A Private Water Renaissance?


I know, I know… Public Lands Month.  We’re all supposed to hold hands and wax poetic about how much we love our public lands.  I sure do.  And I am one of the loudest, brashest, public land (and water) advocates anywhere (check my record if you don’t believe it).

But I gotta tell ya… it kinda sucks going to the put-in and seeing 35 trailers … on a Wednesday… in mid-September… where there used to be maybe one or two a few years ago.  It kinda sucks seeing every pull-off (or hike-in spot) occupied by walk-waders on a remote stretch of water at 6:30 a.m.  And it really sucks to see the literal piles of shit all over the public campgrounds and trails in places that seemed untouched not that long ago.

I’m not suggesting that we should love our public lands any less… I’m saying we should take care of them MORE.  And I do not fault, one iota, any of you who are making some honest coin by showing clients a good time and pointing them down the road of discovery on America’s public lands.  That is as it should be (but we can endeavor to make it better).

That said, I’m also sensing an up-tick in the “private” realm amongst anglers who simply want to avoid the carnival. And I’m not feeling like that’s a bad thing, if it’s done right.

To wit, take look at RareWaters in Colorado.  It’s a WAY different concept than the “build fences for profit” concept that got everyone so pissed off several years ago.   For the price it would cost to take your kids to a Broncos game, etc., you can fish in solitude, without a guide, and have a quality, unpressured experience.  Moreover, part of what you pay goes to making the resources more sustainable and healthy, via RareWaters’ commitment to TU.

If people can fish in places that wouldn’t otherwise be open to the public.  If it doesn’t cost more than an arm and a leg, and is still reachable for many… if that puts some anglers on water that eases pressure on public water for those who don’t want to pay…

Most importantly, if we’re not backtracking and taking access away, rather living in the “what is” scenario to create more opportunity, be that at a price… well, I’m just not feeling like that’s all that bad.  But I’m interested, as always, in what you all have to say.  And that also leads me to the much-anticipated, always lightning-rod AT E-Survey question…



  1. Michael Beech on

    Yep, this sounds a bit like another way that those with money can hoard resources and the less well off…well that’s just too bad. I have fished “private” waters ( on vacation and employed I could only afford two days of access) in Scotland and England and it sure is nice to have a section of the river to yourself. I had the money to pay for the beat, If I did not have that much disposable income I would have been shut out. Private waters are simply classist.

  2. I appreciate any private landowner allowing access to their private water. Otherwise nobody but the landowner and their friends are going to fish that water. As the article said, this also relieves pressure from public Waters. It is not separatist because there is a small fee involved. We’re not talking a new house or a new car here. In most cases, daily Rod fees per water cost less than a fly line. Those with a little bit of disposable income and a desire are willing to pay the fees. Those that have no disposable income can still fish the public water. Access to private is not taking away public oh, it’s simply spreading us out a little more. I only wish more private landowners would allow pay for access fishing. Instead, we’re all pounding the same public access, of which there is not enough of to support the demand.

  3. FlyFish970 on

    In the immortal words of Greg Garcia, “Fish caught on private water don’t count.” When you stock a bunch of over sized fish and then charge people to fish, well it may technically be fishing but it isn’t FISHING. The way to get away from the crowds is to get out and walk, do some research to find small water, avoid the big name rivers touted in all the fishing magazines. You will find solitude, wild trout, and the real joy of fly fishing.

    • you are living in the past. Private water doesn’t necessarily mean stocked big fish. It can be private access to a stream that mostly flows through public property and the landowner get something for his allowing people to fish there for a fee. Less pressured fish with no crowds–count me in. As for doing some research to find small water that requires a walk, well a lot of people are doing the same thing and it is no guarantee you are by yourself.

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