Honor Among Fly Fishers and Non-Fishers Alike

With the rapidly burgeoning number of fly fishers, I’ve noticed a corresponding decline in fishing etiquette. This is occurring with what appears to be newcomers and mid-comers to the sport as well as a few of the fly fishing guides. I suspect everyone who has spent much time on streams and lakes can attest to this.

Whether it’s fishers who don’t respect or understand the unwritten rules of crowding another fisher or boat or guides who take their clients directly through fishing runs that are being used by wade fishers when alternative routes exist . . . the list could go on.

Fortunately, I find these incidents are still the exception and not the rule.

Contradicting these types of conduct is an experience I had last summer while floating and fly fishing the Fall River in eastern Idaho. I embarked on a five-mile float trip that would conclude near the crossing of Fall River by Idaho Highway 32. This included a prearranged shuttle of my truck at the end of the float.

Using my eight-foot cataraft/pontoon I started the float carrying a second fly rod that I could switch to for streamer fishing in addition to my chest pack and a storage box containing my lunch and several fly boxes loaded with various patterns. After floating a short distance and stopping to wade fish several times during the first hour of fishing, this primarily rainbow fishery was producing well.

Spotting a run on river left, I veered around it to not put down the fish with the intent of approaching it as I had done with earlier runs by fishing its bottom end and wading upstream until the run petered out. Once I reached the lower end of the run I anchored my boat and began my upstream wade. With almost every cast I was sticking fish with a Guide’s Choice Hare’s Ear and a Frenchie nymph.

Reaching the upper end of this run I decide to return to my boat and float downstream in search of the next run. To my shock and horror when I turned around to wade to my boat I noticed that my boat was missing! Apparently, in my excitement and hurry to start fly fishing again, I failed to properly tie down and anchor my boat and it had simply drifted off by itself.

I quickly realized that my only hope to recover my boat and equipment was to wade across the river and call the Fremont County Sheriff’s office for assistance. Upon calling them I mentioned I was afoot and that my truck earlier had been shuttled downstream. The Sheriff’s personnel responded with cheerful alacrity and offered to provide a ride downstream to my truck while looking for my boat at the same time. Within a few minutes, a Sheriff’s Deputy picked me up and gave me a ride to my truck.

The deputy started to wait with me for my boat to float downstream to us but had to leave because he was dispatched elsewhere. After waiting a couple of hours and hoping my boat would come downstream to where I was, I realized the boat must have floated by this area prior to my arriving there. At this point, I thought I’d jump in my truck and drive downstream even further to intercept my boat. But then I also realized that I had left my primary truck keys in my fly fishing chest pack, which was on my boat and had instructed the shuttle driver to lock my secondary keys inside the truck for security. I was keyless.

Other than the overwhelming shock of losing my boat and valuable fishing equipment, I still felt confident in recovering it. Fortunately, I was a member of a vehicle roadside assistance provider that could unlock my truck. Luck was still on my side for I was able to call and request assistance. I was assured that a locksmith would be dispatched immediately. After a couple of hours of waiting, I called the roadside assistance to ascertain the arrival status of the locksmith. I was in turn patched into the locksmith’s cell number and discovered that the locksmith had gotten lost and from his current location was still 45 minutes away.

By the time the locksmith arrived and unlocked my truck darkness was nearing. This meant I would have to give up the search that night for my boat and equipment.

For the next few days, I checked with the dispatcher for the Fremont County Sheriff hoping that some honest and understanding person had found my missing items. The answer I received each time was that they hadn’t received any such report. I was at the point by now that I had given up hope of ever recovering my equipment. My greatest agony was not so much the financial loss (which was significant) but the thoughts of having to re-tie and restock the half-dozen fly boxes that were missing.

Six nights after reporting my loss I received a call from the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office saying that my boat was reported found, and they provided a name and address but no phone number of the person who found my boat. Immediately my wife and I drove with happy and grateful anticipation to the location provided to us. After an hour’s drive, we arrived at the location but there was no residential structure to be found nearby. I called the Sheriff’s Office again to see if they could provide more information but what they provided initially was all they had.

Exhausted of ideas we drove to a farmhouse that was located within a half mile of the provided address. A young mother of several children answered the door. I queried her with the address and the name provided but she was unfamiliar with either. Her husband joined us a few minutes later but he too was unfamiliar with the name and address. Although not a fisherman himself, he was kind enough to empathize with my urgency and need for finding my equipment. He mentioned that it was getting late, that he would continue our search and encouraged us to return home. Before leaving he assured us that he and his son would locate my boat that night!

After being on the road for 30 minutes while returning home, I received a call from the husband stating that he and his son had not only found my boat but would haul it to his front yard for us to pick it up the next day.

Armed with a couple of large pizzas as thanks, my wife and I returned the next day to pick up my boat. Amazingly it was not damaged and my fly rod and other equipment were there too. The relief of getting my boat back was almost overwhelming.

While recovering my boat from the person who had found it the husband was able to get this person’s name and phone number. I later called this person and thanked him for his honesty and help. Next, I informed him that I wanted to pay a reward to him since I had placed an ad in the local paper offering a reward for my boat’s return. He resolutely declined my offer and instead asked me if I would return the favor to the next fellow fly fisherman in need of help.

Having gone from an almost cynical sense of hopelessness of ever having my equipment returned to me, I was reminded of the goodness of many people, some who are fly fishers and others who are not. Equally important was the feeling of gratitude that I was part of a society that despite its warts and flaws is a pretty good one.


Written by Brian Morishita

I am a native of eastern Idaho and have been fly fishing since 1969. Since then I have also become a fly tier who ties almost all the flies I fish with. My ideal fishing is dry fly fishing but I spend most of my time Czech nymphing along with sometimes pitching streamers unless there is a hatch on.

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Let’s hear some of your thoughts in the comments! Do you have any stories of honor you can tell us about?

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