wrong. Selfishness will produce bad behaviour in others. Also if some else would like to fish the hole, let them.

Two words would solve all the problems courtesy and unselfishness. Then everyone is happy.

Erik F. Helm

Frozen in the river, speyrod in hand

Even on beat rotation you don't always get your own pool. When you don't pool rotation is still the name of the game. Whether you fish bait, spoon, spinner, or fly- pool rotation is how it is done.

From reading "Six Months in Scotland" by Sylvester Nemes, it seems that quite a bit of water has become owned by associations. Also fishing rights can be had on some of these stretches for only a few pounds for a half day in non-prime run times. The days of wealthy landowners owning the rivers is changing.
So, beat and pool rotation is a must. Have a neat photo of a conga line going down a river from a U.K. magazine. 18' rods and multiple anglers.:)

Erik F. Helm

Frozen in the river, speyrod in hand
Good point.
I was referring to rotation within pools or a pool in a beat, but used some rather ambiguous language. Oops. But it's O.K. Nobody knows what a 'beat' is anyway ;)

Erik Helm,

Beat rotation is different than fishing rotation in a pool. In the UK a beat is a river reach consisting of several pools. The fishing is private and highly regulated. My understanding is that a couple of rods are assigned to a beat, and typically you switch beats around noon with another pair of rods from a different beat.

Sounds like those stuffy tweed-wearing traditionalists had at least one thing figured out. Funny how a little basic civility or etiquette can improve the experience for everyone in the same way that self-absorbed knuckle draggers can ruin it for everyone.