Guided Fly Fishing Tours For Beginners With Jans in Park City

Guided Fly Fishing Tours For Beginners With Jans in Park City

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Knowing that our prospective first time fly fishing clients surely have some questions before committing to a day on the river, I was recently tasked with providing some insight on a Local Waters Full-Day fly fishing tour. Chosen based on my complete lack of fly fishing experience, I recruited two other novice anglers from the office to be fellow guinea pigs. Together with photographer, Ross Downard, and veteran Jans Fly Fishing Guide, Mason Osborne, we formed the fly fishing documentation crew.

The goal of the trip, first and foremost, was to selfishly enjoy a day outdoors, instead of in the office, but also to gain valuable insight on a Jans Guided Fly Fishing Tour through the eyes of first time anglers.

Before leaving on the tour, I wrote down a few questions I had as a beginner fly fishermen. So if you’re considering signing up for a Jans Fly Fishing Tour here in Park City, Utah, read on to find the answers to the questions of an admittedly apprehensive first-timer.

What Gear Do We Need to Bring?

Meeting up with Mason at our Jans on Park Avenue location, the three of us newbies purchased our Utah State Fishing Licenses before heading to the gear room where we were outfitted with waders, felt-soled wading boots, rods and reels. With a cooler already packed with lunches provided by local catering service, Savoury Kitchen, and Mason providing all of the flies, hooks, and fishing line, the amount of gear each of us brought was easily contained within a single personal backpack.

While I went with the “wing-it” method when packing my backpack, for those who like to be more prepared, our guides have created a fly fishing tour checklist:

What to Bring on a Guided Fly Fishing Tour

  • Utah State Fishing License (view pricing)
  • Sun Hat (ball cap or wide brim with string)
  • Polarized Sunglasses
  • Moisture Wicking Socks (for use in waders)
  • Rain Jacket
  • Extra Layer Warm Clothing (no cotton)
  • Sunscreen

How Do We Get to the River?

Unbeknownst to me, even after six years with the company, the Jans Fly Fishing Guides have been bogarting some pretty plush vehicles. With fly rod tube racks on top, tons of space in back for all of the gear, and big leather seats, the Jans Guide Service luxury-tank took any hassle out of getting four people and a ton of gear down to the river.

While we made the 15-minute drive over to Heber and the middle Provo River, Mason briefed us on what we could expect from the day, while taking the time to get a sense of what we were hoping to accomplish. Given the wide range of clients that book fly fishing tours through Jans, it was clear that this driving time is a valuable chance for the guides to assess their clients’ goals and adapt the trip accordingly.

Arriving at the river in the Jans Guide Service vehicle
Arriving at the parking area in the Jans Guide Service vehicle.

Where Do We Fish?

Jans leads guided fly fishing trips at a wide range of locations, from the middle Provo, to the Weber River, to the remote Uinta Mountains. For our purposes as beginners, the middle Provo River provided the ideal combination of convenient access, easily fishable waters, and killer scenery.

The beneficiary of the extensive and recently completed Provo River Restoration Project, this section of river features deep fishing holes around every bend, plenty of unique features and outcroppings, and thriving wetland vegetation on the shores. Even just a few hundred yards from the passing highway, the feeling is one of remoteness and wildness.

Remote feeling at the fly fishing hole
A remote feeling just minutes from the freeway.

Is Fly Fishing Strenuous?

Arriving at the water, the first lesson of the day was in successful river crossing. With slick, grapefruit-sized river rocks covering the entire bottom, and a surprisingly powerful and fast-moving current, carrying our gear and staying upright was not as simple as I had imagined. However, while my fear of falling was related directly to personal embarrassment, it paled in comparison to photographer, Ross Downard’s incentive to stay upright while carrying multiple professional cameras, one very expensive RC Helicopter, and of course, his dog Lily. So I put on a brave face and hoped my sketchy footwork wouldn’t show up in the photos.

Crossing the river while fly fishing
Tricky footing and a fast current require focus while crossing the river.

Less intimidating once you get the hang of it, there is no denying that wading in a fast-moving river takes a certain level of strength and coordination. But then again, so does just about any activity outside of say, playing video games.

Is Fly Fishing Hard to Learn?

