Summertime means sharing our waters

By Patrick Straub Explore Big Sky Fishing Columnist

Cut to the scene: local fly shops. It’s early morning, barely room to move on the sales floor; guides’ rigs with boats trailered fill the parking lot; eager anglers finger the hot flies stuffing their goodie cups; and all the while, phones are ringing constantly with inquiries from incoming fishermen and women.

One thing is certain: Summertime is here and our mountain town is humming with activity. Because we’ve got it pretty darn good here in Big Sky, our home waters are filled with locals and visiting anglers who are most likely fishing in all the best spots. For the next several weeks, enjoying the sport might take a little extra effort in the etiquette department. Here are a few tips:

Practice what you preach. If you’re concerned with being crowded or feel others might be in your favorite hole already, find another place to fish. If you start fishing near someone else, you’re probably encroaching on them. Do unto others…

Respect landowners and private property. Know the law: It’s public property BELOW the MEAN high-water mark. If you are uncertain, move on or find other place to fish or wade. If you’re fishing with your dog, leash it or keep it under control. Always, always, always obtain permission before crossing private property. Your actions can affect future opportunities for other anglers.

When floating, be very conscious of wading anglers. Give wading anglers a wide berth, and do not float through their fishing zones. As our rivers continue to drop, and low water becomes a forthcoming reality, common courtesy goes a long way. A polite “hello” helps all parties enjoy the encounter.

Be boat ramp ready. If you’re at the boat launch putting in or taking out, be ready to get in and get out. Have rods rigged, coolers loaded, and backing skills honed. Inflate rafts away from the ramp. When taking out, pull your boat then unpack the gear once out of the ramp area.

Share the love. This may sound crazy coming from a fly shop owner, but if you’re in the best hole in the river, feel good about sharing it. We’re lucky to live in Big Sky where we’re great at welcoming folks from all over the country – and the world – into our hamlet for the few months of our short summer. Get your fish on then head to your next favorite hole. Remember, those fish will still be there when the summer crowds leave.

Leave it better than you found it. Pretty simple here. Don’t leave trash. Pick up after others. Yada, yada, yada … all the things you learned in kindergarten.

I tell the clients in my boat and in our shop that Montana is the land of 10 months of winter and two months of friends and relatives. This sentiment is amplified by the presence of our many summer visitors. Fortunately there are dedicated people who work tirelessly to preserve and protect the resources that brought us here or continue to keep us here.

Our summer season is upon us, and that means we have to share the love.

Pat Straub is the author of six books, including The Frugal Fly Fisher, Montana On The Fly, and the forthcoming Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing* *but were afraid to ask. He and his wife own Gallatin River Guides in Big Sky.