Waterside Etiquette: 9 Do’s and Dont’s


Image source: Shutterstock
Bankside etiquette: do’s and don’ts for anglers.

8% of carp and coarse anglers report being involved in fights over their favourite swims. The shocking finding from our Big Fishing Survey lifts the lid on a growing problem within the angling community. Acts of aggression, bad manners and littering are on the rise – problems that affect us all.

Because many angling rules are unspoken, we think it’s high time for a refresher course in fishing etiquette. Here are our top nine angling do’s and don’ts.


  1. Don’t be aggressive

angry pufferfish

Source: shutterstock
Don’t be like this fella – leave your fight faces at home.

When things get out of hand, people get hurt. Last summer, when he was working from his boat off Hope’s Nose in Torquay, commercial fisherman Nathan Ould ended up with a two inch hook embedded in his cheek after a shore angler cast at him.

The attack, reported by the Plymouth Herald is one of a spate of similar incidents at the popular sea fishing spot. Clive Baker, chairman of the Torquay Fishermen’s Association, who has also been attacked, says the aggression at Hope’s Nose is putting the next generation off fishing:

“You don’t get youngsters going down there like you used to after school for a couple of hours because they are too intimidated.”

Lose your temper and you give angling a bad name. If you have a problem with another angler, or fisherman, talk to them and if you’re still not happy, report them to the appropriate authority.

  1. Don’t reserve swims for hours.

TF Gear Micro Pod

Image source: fishtec
Don’t hog the river with markers and buckets on empty swims.

There’s nothing more dispiriting than when, after finally snatching some time to go fishing, you get to the bankside only to find the best spots reserved for non-existent anglers.

First come, first served is the only fair way to fish. As Fishtec blogger Richard Handel says:

“I have seen buckets put in swims for 2 to 3 hours. This, I think, is NOT acceptable in this day and age.”

Fishing may be a largely solitary sport, but we’re all part of the wider angling community. Excessively reserving spots for you or your friends isn’t fair on other anglers. Sharing is caring.

  1. Don’t crowd other anglers.

angling courtesy

Image source: Go Fly Fishing UK
Give your fellow anglers some space.

Treat other anglers as you would like them to treat you. Would you want another angler to muscle their way into the swim you’re fishing? Thought not. As the good folk of St Mary’s Angling Club say on their blog, Views from the Loch:

“Do not invade the personal space of another angler, only move into such an area if invited to do so.”

You shouldn’t fish downstream from a fellow angler who got there before you. Nor is it acceptable to fish opposite someone who’s already fishing. If you’re not fishing it’s best to keep away from the bank altogether so you don’t disturb the fish or the anglers.

  1. Don’t leave your swim in a mess.

fishing litter

Image source: linesonthewater.anglingtrust.net
Litter left by ‘yobs with rods’ beside the River Severn

Always remember to take away whatever you bring to the river. From sandwich wrappers to discarded lines, litter is unsightly and hazardous to local wildlife.

Littering is entirely avoidable – show proper respect for the environment and your fellow anglers by taking your rubbish home with you.


  1. Be respectful.

friendly anglers

Image source: Shutterstock
Show your fellow anglers courtesy

Anglers aren’t strangers but like-minded people who share a love of fishing. We all know the joy of reeling in a catch and yet when it comes to extending fellow anglers courtesy and consideration, an increasing number of us fall short. Writing for Carpology, Ian Chillcott says:

“We were born with a mouth and very often speaking to others using your mouth is the best way to live in harmony.”

Take the time to talk to other anglers, whether it’s just to say ‘Hi’, chat about the weather, or to ask if a particular swim is available. It’s a sign of respect. And while you’re at it, remember to put your phone on silent.

  1. Wait until play is over.

tight line

Image source: Stick Without Brains
Angling is all about patience

Is an angler near you playing a fish? If your line is in the water, it’s common courtesy to reel in and wait until the battle is over. The same applies if you’re about to cast and someone gets into a fish. Just kick back and give them the time they need to land their catch.

If you’re looking to congratulate the angler in question – as much as we want to promote friendliness on the riverbanks – it might be best to give them a moment to enjoy their catch before barging in on their triumph! Remember, patience, like silence, is king.

  1. Obey the rules of the area.

private fishing sign

Image source: Shutterstock
Respect the area and obey the rules.

When you get in a car, you obey the rules of the road. When you head to the water, you obey the rules of the riverbank – it’s as simple as that.

Before you head out for your day’s sport, take some time to check the fishery’s rules online. And when you’re at the venue, keep an eye out for signs alerting you to what you can and can’t do.

Along some stretches of bank, wading may be discouraged, other areas could be dedicated to fly fishing only – stay alert and follow the rules.

  1. Keep a long term view in mind.

beautiful pristine chalkstream

Image source: salmon-trout.org
Look after the rivers and keep them pristine.

As anglers, we have a duty to protect British rivers, so that we and future generations of anglers can continue to enjoy them.

One of the best ways you can help look after our waterways is to make ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ your new mantra. Avoiding transferring pests from one river or lake to another by thoroughly cleaning and drying your kit is key to preventing the spread of alien invaders like killer shrimps which can decimate aquatic ecosystems.

  1. Carry your license with you.

fishing licence

Image source: Environment Agency
Got yours yet? Be smart, get licensed

As the guys at  Views from the Loch say, we’re all part of the angling brotherhood. Make sure you uphold the good name of your fellow anglers by ensuring your fishing license is valid.

You can buy a licence from the Post Office or direct from the Environment Agency via an annual direct debit. Fishery bailiffs often visit the river to check permits; there’s no excuse for not paying your way like the rest of us.

Have you seen any examples of exemplary bankside etiquette on your visits to the river? Or have you seen anglers behaving badly? Don’t be shy – share your experiences with us on our Facebook page.