I'm new this forum, so sorry if I'm talking out of turn.I was trudging upstream to one of my favorite pools on the Yellowstone inaccessible except via boat when four folks sidled down the gravel bank with two dogs. How did they get there without trespassing? We were at least 3/4 of a mile from the road. The two couples, probably in their late twenties set up shop on the point of a small island and had a tough time controlling their barking dogs harassing the local geese population. As I fished up close to where they were, I beached the kayak and the two men approached me, both with fly rods in their hands. They were woefully unprepared to fish this big, cold river in shorts and sandals. I assumed they were going to ask for advice, but my inquiry cut them off short. First question, are you all local-No. Where are you from: Denver. Are you aware that you have been trespassing to get here? - No they were not. After a bit of a restrained rant on my part about not jeopardizing our generous Montana Stream Access laws by violating them, I heard the most bizarre explanation. “We stayed close to the high water mark” I explained the law to them in no uncertain terms. You stay “BELOW” the high water mark. In this case, that is physically impossible on foot for at least 300 yards of the bank we were on at today’s water level. At first they claimed to have stayed below the high water mark but quickly realized that I knew a bit more about this part of the river than they did. They had to have entered private, fenced land to access the portion of the river they were now at. In fact, the entrance to that land along the road is prominently signed with big orange plaques and post tops. No doubt about the “No Trespassing” aspect.
They were polite and a bit contrite about it and acknowledged their misunderstanding of the law. I gave them some directions to other parts of the river less than a couple of miles away where they could legally access a lot of river bank. As they left, they attempted to stay along the gravel bank below the high water mark as far downstream as possible but were ultimately forced onto private property as they encountered the high, unaccessible bank.
I suspect these types of encounters will be much more prevalent this summer as naive anglers invade SW Montana. Confronting such behavior is always tedious, but as one guide implored me several years ago, if we don’t confront violators (whether through naive behavior or intentional disregard) of Montana’s Stream Access Law, we potentially jeopardize the goodwill of private property owners. If you visit Montana to fish this summer—UNDERSTAND and ABIDE BY Montana’s Stream Access Law.
I'm a little confused because you say they reached an unpassable bank and had to get onto private property to navigate around it, and that was your beef. But the link you provided states this is legal and appropriate: "Since the Montana stream access law applies to most rivers and streams that flow through private property, many rivers have various man-made and natural obstructions. A floater or angler who encounters these obstructions may climb above the high water mark, if necessary, to avoid these obstructions in the least intrusive way possible (some landowners don’t like it, but it says – explicitly – that you can do this in the statute.)."
Could you clarify? Maybe im just not reading your description right?
I'll be fishing one day in Montana this summer as I pass through, and I'd like to be on the up and up everywhere I fish and not piss anybody off.