Welcome back for the second installation of the Fishing Ethics Series brought to you by Fat Tire… This time around we are focusing on float fishing.

As more people continue to enter the world of fly fishing, more boats are hitting the river, tensions between anglers are rising, and the pressure on natural resources is increasing. With these growing trends, it’s never been more important to educate and inspire anglers to act responsibly out on the water. So, grab a Fat Tire and check out the 17 tips you need to know when float fishing.

Truck and boat parked at boat ramp

Don’t Rig on the Ramp

Rather than rushing straight to the boat ramp, take your time to prepare your gear in the staging area. The area directly in front of the boat ramp is valuable real estate, and you shouldn’t go there until you’re completely ready. If your vehicle is on the boat ramp, you should either be launching or trailering the boat. All other parts of the process should occur in the staging area off to the side. Actions like inflating rafts, rigging up rods, arranging the cooler, attaching the anchor, etc., can all be completed before moving the boat into the ramp area (or even done at home before hitting the road).

Truck backing up a boat

Practice Backing Up a Trailer Before You Get to the Ramp

It is always a good idea to be confident with backing in a trailer before you actually get to a boat ramp. Under the pressure of a crowded boat ramp, you (and everyone else at the ramp) will be thankful that you took the time to practice ahead of time. Take a day off during the week while the boat ramp is empty, and practice. This practice will go a long way!

If you are struggling with launching the boat, please ask for help. Other anglers would rather help out and clear the way instead of watching you fumble back and forth a hundred times.

boat in staging area

Be Quick

When you’re ready to launch the boat, make it snappy. Boat ramps aren’t always crowded, but when they are, there will be a line of people waiting for your spot. Have a plan to get in and out quickly.

One way to speed up the process is to have a friend with you. With two people, one person can stay with the boat and the other person can drive the vehicle. This drastically speeds up the process.

Person preparing a boat

Take Up as Little Space as Possible

Some boat ramps are wide enough to allow for multiple boats to launch at once. If this is the case, make sure you leave enough room for other boats to access the ramp at the same time. This is where practicing will come in clutch… Having your boat alongside the dock, rather than launching in the middle of the ramp will make it way easier to get the boat off the trailer and to the dock. Once the boat is in the water, move it to the side so that other people can continue to access the ramp while you’re parking the car. Most importantly, after the boat is launched, don’t be the person that takes up two parking spots.

Angler fishing from boat with another boat close by

Give People Space

Give other boats extra space during technical sections of the river. Depending on the river, only one boat at a time may be able to fit when traveling the best line. When you do get close to other boats, judge the speed that other boats moving at, and make sure you’re not cutting them off. If there is a boat anchored, keep your space!

two people on a boat

The Downstream Boat has the Right of Way

Related to giving people space, boats in front of you have the right of way. If you’re getting close to the boat in front of you, or you’re aiming to make a pass, make sure you do so during a moment when there is no technical areas, and when the river is wide enough that the other boat is not affected. Also, a little communication can go a long way when passing other boats. Similarly to when you’re passing someone on a bike, it’s common curtesy to warn the other boat.

Person wade fishing

Respect the Waders

Give wading anglers as much room as you can! They have the right of way. Similarly to if a boat was anchored in a particular area, you would want to keep your space from that boat.

If you think about it, when you’re floating the river you have an exorbitant amount of flexibility to fish different areas of a river in comparison to anglers limiting to walking to their spots. If you have the privilege to be on a boat, give wading anglers their space, and find the next best spot.  And yes, this even applies if the person is fishing your ABSOLUTE FAVORITE HOLE. It’s probably their favorite too.

Rafts and people

Respect Other People Using the River

Believe it or not, the river isn’t just used by people looking to catch fish. You could be sharing the waters with people who are tubing, kayaking, rafting, or doing a variety of other activities. Despite the fact that we are all doing different activities, we are all dependent on the river as a common resource. Make sure to treat people with respect and understand that we’re all there to share a common resource.

Private water sign

Don’t Anchor in Private Water

This is one tip that can get a little confusing. Recognizing private land is one thing, but understanding private water can be a little tricky. Depending on what state you’re in, the laws can be a little different.

For example, in Colorado, the law states that land owners not only own the dry land on the side of the river, but the river bottom as well. In this unique situation, boats can float by legally, but they are not allowed to anchor in these areas. While this is true in Colorado, the law changes state by state. Before you float a section of river, make sure to do your research and find out what is allowed in that particular area.

Attaching an anchor on a boat

Don’t Anchor Your Boat in a Bad Position

In some situations, if you anchor in the middle of the river, there isn’t enough river on either side for other boats to pass. When you do choose anchor, make sure you take the time to find a spot that allows for other boats to pass with ease.

Two people drinking Fat Tire beers on a boat

Don’t Play Loud Music

Whether you’re hiking along a trail or floating down a river, it’s always best NOT to play loud music. You should have a good time on the river, but don’t let your “good time” negatively influence someone else’s experience.

Fat Tire beer and a fly rod

Booze Responsibly

There’s not many things as great as floating down a river and sipping a Fat Tire. With that being said, we cannot overstate the importance of drinking responsibly. If you’re on the oars, running the shuttle, or even the person slinging streamers off the front of the boat, everyone should know their limits and drink responsibly.

Trout and net

Handling the Heat

Before floating a section of river it’s always important to check on the river conditions. Especially WATER TEMPERATURE during summer months. When it comes to trout, water over approximately 67°F is unhealthy for fishing because there is a high likelihood that the fish will die. During the heat of the summer some sections of rivers will actually have restrictions (i.e., hoot owl restrictions) on the times of day you’re allowed to fish, or restrictions on fishing at all.

For more information on this topic check out this article.

Boat ramp parking lot

Know Where You’re Taking Out

Missing the boat ramp is never a fun thing to do, and it can even be dangerous in certain situations. Taking the time to line out your plan of action before you hit the river is super important. Safety aside, it’s always nice to know your distance and cadence for a given float. If you’re looking for a helpful tool when planning a successful float trip, check out the OnWater App.

Pack out what you Pack In.

Wherever you are, it’s always important to pack out what you pack in. Meaning that everything that you brought with you should be leaving with you at the end of the day. Establishing a go-to receptacle onboard is a great way to make sure you’re achieving this goal. It’s also a great way to help keep your boat clean and organized.

Person reaching for a Fat Tire beer

Be Respectful

As with nearly all of our etiquette articles, the number one rule is to be respectful. If you treat others the way you want to be treated on the water, then we’re all going to be better off.

two people with a trout

Have Fun

At the end of it all, a day floating on a river is one of the best things life can offer. Make sure to take a deep breath, maybe a sip of Fat Tire, and enjoy the time on the river.

That is all for Float Fishing Ethics! Stay tuned for the next installation of the Fishing Etiquette Series brought to you by Fat Tire. Next time we’ll be hitting the river for some tips on Float Fishing Etiquette.



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