The Fishing and Marine Industry Daily News Feed

Teaching Vs. Telling

When it comes to stream etiquette, knowing the difference is key.

“Almost everyone loves to be taught how to fish. And almost everyone hates to be told how to fish.” 

I say that all the time, because it’s a lesson I learned by trial and error over 30 years—through printed pages in magazines, interacting in the online world, and most importantly, while my boots were wet, fishing with others. 

When it comes to fly fishing, there is indeed a very subtle—yet incredibly important—difference between “teaching” and “telling.” And if you aspire to write stories for large audiences about fishing… or be a guide who can make a living for more than a season or two… or even if you just hope to effectively mentor your kids or friends about fly fishing in a way that resonates and sticks… understanding that little nuance between “teaching and telling” can make all the difference in the world.  

These days, with so many “newbies” exploring fly fishing for trout and myriad other species, the issue of “stream etiquette” is becoming more important. With the “industrialization” of guided fly fishing as a pay-to-play pastime, ethics and etiquette are even more pressing concerns. 

It’s one thing, for example, to get “low-holed” by a person who steps into a run you’re headed toward because they don’t know any better, and quite another to see a guide pull that stunt with two clients in tow, because any good guide should know better. When the rookie does that, it’s a goof. When the guide does that, it’s a bad example. 

I had a good friend relate a story that really got me thinking on these matters. He said he watched a guide land a fish, remove the hook and then fling the fish back into the river from his net, as if his net were a lacrosse stick. There were other guides nearby who saw the whole thing. 

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