Fly fishing casts its spell

Published: Thursday, May 7 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Andrea Duncan of Woods Cross learns to fly fish on the Provo River near Heber in April, with a little help from Peter Robinson, a guide with Trout Bum 2 in Park City.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

A couple of hours of fishing on the Provo River in mid-April were enough to convince her to make a financial investment in her new-found hobby.

"I loved it!" Ramsey said of a fly-fishing class offered last month in Park City, meant to introduce women to the sport. "I drove straight from the river and bought my own gear."

Ramsey was one of about 30 women who turned out for a free class offered by Trout Unlimited, High Country Fly Fishers and Jans Outfitters. The three-day class included an introduction, a session on casting and a fishing trip to the Provo River.

"Trout Unlimited has many facets," said Bob Dibblee, president of the Utah State Council of Trout Unlimited, who organized the class. "One of the things we do on a local level is to promote fly fishing. We also do a lot of river restoration and work on legislative issues."

Dibblee said he began fly fishing about 15 years ago, after his son got hooked on the sport.

"I've always enjoyed fishing," he said. "I call (fly fishing) the crack cocaine of fishing. It's just a very exciting way of fishing. It's a bit more technical. I really, really enjoy it."

Dibblee and the other members of Trout Unlimited met with the women on a Wednesday night. About two-thirds of the prospective anglers had never fished, and most were looking for something enjoyable to do outdoors.

"I like the catch-and-release, and I really just like being out in nature," Ramsey said, noting some of the wildlife she saw on her brief outing. "This is great for me."

The first thing prospective anglers should understand is that there is more to fishing than throwing some bait in the water.

"Fly fishermen get to know more about entomology," said Larry Culley, a guide for Jans Outfitters. "Every day out there is different. That's the wonderful thing about fly fishing ... And it's always rewarding."

In fact, fly fishermen swear that catching fish is not a requirement to having a good time.

"I don't know of anyone who can have a bad day on the river, even if they're trying," said Culley.

The theory of those who already love the sport is simple: Try it; you'll love it.

Dibblee said they offer this classes to men and women, but they usually teach them separately. He said the sponsors occasionally get questions about whether or not husbands or boyfriends can come along.

"We say, 'No, this is just for the ladies,' " he said.

That allows the women to focus on learning some new skills, rather than trying to please their partners.

What most of the women found, whether they'd fished in the past or not, is that fly fishing is as much about the river or lake's ecology as it is about landing fish.

In the introductory class, the women were told that understanding what bugs were swimming and squirming around a waterway was an important clue to catching any fish. The women learned to "read the water."

"We look for seams," Larry said. "Fast water equals a lot of food. We look for transitions ... We call them seams. The most abundance of life is where there is diversity."

A day later, the women met to try their hands at casting. Not as easy as it looked for most of the women.

"Casting is about timing and finesse, not brute force," Culley advised.

Ramsey said the patience and help of those long-time anglers who helped out during the class made it much easier to learn.

"It was okay," she said. "I don't know that I am a natural at casting, but they had a great one-on-one or one-on-two, and they explained everything. Those men who volunteered their time to go out with us, they were wonderful. They were patient, and they really had a passion for fly fishing."

Carol Wexler, who retired to Park City from San Diego, said the class was interesting, but the sport required some commitment.

"It's definitely a skill," she said. "You really need to work on it. I'm glad it did it; it was a lot of fun."

Wexler said that if she can find some friends to go with, she'll continue to hone her own skills.

"You can do it at any age," she said.

And that's exactly what Dibblee and company want people to understand. Unlike many sports, taking up fly fishing is something anyone can do — at any age.

"We have another class, this one for men," said Dibblee. "I don't know how it's going to go. Men kind of have a tendency to just go out on their own."

The men's class is Wednesday through Friday this week, and anyone interested can call Bill Kulsman at 435-649-4410. The men's class is sponsored by Trout Unlimited and Trout Bum 2.

Dibblee said teaching others how to fly fish is almost as much fun as casting his own line.

"I really get a kick out of trying to teach them," he said. "Our goal is just to get others interested in fishing."

The strategy hooked Ramsey, who had another fishing date on Monday.

"They got me," she said laughing. "I love it."

E-MAIL: adonaldson@desnews.com

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