The Truth About Fly-Fishing | Outdoor Recreation Guide | Salt Lake City Weekly

The Truth About Fly-Fishing 

This often-intimidating sport is more welcoming than you might think.

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When you think of outdoor activities that are both accessible and provide a rush, fly-fishing might not be at the top of the list, maybe because of its perceived demographic (well-off businessmen and lawyers wearing pricey waders) or difficulty level. But in recent years, the Internet’s fly-fishing devotees have popularized the sport, bringing their photos and videos of unique locations and colorful fish to the attention of other outdoor enthusiasts.

According to Ken Davis, a manager at Western Rivers Flyfisher (1071 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City,, there are two main reasons why fly-fishing is an addicting sport. “There’s virtually no place you can go fly-fishing that’s not beautiful,” he says. “You’ve won just getting there.”

And, unlike regular fishing where you cast your line in the water and wait for the fish to do the work, fly-fishing is a “100 percent gig,” Davis says. “You’re invested in what’s going on, completely absorbed every minute.” Before Davis came to Western Rivers, he says, he would go fly-fishing to escape the stress of his job—when you’re focusing that closely on something, your mind doesn’t have room to stew about anything else.

Women are also flocking to the sport, Davis says, especially in the past few years. Western Rivers’ women’s fly-fishing class sold out in January. “It makes sense,” he says. “It’s not one of those sports [where] size and strength really make any difference.”

But fly-fishing still has a ways to go before it’s talked about in the same breath as backpacking, skiing and mountain biking. Below are a couple of myths that, with Davis’ help, we’ve busted or verified. And to read more about why fly-fishing is drawing a younger crowd, visit

1. Fly-fishing takes countless hours to learn.
Wrong ... well, sort of. It’s a sliding scale, Davis says. If your goal is to be an expert fly-fisherman, you can study for the rest of your life, and you still won’t know it all—there are that many details, Davis says. But you don’t need to know all the details—you can go out to the river with zero experience or training and still have a great time fly-fishing.

“You can be a rudimentary fly-caster,” Davis says. “The sport has room for all of the above.”

Taking a fly-fishing class is an good option for a beginner. Western Rivers Flyfisher’s beginning class is three sessions, spread over three days, that cover the basics of equipment, knots, casting and fly-fishing philosophy. Gear is included, and more technical classes are available as one’s skills and interests grow.

A beginning class will give you tools so you know what you’re doing, but it’s not going to make you an expert, Davis says. Rather, it lays the foundation so you know what you’re looking for and what you need.

But what about casting—remember those long, detailed explanations of how complicated it is to cast a line in A River Runs Through It?

“When Norman Maclean wrote that book, it wasn’t so easy to cast,” Davis says. “But with modern technology, I can take anybody and have them, within an hour, functionally casting enough that they can go fishing.”

Davis stresses that the better you want to be, the more you have to work. But, he adds, you can learn however you want—classes, books, videos, even going out and spending the day learning through trial and error. Even if you don’t catch a fish, the experience will be rewarding.

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2. Fly-fishing is a solo quest for those who want to be alone and not see or talk to anyone.
True and false. You can indeed find solitude if that’s what you’re seeking. For example, Hobble Creek, Diamond Fork River, American Fork Creek, Big Cottonwood Creek and Millcreek Canyon creek are great places to find isolation after work or on a lunch break, just a short drive from downtown.

If you’re looking to get away for a weekend—or longer—the Uintas are the perfect setting to get some alone time. Put on a backpack and go explore the many lakes and streams the Uintas have to offer—you might find your new happy place.

But fly-fishing isn’t just for hermits. If you’re looking to talk shop, the Green River is one of the best places to fish in the country and attracts fly-fishermen from all over the United States. With its breathtaking scenery and huge trout population—15,000 trout per square mile—it’s a destination every fly-fisherman should put on their list.

Closer to the city, both the middle and lower portions of the Provo River are among Utah’s most popular places to fish. That river also has a hearty trout population—3,000 trout per square mile.

Strawberry Reservoir is a first-class fly-fishing lake and is populated by not only two different species of trout, but also Kokanee salmon. It’s a popular destination, so you’ll be sharing the waters with fellow enthusiasts who’ve come to troll the lake.

3. Fly-fishing is expensive.
False, mostly. Most beginning classes include all necessary gear. You can rent gear or buy it used, and new entry-level equipment won’t break the bank—it’s likely that you can get completely outfitted for under $500. And, Davis adds, over the life of the sport, it’s inexpensive. Unlike skis, bikes or snowboards, “fly rods don’t wear out,” he says. “I’ve got customers fishing with their grandfather’s fly rod.”

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