It’s the only form of wild food left that can be quickly and easily caught. It’s the only non-vegetarian food that’s free and can be caught, cleaned, cooked and eaten without much fuss or preparation.
But fishing offers much more than sustenance or catch & release satisfaction. It can be solitary and meditative, or an enjoyable time with friends or family. You don’t need experience, and it’s not expensive. Big-box stores offer rods, reels and line for less than $25. Lures, hooks, bobbers and flies are just a few dollars more. The required license, which can be purchased at big-box chains or outdoor stores, is just $26, with discounts for youth and seniors, and is good for a full year. You can even buy a one-day license for $8, or a weeklong license for $16.
Utah waters are regularly stocked with fish—and not just little fingerlings. Some are 10 or more inches long. Even small park ponds, like those at Millrace Park in Taylorsville or at Daybreak, are frequently stocked with bass or trout.
Jared Winkler, marketing manager at Brighton Resort, is an expert catch & release fly fisher. He often fishes at Big Cottonwood Creek, where fish are plentiful. “Sometimes, I’ll catch and release about 50 fish a day. Streams are full of fish,” Winkler says, proving his point when he parked by the side of the road where the creek was a two-minute walk away. He cast his line and caught a trout 19 seconds later. Within half an hour, he had caught and released five trout.
For a beginner, or someone who hasn’t fished since they were a kid, Winkler says, “Starting with a simple red and white bobber is the best. When it gets jerked below the water, that means something is nibbling, and you need to set the hook. The fish will take the bait or lure into its mouth and then spit it back out, so you need tug on the line to set the hook. Use a sharp upward motion, not too hard, just enough to hook it in there.”
Avoid the rookie mistake of reeling in the fish too fast. “You can lose the fish if you overfight it. Let it fight; don’t reel in too hard or fast—[the hook] will just rip through their jaw and you’ll lose it. Stay slow and steady on the reel. But constantly keep tension [on the line],” he advises.
Winkler suggests practicing casting before settling down to actually hook something. “To make a good cast, find a good open area for your first few casts and don’t hook any brush. Fling it forward. As the rod is pointing straight up in the air, it will send your lure into the middle of the lake or stream. As you practice a bit more, your timing and aim will get better. It’s more of a ‘flick’ than using strength,” he says.
He also advises grabbing a fishing guidebook: a free booklet found wherever licenses are sold. It contains all the rules and regulations for fishing in Utah. For example, you can fish with two poles—but only if you pay an additional $15 for your license.
There’s also a whole other factor to fishing. Humans are the Earth’s most efficient food predators, but most urban humans avoid the awareness of that reality. We see packaged legs and thighs of poultry without being conscious of the feather-covered birds they came from. We peruse a counter full of plastic-wrapped chunks of animal flesh without ever needing to think of the cow or pig that gave it.
For those who eat their catch, fishing is a connection to the natural world. There’s something basic about slitting open a fish’s belly and putting fingers inside to pull out the entrails. It makes us face, even if subconsciously, the fact that something must die so that we may live. At a time when people are thinking more about where their food comes from, sustainability and buying local, dinner from a nearby lake or a clear mountain stream is a more ethical solution.