When I started getting into fly-fishing, it was for me a solitary activity. Perhaps I wanted to hide the poor line management and inaccurate casts; or perhaps it’s just that I was usually seeking solitude. Nowadays I absolutely love fishing with others, and it’s not because my casts are now accurate and I don’t have to worry about line management, I just realized it’s a lot of fun to share my experience, my evening in the water, with others. Sometimes, I find it is actually a little sad to have a wonderful evening in the water, witness fish rising around me, watching a spectacular sunset, colorful fall foliage or a majestic bird and have no one to turn to and say, “did you see that?”
This week I went fishing with people on a couple of occasions. When you fish with others you have two choices: stick together, take turns at each good spot or leapfrog one pool at a time, always staying in sight of one another. OR, fish more on your own, leapfrogging longer distances and leaving a lot of pools in between for one another. I find the second option a good compromise between seeking solitude and desiring company.
Now, if the second option is the approach you’ll be taking with a partner, or a few friends, I have found that there must be a system to tell your partners where you started fishing. After all, if they can’t see you, and you already fished an area, fishing for them won’t be all that great. When leapfrogging, I suggest using the Duck system.
A duck, also known as a cairn, is a small pile of rocks designed to mark an area. You’ll often see these in trails, especially more faint ones,where they are used to indicated you’re going in the right direction. I like using them to tell my fishing partners where I started fishing. When they come upon they may knock it down and then proceed to find me and fish upstream from me. Where they start fishing they can build another duck to let me know where they started and so forth.
Ducks don’t have to be complicated structures. You can pile 2 or three rocks on a very visible place and be done. But, sometimes I like taking my time and making some very cool ones, balancing rocks that seem too round to be piled on one another. It will amuse your partner, and since they will be observing your beautiful work you may just have a chance to fish one more pool before they start fishing.
Yesterday, as I made my duck pictured above, I thought about the people that like piling rocks for fun. What if you come across their work? Or, what if other people are using the duck system? Things can get confusing and you may start skipping spots. So, I also thought that you and your fishing companions could agree on a mark to identify your own ducks for the day. For example, place a leave between two of the rocks (can you see the leave below), or if you are good at making cairns agree that they will be 5 rocks tall (another way to get more pools for yourself :). This will be a good way to tell it’s a pile from your own party.