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What goes around... a plea for common courtesy

An opinion piece by fishing guide Chris Dore first published on Sexyloops, 6 Dec 2007

So what is with people these days? Let me talk about my day yesterday on the upper Mataura...

A friend and I began our day in bright sunshine, probably the nicest day thus far of the season. The snow melt had finally disappeared and the river was in cracking condition. We picked up two or three fish right off the bat as they nymphed along the edges and dropped another on the dry. A gorgeous morning down the Nokomai and truly a glorious day.

Then we heard a vehicle... But wait wasn't this area entirely foot access only? One should park on the road as the farmers signs dictate and stroll across the paddock to the river. Then, in full view of us a truck pulled up and out jumped three anglers, who proceeded to jump into the very next pool above us, in plain view, 100 metres away and begin to fish.

Frustrated at this blatently rude disprepect for us who had been on the water since much earlier, Paul and myself (different Paul) went back to the jeep and drove off upstream. (Aggro encounters are not my bag as I have no time for idiots and unfortunately have a penchant for letting them know.)

Finding a nice section of river several minutes drive away with no others present we began our upstream stalk. Again we picked off a few fish, and now being afternoon they responded nicely to a wee emerger. Then, crouched near the tail of a pool no wider than your living room, throwing down to a couple of avidly feeding browns we were astounded to have this aussie fella walk straight along the riverbank across from us, wave and continue along his way! Of course being so close and walking so high along the opposite bank our avidly feeding trout were no more, instead bolting for the nearest undercut to hide.

Paul (still a different Paul, probably not as handsome) and I looked at each other in astonishment – who the heck did this dude think he was just walking straight by us and - you guessed it – begin fishing the very next pool above!

I fear that old school angling ethics and common courtesy is fast diminishing in the persona of the modern day angler. Whatever happened to strolling up to those on the river before you for a friendly chat and to ascertain their intentions for the day before agreeing on a suitable stretch of water to jump in at without impacting upon the aforementioned chaps day?

Upper Oreti beats

In an effort to combat such encounters on the upper Oreti River, Fish and Game Southland have erected three signs detailing 'beats'. You simply park beside the sign describing the beat you wish to fish that day, leave a departure time in the windscreen of your vehicle for latecomers and the beat is yours. First person on the river has the right of way. There is no camping allowed, and being accessed through private farmland the farmer has put a ban on vehicular access between the hours of 11pm and 5am due to unsavoury incidents on his property in the past.

Latecomers may also fish your beat, but must enter from the downstream end and fish their way up behind you. Your displayed departure time notifies them of how long the water has been rested and a fun day can be had by all.

I applaud the Southland F&G lads for initiating such a system, and hopefully instilling a sense of doing what's right into newcomers to the sport. At present this is a voluntary system, for they do not wish to enshroud this wonderful fishery in regulation, but if people abuse this system and keep ignoring others on the river, impacting negatively on their day then regulated access may soon be forthcoming.

A few old school common courtesies

A few old school common courtesies could well improve the angling experience for all. So what can we come up with?

1. Do unto others as you would have done unto your self

2. Respect those already on the water before you. Consult them as to their intentions and abide by any water sharing arrangements made. Beware – not everyone fishes in an upstream direction and jumping another angler not only makes you a wanker but also less attractive to the ladies.

3. Take only photos and leave only footprints – there is far too much trash being left on our riverbanks. If you take it in, carry it out – beer cans and lunch wrappers DO NOT improve the scenery.

4. Abide by the laws of the land and all fisheries regulations and landowners requests. Do not drive through paddocks where a short walk will get you there.

5. If no Fish and Game sign posted access is present, always ask permission from the landowner before crossing his property. A refusal is very uncommon and many valuable contacts can be made.

Those already on the river must also realise that the days of many miles of untouched water are a thing of the past. Angling is fast gaining popularity and with improved access and vehicular access to the backcountry these areas are becoming much more popular. When approached by a latecomer seeking a water sharing arrangement bare this in mind, and be generous. You may not be able to fish all the water you originally wanted to for the day but by being generous you create good karma, and what goes around always comes around eventually. Slow down and enjoy the water – you were probably fishing too fast anyway!

A little courtesy will go a long way. Enjoy your angling but also ensure you are not impacting negatively on others. Our New Zealand trout fishery is a precious and unique resource. Don't stuff it up for others.

Chris Dore


Article by...

Chris Dore, Fly Fishing Guide

Chris Dore, Fly Fishing Guide

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