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High Holing In Fly Fishing – What Is It? And How To Avoid Doing It

High holing is a fly fishing term. It means fishing right above another angler when they are trying to work upstream. It is considered bad etiquette, and it can definitely cause arguments on the river. You can also low hole someone. This is when an angler is working downstream, and you fish right below them. This is also bad etiquette.

Generally, nymph fishers will be working upstream – and streamer fishers will be working downstream. Take note of this to avoid high holing or low holing. Whoever shows up first to the river, has the first pick when it comes to fishing spots. If someone was there before you, make sure to give them plenty of space.

Avoiding High Holing

The best way to avoid high holing is to give other anglers plenty of room. If you see another fly fisher, don’t fish right above them. Instead, move up a few holes or fish downstream of them. One of the best ways is to just communicate – ask if they are moving upstream or downstream. Being friendly is one of the easiest ways to avoid conflict on the river. If we just communicate more, we can avoid arguments on the river.

Certain rivers are more crowded than others. Some tailwaters here in Colorado get a lot of anglers everyday. On these rivers, it is usually ok to crowd in a bit more. There will be anglers in every single run, and this is pretty normal. If this doesn’t sound good to you, simply avoid the crowded rivers.

On less crowded freestone streams, you’ll want to give anglers more room. On these rivers, fishing right above someone is usually not a good choice. Anglers are looking for more solitude, and they usually want plenty of room.

Avoiding Low Holing

If another angler is working downstream, they are probably fishing streamers or swinging flies. If you see this, you’ll want to avoid “low holing” them. This means that you don’t want to fish directly below them. To avoid this, simply head upstream to find a fishing spot. If you must go downstream, make sure you’re at least a few runs below them.

Folks who are fishing streamers usually move faster than nymphers. They are covering water quickly, so you’ll want to give them plenty of space.


This is my favorite method to avoid conflict on the river. If you’re not sure what another anglers plan is, just ask them! If they are planning to move upstream, then you can just head downstream – and vice versa. Other anglers are usually pretty friendly. You can start by asking how the fishing is, just to make some small talk.

If more anglers communicated, there would be much less conflict. We often see conflict on the most crowded rivers. Here in Colorado, these are usually tailwaters like the Fryingpan River or the Taylor River. A large influx of anglers can cause problems, especially when etiquette is thrown out the window. As fly fishers, it is important that we keep etiquette a priority!


High holing and low holing are pretty simple etiquette rules. Try not to do either of them, and give other anglers plenty of space.

Remember, if you’re late to show up to the river, give anglers that were there first the priority. If you’re the first to show up to the river, then you can choose any run you like! This first come, first served basis is a good rule to follow.

When in doubt, just ask other anglers what their plan is. This way, you can avoid conflict and enjoy a happy day of fly fishing.