Behind You!

Give the other guys room.

by Scott Sadil

You would like to think it’s just ignorance.

But I’m afraid it could be worse.

Much worse.

We were a long way from anywhere, camped on a gravel bar alongside a deep pool formed by a spawning tributary, spread out casting for what turned out to be a few small grayling – when the only other group on the entire 100-mile river, three rafts in all, came sweeping around the upstream bend.

Guys in the front of each raft were on their feet, waving rods, flinging lines and flies this way and that.  They slid down right on top of us, ragged loops splashing, until we sort of kind of had to back away – or end up with tangled lines.

At the bottom of the pool, where my buddy Peter had just swung up a couple of small fish with a partridge and yellow soft hackle, the guy on the last raft threw a cast toward shore.

“May the best man win!” he shouted, the words rising into a harsh, maniacal laugh.


Friends don’t mind friends: Joe Kelly and Peter Syka

We were surprised when we passed the group again.  Word from the pilot, who had flown us to a headwater lake, said he had dropped these guys off the previous day and, if he wasn’t mistaken, they were scheduled to finish their float in eight days rather than the usual ten.  

All that casting seemed to delay their progress downstream.

We, on the other hand, were moving right along, eager to reach the silvers a group the previous week said they ran into on the lower river.

Halfway down, we found those silvers, or ones just like them.  We were strung out along a slough, off the mainstem, doing a number on these bright hot fish – when who should appear but our buddies the fly slingers.

Either Peter or Joe, the third in our party, had a tight line, fighting a fish at the top of the slough.  I was all set to cast, eyeing a quiet eddy against the far bank, when one of the guys in the raft hollered, “Behind you!”

Behind me?

I glanced back.  There were forty yards of river beyond the raft, yet sure enough, had I straightened my backcast, I could have easily found rubber.

The next raft followed – and as I stood there waiting, the guy on the oars aimed the boat into the bottom of the slough, where the angler in front was able to make three quick casts, into the slough, before the guy on the oars veered off and they headed downstream.

The three of us, Joe and Peter and I, fought a few more salmon before we took a moment to share our thoughts.

“Maybe they don’t know any better.”

“Maybe that’s how they fish at home.”

“They’re just kooks,” Peter concluded.

Hard to say.  But lately I see something going on – and I don’t think noticing it is just a matter of me being old.  Amy Hazel from the Deschutes Angler fly shop, for example, reported in her blog this past year that anglers were coming into her shop after floating and fishing parts of the river that, she informed them, were closed; at the takeout at the bottom of the river, all kinds of people, said the checker, were showing up without permits.  Same on the John Day.  

The question is, are these anglers who don’t read the regs – or know the rules of etiquette? 

Or were they never taught about regs and rules in the first place?

Or – and this is the worst option – do they know the rules but they’re ignoring them?

If that’s the case, any name you want to call them is fine by me.


Gray’s angling editor Scott Sadil recalls the one time in Baja he fished without a license. The authorities said the price of licenses was being raised, but until the new price was set, licenses couldn’t be sold.