As the editor of jans.com, it’s my job to understand all of the products that we sell. And since I am an avid biker, hiker and skier, that part of my job is pretty easy. The exception is fly fishing. Even though my dad was a dedicated fisherman, I never had the opportunity to join him when I was growing up. So when I had the chance to participate in a women’s fly fishing clinic last week, I jumped at the chance. Pardon the pun.
Every spring Jans teams up with the local Trout Unlimited chapter, High Country Fly Fishers, to present a women’s specific fly fishing clinic to the Park City community. Held every May, these clinics are limited to 20 people and sell out quickly, so if you’re interested in participating next year, be sure to contact High Country Fly Fishers. Better yet, give Pat Ronneberg a call at 435-659-1275 and take advantage of the Ladies Fishing Days this summer.
Our clinic started with 90 minutes of classroom instruction led by Jans Fly Fishing Expert, Larry Culley. The Trout Unlimited (TU) guys won the women over, right away, by providing complimentary wine, coffee and cookies for the evening. Larry walked us through all of the equipment that we would need (provided by Jans and TU) and explained that we would be fishing for brown trout on the Provo River as part of the clinic.
He then gave us a comprehensive overview of fly fishing and explained that the key to the sport was trying to understand the entire ecosystem to determine the fish’s natural food and then do our best to imitate it. Larry shared the lifecycle of a trout and their feeding patterns, along with an entomology lesson about the insects that frequent the Provo River. I was shocked by how tiny the caddis flies and midges were. The evening ended with a knot tying lesson and we were all pretty proud of ourselves when we mastered both the clinch knot and the double surgeon’s loop.
The following night we met at the Deer Valley Ponds for a casting lesson led by Larry, some of the Jans fly fishing guides and Trout Unlimited club members. All of these folks generously donated their time, and their own fly rods, to teach a bunch of wannabe fly fisherwomen how to false cast. In the midst of lots of giggles and a few choice obscenities, we quickly discovered that casting is as much of an art as a science. For me, trying to find the rhythm and timing of the cast became downright addictive. So much so, that I was the last woman standing at the ponds.
Then early Saturday morning, we got the chance to put all of our learning into action. When I awoke to 40 degrees and pouring rain, my heart sank. But I pulled on my ski socks, multiple layers, grabbed a raincoat and rain hat, and headed to the river, hoping for the best.
Once all the women were assembled, in our oh-so-stylish Simms waders and Redington boots, we sipped on coffee and nibbled scones while we were assigned our fly fishing guides for the day. I was lucky enough to be teamed up with Mike Leigh, a TU member who had given up his Saturday morning to teach me to fly fish. As we walked along the river bank, Mike asked me what my goal was for the day. My response: “I really want to catch a fish and also learn as much as I possibly can.”
Over the next few hours I learned how to wade in moving water – much harder than it looks, how to read a river – fascinating, how to determine what insects the trout were currently eating and what invasive species look like – yucky. I also became mildly proficient at Nymphing and learned that catching your fly line on the bottom of the river feels a lot like catching a fish.
And yes, I even caught a trout – three in fact. The first one was pretty small, but that didn’t diminish the thrill of feeling a tug on my line and reeling it in. And while I was pretty skittish about holding it for a picture, by the time I caught a beautiful 15 inch brown, I was a pro at gently holding the fish before feeling the joy of releasing it back into the river.
I’m pretty sure that my success on that first fly fishing trip can be attributed much more to Larry and Mike’s expert guidance than it can to my own natural ability. However, despite the 43 degree water temperatures from snow runoff, I can honestly say that I had an absolute blast.
If you’d like to experience fly fishing in Utah – either on the Provo, Weber River or at beautiful Thousand Peaks Ranch, simply book one of Jans guided fly fishing tours. I guarantee you will become enamored with the sport that takes you to some of Utah’s most scenic places and will return with a big smile on your face. Just like I did.
Liz Yokubison, Senior Editor