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River Etiquette

The great William Shakespeare coined the phrase “too much of a good thing.” Little did he know that one day his words would be used to describe the Wild Side of Tennessee. Invariably when you mix people and nature it’s going to happen…beautiful secluded spots get discovered, and the next thing you know it’s not so secluded. The Caney Fork River is one of those places. Long revered by anglers for the trout swimming in the cold water released from Center Hill Dam, the Caney has more recently been discovered by lots of other folks who want to paddle those same waters. The result is too much of a good thing. Wild Side Guide Ken Tucker takes us to the river, where following some basic rules of river etiquette are an essential part of everyone having a good day on the water.

The TWRA plans to closely monitor the number of people on the Caney Fork this summer but is limited in what it can do to regulate traffic. Of course the Caney is not the only place where use has increased dramatically. Rivers like the Harpeth and Hiwassee face similar issues. The key is to always respect others on the water, no matter where you happen to be.

Here are some basic guidelines:

  • Remember that what you do on the river has an influence on another person’s experience.
  • Practice the golden rule: offer other river users the same respect you want for yourself.
  • Generally, wading fisherman have the right of way over boat traffic, unless they are standing in the only place a boat can pass.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a fisherman where he would like you to pass by; communication is key to avoiding unnecessary conflict.
  • Anglers and experienced paddlers should be aware that many novice paddlers just can’t control their craft. Being willing to help them out when you can makes it better for everyone.
  • Don’t litter; always bring a bag with you to put your trash in.
  • Be repsectful of private property; land alongside the river is usually privately owned.
  • Help avoid congestion at access points by being getting your gear and boat ready before getting on the ramp. And be patient…some days it’s just going to take longer to get everyone on and off the river.


To learn more about fishing and boating in Tennessee, visit the TWRA website at

For more information about paddling opportunities in Tennessee, contact the TSRA (Tennesse Scenic Rivers Association).

Special thanks to Jim Mauries of Fly South for helping us with this story. If you’re interested in booking a fishing trip, taking fly-fishing lessons, or need some gear, you can contact him online at

From show 2604.