There are certain rules to the river that we should try and adhere to when fishing with others and confronting other river bassers on the river.
1. Before the trip, be sure to make your float partners aware of any time constraints you may have. Most people, when doing a float trip, plan on being gone all day. That is crucial information because it can change how many vehicles may be needed and/or what section of river is floated. Or, it could mean that the guys who want to go all day may have to go independently from you. You don’t ever want to throw this curve ball at a float partner at the last minute. At least if they are made aware ahead of time, everyone can change plans accordingly if need be.
2. If someone invites you to one of their secret spots, be sure not to go blab the spot all over the internet or take a lot of other people there without first asking the person if they mind. It just common sense, even though it may be a public access point, because you wouldn’t have fished there if it wasn’t for the kindness of someone to take you to that spot. If it is private property that only they have access to, then definitely do not go there unless they invite you back. Landowners who are gracious enough to let us access the river may take that privileged away if they see people who are not invited trying to take advantage of their generosity. My rule of thumb is to always talk with the landowners when you see them and remind them how appreciative you are that they are letting you access the river from their land. Sometimes it is even smart to give them a gift to show your appreciation.
3. If you run into another group of people who are also doing a float trip to the same takeout as you, it can get complicated. If you caught up to them, then obviously you are fishing faster than they are. The entire groups must then play the leap frog game unless one group does not mind fishing from behind and picking up whatever fish have been speedily left by the first group. Most of the time if you are the group in front you do tend to fish faster because you feel like you are being pushed from the group behind. The reality is that it is a public river and you can go wherever you want, but generally if no group is fishing faster, the right of way must be given to whoever was on the river first. If you do pass the group in front you should go well well past them until you begin wetting a line. This space will give the fish a chance to reset before the other group comes down the river and provide ample separation between the groups where they still get the seclusion that the river offers. Be willing to let the group from behind come back and pass you as well if you passed them first. Whatever you do, don’t get upset at anyone because after all it is not like both groups knew they were going to be there and there are plenty of fish in the river and plenty of other days. If you run into some people that are just fishing a section of the river and are not doing a float trip, be sure and wind up your rods and paddle past them a good ways instead of fishing the exact area they are.
4. When on the river if there is more than two people with you, be sure and paddle well downstream of whichever person you choose to fish in front of on the same side of river. This method is known as leap frogging. Generally speaking the deeper side of the river will have bigger fish, and it is rude to continue to cut in front of somebody to fish these deeper spots. If your side of the river is shallow then simply paddle down on your side of the river until it gets deeper. If you do tend to fish faster than most people (like me) then just make sure you leave the side of river in front of your float partners untouched. There is nothing wrong with blowing way ahead just as long as you leave holes on the other side of the river untouched for others. The middle of the river is fair game for anyone and there are no rules for the person/s who are trailing the group down the river – fish either side at whatever pace you would like.
5. On a small creek or stream it is polite for both people to stay at the same pace since moving forward, even if you are on one side of the river, could disrupt the fish on the other side and alert them of your presence.
6. If everyone else on your float trip is way ahead and the bite is slow, try and get to the take out fairly soon so they are not waiting too long on one person. However, the group that is there early also should realize that they committed to a whole day so if one person is still having a good time fishing then they should just relax and take it easy in the truck and enjoy some bank talk until the final person arrives.
Hope this helps explain some things for any new river bassers out there. Now, quit reading this and get on the water already!