I'm not a natural born dog lover. I never grew up with pets so I understand how non-dog owners feel when they encounter dogs with clueless owners. Hearing "My dog is friendly" is not reassuring when its nose is buried in your ass. I inherited two dogs when I married my wife. Marley and Lola.
Marley is a Cane Corso. A mastiff of the Italian variety. He's at home in the mountains, loves the snow and is pretty good at wading.
He loves the water, but he doesn't swim or splash, he creeps, at most saunters. This is a good characteristic for a fishing pal.
Marley is great at spotting rises. They capture his attention. I can practically cast to his sight line and be into fish.
With his backpacks he's able to lug a mess of gear. Just slowing him down enough for me to keep him in sight as we explore our local streams
As I mentioned before, I am not a natural born dog owner. If my pet spoiled someone else's fishing, I'd feel a deep regret that would haunt me to my grave. And while I've been pretty good at fishing with my dog, we have been guilty of ruining at least one picnic for a pair of anglers. My sincerest apologies to them again. I still get flashbacks.
TOP 5 REASONS NOT TO BRING YOUR DOG FISHING
- Places Where Dogs are Not Allowed - Seems like a no-brainer, but I often run into folks who are not aware of regulations forbidding our four legged friends. National Parks and Monuments will usually dog block you. In Utah, we have watersheds that provide drinking water to the metropolitan area that are designated as DOG FREE zones - this includes Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon, East Canyon and City Creek Canyon above the Water Treatment plant. On the flip side dogs are allowed in Millcreek Canyon and Park City. So know your regulations before bringing Fido.
- Busy Roads or Highways Run Along the Stream - Even the best trained dog can't resist chasing a squirrel or ducks that trigger the chase instinct by fleeing. I cringe to think of what would happen if my dog ran into traffic.
- Fishing Buddies with Allergies - I have a good buddy, Ben, who is allergic to dogs. For his sake the dogs stay home.
- Extreme Fishing Conditions - Deep snow, sub sub zero temperatures, or scorching hot summer days. Since I often hike 1-3 miles when I'm fishing I think about whether my dogs will be able tolerate the trip. There is no way I can carry a 136 lb mastiff out of a canyon if he were to get injured or couldn't walk. While Marley loves deep powder, our little boston terrier, Lola, gets high centered in snow more than 6 inches deep.
- Picnics and Food are nearby - I have learned the hard way to give picnickers a wide berth. It is already annoying when your furry friend begs at home, they just can't resist crashing a stranger's dinner party.
TOP 5 WAYS TO ENJOY FISHING WITH YOUR DOG
- Train Your Pet - The basics really help make your day on the water fun. If your dog can COME, STAY, SIT, and HEEL especially while they are wading in the stream or following bank side, then you will share many great days together on the water. It helps to reinforce these commands by bringing a pouch of doggie snacks to reward them when they successfully respond to commands on the water. Remember being well behaved on the stream is a new environment for many dogs and it can take them a few tries to stay focused on you with all of the distractions a riparian setting.
- Put Your Dog to Work - Dog packs come in all sizes and can help an overly energetic dog slow down to regular people speed. Fisherman are trained through years of stalking spooky trout to move more like molasses than pocket water. Marley can carry two liter of water, fly boxes, and spare clothing (packed in a waterproof dry sack). RUFFWEAR makes some great packs.
- LEASH 'EM - I really appreciate when a dog owner gains control of their pet and leashes 'em. My dog doesn't like it when "friendly" mutts sneak up for a butt sniff. I agree with Marley on this one, it's polite to ask first or buy us a drink at least. Marley's pack has an handle that is easy to grab quickly. I, at least, like to have a firm grip of Marley's collar if we are passing hikers, anglers, or unfamiliar dogs. Leashing your dog while you change flies or leaders is also a good idea, since they can cause plenty of mischieft while you are doodling with knots.
- NO Swimming - wading is fine, but if you let your dog run into the stream and splash around, then any downstream fishing is ruined and many fish upstream will run for cover too. Though it may look like fun for Fido, it is tantamount to a fat man doing a canon-ball into your pool.
- Mind Your Fly - Keep your line, leader and flies from laying on the ground or anyplace your dog may walk or root around. I also de-barb all of my flies which makes it easier to remove from me, fish, or Marley.
There are many people that would say there are no good fly fishing dogs. This leaves a lot of people feeling like pariahs in the fly fishing scene. But, there are many closeted anglers who have known the joys of fishing with a buddy. I wish you all many years of shared memories with your fly fishing pack.
What other DOs and DO NOTs would you add to the list?
Send Me your best picture of you and your dogs fishing.