Is it really private?

by | Mar 2, 2012 | 0 comments

This photo was taken back in 2006, just after the Madison River opened up for the general season. We didn’t get pictures last season, which had higher water than that of 2006.   Some of you have walked by this sign while fishing your way up the river.   Once the river levels subside, there is quite a bit of ground to walk on. …..can you see the grass underwater?   His sign says that the ground upstream of it is private property….this is BS. 

The home owner who erected the sign above is a newcomer to the river, one of those guys who has arrived to the valley in the last 10 years.  He reigns from Colorado, where the laws are different from that of Montana.   The slick in front of his house was renamed Prick Slick, because of how this guy treats anglers who walk the bank (below the high water mark).  In fact, I was there the night this name was conjured up and it was  a result of how this guy treated us as we snuck by the pool full of rising trout that he was fishing to.  No, we didn’t spook the fish or fish to them, in fact, we gave the guy a wide berth and didn’t fish 100 yards above or below him – even though he called us various names and threaten us, all because we were on “his land”.

The Madison River, on average, is about 3 feet deep.  Trout can live almost anywhere.  The boulder ridden banks of the Wade Stretch provide great cover for fish and insects alike.  Trout in the Madison love the banks.  Therefore, if one walks directly in the water along the bank, one will scare the trout off  to the middle of the river.   A sneaky, ninja-like angler, realizes this and therefore stays out of the water (as much as possible) when fishing or walking.   Some anglers like to wade the Madison and fish back toward the bank….which makes sense if you have the wading skills.

Some folks like to talk about litter on the Upper Madison River.  Rarely do I see any litter on the river and would go on record saying that the Upper Madison is the cleanest river in the state.  The same guy who owns the sign, also built a vacation home.  We would consistently find litter related to his construction project, which had blown into the river and the willows.  At one point, I waded out in waist deep water to a pile of boulders just to retrieve a mass of insulation.  I would bet that some angler didn’t drop the 6 foot section of insulation out of his pocket while tying on some tippet.

When there is an angler wade fishing the bank, it is good etiquette to give the angler ample room as to not spook the area he/she is fishing…..sometimes called “high banking”.   Walking 20-30 feet off the bank, keeping a low profile, just to get around another angler is good etiquette.  Some folks call this trespassing; others call it an unwritten rule of the river.   Throughout the Madison’s wade stretch, one has always been able to walk the bank, in the sage brush, in order to not spook the bank feeding trout.  Now a days, new property owners don’t understand this.  They bought the property and want you and I, off of it.  They want us to walk in the river, therefore spooking the bank trout.  If a fish is continually spooked away from its home, over time, it will not return.  Unknowingly, the new property owner is making the angling infront of their property turn to shit.  When anglers walk off the bank, in the sage, everyone’s angling will be that much better.   The riparian (ripa is Latin for river bank) zone will also benefit.  While I am not making any exceptions for trespassing, I’m saying that walking a small section of the sage brush, away from the river bank, should not be frowned upon.  Apply these thoughts to the section of river around Reynold’s Pass, $3 Bridge, the Big Bend and Pine Butte….lots of sage brush, super good bank fishing, some private homes and lots of open country. 

My point is this:  Respect and education is key to keeping everyone happy.  Educating new landowners and new anglers on fishing etiquette will go a long ways.