Having successfully navigated the river crossing without humiliation, we reached Mason’s first stop on the tour. A wide S-turn in the river with a gradual bank, this spot provided the easy wading with plenty of room for errant casting that was ideal for our introduction to fly fishing. After a quick demonstration on how to cast, Mason had us spread out and get right to fishing. Learning-by-doing has always been my preferred method of figuring out a new skill, so I appreciated Mason’s willingness to forego prolonged chalk-talk and let us get immediately acquainted with the equipment at hand.

Fly fishing demonstration from the guide
A quick tutorial from Mason before we were turned loose to try it ourselves.

Put in the context of a corny aphorism, my assessment of fly fishing would be that it is easy to learn, hard to master. While all three of us beginners were able to flick a hook into the river in a cast-like motion, I’m sure that experienced fly fishermen would be appalled by our form, placement, strategy, etc… In short, fly fishing isn’t too difficult to enjoy as a first timer, but it is also a humbling reminder of the amount of room for improvement.

Fly fishing proved easy to learn, but hard to master
Easy to Learn, Hard to Master

Will We Catch Fish?

In just a few casts Jillian landed the first fish of the day – a clean looking brown trout that had some fight despite its smaller size. After a quick lesson on the gentle and proper handling of a fish, and a photo for evidence, the “brownie” was returned to the river if not completely unharmed, at least a little wiser for his troubles.

Jillian Ritter catches a brown trout while fly fishing
Jillian’s first catch of the day was a healthy brown trout.

Before long, Mason had helped all three of us net a fish, and with fears of getting blanked laid to rest, we settled into the quiet rhythm of the day. Over the next six hours there would prove to be more than enough fish reeled in to keep things interesting, yet plenty of escapees to keep it feeling like a fair fight.

Is Fly Fishing Boring

Heading into the tour, I was admittedly skeptical of how my abbreviated attention span would meld with an activity as stationary and repetitive as fly fishing. As a skier and mountain biker, I had always written fly fishing off as a hobby for those who possess the confusing ability to use reduced thought as a means of mental escape.

But what surprised me the most about our day on the river was how genuinely engaging I found fly fishing to be. Far from boring and repetitive, focusing on improving my casts, finding the ideal flow-path of my line, intently watching for a strike, and ultimately, successfully bringing in another fish became an obsession.

The intense focus of fly fishing
Fly fishing proves to be incredibly engaging.

While standing in a meandering river, surrounded by snowcapped Utah mountains was certainly a source of peace and relaxation, the action at hand did not facilitate a wandering mind. Fearing a day of meditation in a river, fly fishing proved to be an encompassing act of hyper-focus.

Is Fly Fishing Kid Friendly?

All this talk of focus and attention spans leads to an obvious question: is fly fishing an activity for kids? With my own maturity level in mind, I posed that very question to Mason and his thoughts on the matter were insightful.

He pointed out that many of the Fly Fishing Guides at Jans have children themselves, and thus have personal experience teaching kids to fly fish in ways that are both engaging and instructional. In this day and age, as Mason said, “getting kids to spend a day ‘unplugged’ and immersed in nature can be a life-changing experience for them.”

And when asked about children whose motor skills toe the line of uselessness, he was undeterred in his encouragement for kids to come on a fly fishing tour. “Even if the kids aren’t protégés in the casting department,” he said, “most of the time they still find the etymology really exciting. Sometimes we’ll forget about casting for a while and I’ll show them how to pump a fish’s stomach to learn what it’s been eating, or turn over rocks to check out the current insect hatch.” Curiosity and fly fishing, it turns out, go hand-in-hand. And so even if casting skills aren’t the main focus, when a guide’s knowledge of natural science meets a child’s fascination with bugs, the result is a very kid-friendly experience.

But you never know, maybe you have a protégé on your hands.

The Final Take

As for a final take on the tour? I was immensely impressed by not only the skill and knowledge of Mason, but the patience and commitment he showed in teaching us the skills we needed to have a fun and successful day on the river. While fly fishing isn’t going to make me sell my mountain bike any time soon, it has certainly become an activity that I’ll dedicate a sunny day to from time to time. If, that is, there’s a guide who is willing to let me tagalong.

If fly fishing in Park City sounds like something you want to try for yourself, check out our available tours below and book yours online. The trout are waiting.

Brown trout under water

Nate Tomlinson, Senior Content Writer

Related Links:

Provo River Restoration Project
Savoury Kitchen
Ross Downard Photo