J. Stockard Customer from upstate New York: Brandon Sausner

I was raised a public and un-posted land hunter and fisherman. One could say my pops is a bit of a rascal or scofflaw in regards to his pursuit of outdoors adventure. He would say “god made the deer “or “you bought a license to catch those trout and they can’t read posted signs”. I understand that property rights and stream access are an area of contention here in America. If you are on any online hunting page, you have seen the annual trail cam photos of trespassers and the dozens of threats in the comments below. I guess I was raised a little wrong.

One evening we were coming back from a remote stream and encountered a fly fisherman walking the highway back to his car in the dark. My pops pulled over and asked the guy if he wanted a ride. The gentlemen quickly noticed we were also fly fisherman and said yes. He broke his rod down and I scurried to the back seat, I was barely a teenager at the time and I made way for an older man. Well the guy was ecstatic! Turns out he had fished most of the day and it was a long walk from the bridge where he left his car and could not have been luckier that we stopped. Soon he started in about how grateful he was and how he belonged to this private club that controlled a great section of water and he would love to take my dad to fish it some evening. Pretty soon my dad pulled over and kicked the guy out of the car and told him “nobody should own a trout stream, and he wouldn’t go fishing with him for love or money”. At least the guy was almost to his car, and I get to tell the story.

My father built the home he has retired in on a section of his favorite river. He volunteers to stock trout every year, does stream improvement and hasn’t taken a fish in decades. He owns the bank on a great little stretch where he has planted apples and pears and keeps three bee hives. He has a set of stairs that get his old legs in and out of the stream easily. Many fly fishermen from the area know his place and know him. He’s a dry fly junkie who say’s things like “sure I got nymphs, I just don’t wanna put one on”. Along with all the free apples for passers buy and free jars of honey for repeat visitors he has signs that say “FISHING PERMITTED” and everybody is welcome. Although he does refer to the gear fishermen as “spin-heads”, they are also welcome. Everybody is entitled to view streams and land and wild life in the manner they see fit, and use them within the confines of the law. Personally, I think my pops has it right and to many people have it wrong.


  1. A very valid perspective and I salute your Dad Brandon…this is going to be an unpopular thing to say but I gotta say I do understand the “no fishing” signs on private land, though. As much as anything those signs are usually trying to keep fences from being walked down, trash from being left, freezers from being stocked with fish from that stretch of stream, and people stepping on thorns and getting bit by varmints while crossing the land and then sueing a landowner because deep pockets are perceived.

    This kind of thing happens, and the stories of them (which cause signs to go up too) happen more than the real thing.

    Often if an owner of posted land is approached and has a chance to meet and get a feel for a respectful angler, and to set some rules (“gotta go the long way around, not across this planted field” or “I don’t want anybody back there after sundown because I can’t put my family in the position of having to react to an emergency in the dark,” or “no music machines” or “no cutting vegetation” or “don’t tell your fishing club”), then the family-friend deal can sometimes kick in.

    It’s a two way street, and in my own humble opinion should be. In many (most?) states, the water channel itself is public, so it’s the access and banks that are mostly the question. (And of course depleting the fish…so “catch and release” is a phrase that helps.)

    Where I grew up, we started posted against hunting after a couple of men we didn’t know came out of the woods to the edge of the yard without warning and fired their shotguns at something right there. We had kids and dogs in the yard at the time.

    There were plenty of times I’ve trespassed out in the boonies because I ran out of lift in my hang glider and had to find some open field. I would always find the nearest house immediately, tell them what I’d done, assure them they’d never know I was there and that I too had grown up on a farm, and make sure to tell them how nice their land looked from the air. I’d also offer to bring them back a nice bottle of whatever they liked after I was out of there. Those properties were always posted but the people were always very nice…once they’d met me that’d typically say, “sure, any time, just be safe.”

    I remember one time I was set up for a low landing in a field by the road, and at the last second I risked going over a fence with not enough clearance so that I could dive into the field behind it, which I barely made. Why did I make that last-second decision? Because suddenly I realized that the first field was occupied by a bull the size of a dump truck. When I spoke to the farmer later, he told me I’d made the right choice. So…there are often good reasons for postings.

    I see both sides. IMO, when land is posted, striking a deal is the way to go.

    – Mike

  2. Tell your father I would like to meet him someday. I have two heroes in life, one was my now deceased father and the other is Teddy Roosevelt. I’m guessing from what you wrote about your fathers behavior and attitude, he would be my 3rd. Thank you for the personal insight, your father is a good man, the kind that are in very short supply now days.

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