The Klamath River is predicted to be full of salmon this fall. It will be one of the only opportunities to take salmon in California this year.

Because of that, it is also predicted to be crowded with fishermen. And that could lead to conflict.

I remember fishing the Klamath in the 1970's, when the first riffle on the river was below the Highway 101 bridge. There was a line of as many as 30 fishermen on each side of the river, standing almost shoulder to shoulder.

There were a few disputes, especially when someone new showed up and tried to do things differently and not conforming to the norm.

It is important, when fishing in a crowd, to fish the same way. For example, if you are standing in a line, drift fishing bait, and everyone is in rhythm, fishing the same way, then there are surprisingly few tangles. Attention needs to be paid to keep the rhythm. When the fisherman next to you casts across and slightly upstream, to start his drift, you need to wait until his bait drifts down and the line is at an angle downstream. Then you can cast over his line, across and slightly upstream and start your drift. Your bait will follow his down the river and he will retrieve his bait before yours reaches the end of the drift. The process begins again and if everyone stays in sync there will be no trouble.

But if someone joins the line and tries to cast a lure, trouble is brewing. The lure moves through the water at a different rate and in no time there will be tangles. If everyone is throwing lures, then that's okay because the crowd can get into that same rhythm.

It is the same with fly fishing. If everyone is fly fishing, it will work, but don't wade out with the fly casters with a Little Cleo, you might get yelled at.

When a fish is hooked, obviously the lucky fishermen has the right of way. Everyone should reel in and get out of the way and watch the action. You don't want to be the reason the fish is lost. The hooked fish will likely run downstream, forcing the angler to follow it. Once he is well out of the way, casting can continue. After the fish is landed, the fishermen has the right to return to his spot in line.

I witnessed a good example of this one day on the Mad River. I walked upstream, above the hatchery, to find a crowd fishing a long pool formed below a large rock. A young lady had a salmon hooked and all the guys were watching and staying out of her way as she fought the fish up and down the pool. After she landed and released the fish she returned to her spot in line. She had a small circular spot stomped down on the beach, indicating she had been standing there a long time. She made two casts and hooked another salmon. Again, all the boys reeled in, shaking their heads, and watched. She landed and released the fish and promptly returned, placing her feet on the same spot. She repeated this many times while I watched and she was the only one hooking fish. I don't know if she had the sweet spot, had the right bait, or it was just a woman's touch, but she was putting all the other fishermen to shame. To their credit, everyone respected her space and stayed out of her way.

The same rules apply when fishing from small boats. If everyone is anchored and casting then it is obviously not a good idea to troll around them. You should also anchor and if you have to move, avoid traveling over the fishing area. Pass anchored boats on the shallow water side and away from the side they are casting to. Remember, salmon and steelhead are usually on the move, migrating upstream, so they will likely come to you.

Watch what everyone else is doing, then fall into place. Some sections of the river are drifted by boats, either pulling plugs or side drifting bait. At the end of the drift they will often motor back upstream to drift the section again. They travel along the shallow edge of the river to avoiding running over fish. Nothing upsets the fishing guides more than a rookie boater running over fish. A boat passing a few feet above salmon or steelhead will spook them and put them off the bite. Again, watching what the guide boats are doing and following suit will keep everyone happy and bring you more fish.

Trolling the mouth of the Klamath can be an adventure. When everyone is going a different direction there is a real danger of collision or, at the least, tangles. Occasionally, a boat operator will try to re-rig while driving and not watch where he is going. Soon, angry shouts are heard above the put-put-put of the motors.

Everyone should try to troll in the same direction and when a fish is hooked extra space should be given to the successful angler. It is helpful to ready your net, holding the bag in the air to signal other boaters you are hooked up. Also, the rod is usually pointed at the fish, indicating its location. Trollers should pass on the opposite side and away from the fish.

I like to troll away from the crowd, on the edge of the fleet, or off by myself. Many times, I have found fish holding away from the crowd, even in shallow water. I believe too many boats will move fish away from all the commotion and prospecting new water can pay off.

While fishing in a crowd, I have seen some ugly confrontations. I have also seen friendly instruction gratefully accepted. So, show some patience, pay attention, conform with the crowd, and have a good time fishing.


Casey Allen is a North Coast outdoors freelance writer and can be reached at