Come Fly with Me: Fly fishing in Utah offers an invigorating challenge

Utah does not grab the spotlight as a fly fishing destination like Alaska or Montana, but it is a hidden gem that rewards serious anglers. From pristine lakes nestled deep in the Uinta Mountains to the winding Green River, the state offers many places that have everything you need for a memorable fishing trip.

Be prepared

Fly fishing is a sport that tests beginners and veteran anglers alike. In some ways, it is almost a chess match with the fish.

“People think you can pick up a rod and just go out and grab some flies, but there’s a whole lot more to it than that,” says Morgan Griffith, shop manager for Fishwest in Sandy. “That’s why people end up really liking it. There’s a lot of strategy involved. Some days all your puzzle pieces come together. Some days you’re still missing one or two. But that’s kind of the fun of it.”

Fly fishing involves more thought than simply tying on a fly and casting a line into the water. An angler needs to do their homework if they want to get the most out of their trip. They need to know how to read water and they need to know how to adapt to changing variables.

Feeding patterns and spawning patterns vary among fish species. Everything from weather conditions to bug hatches can impact what fish will be easiest to catch at your lake or stream of choice. Even fishing in the same spot on two different days usually results in two different experiences.

It can quickly turn into a frustrating journey if you go on a fly fishing trip unprepared.

“With your first experience out there, you can expect to be challenged a lot because fly fishing is a totally different beast from any other kind of fishing,” says Spencer Durrant, marketing director for Trout Life.

Before going fly fishing, an angler needs to decide what fish they want to target and choose the proper rod, reel and line set-up to target that fish. Most sporting goods stores sell rods, reels and other gear. Some rods cost less than $100, although top-of-the-line rods will run several hundred dollars.

Fly fishing gear is usually available for rental at places that offer guided fishing. If you prefer to own your own gear, though, buying the best gear that fits within your budget is recommended for an enhanced experience.

“I’m always a proponent of buying the absolute best gear you can afford, not because better gear makes you a better fisherman, but it’s easier to finish with really good gear,” Durrant says.

Hire a guide

Fly fishing for the first time can feel a bit overwhelming if you aren’t prepared for what lies ahead. Hiring a guide can help you understand all the nuances that go into creating a fun and successful fishing trip. Guides can show a beginning angler the ropes and help them pay attention to their surroundings.

A full day of guided fishing can cost between $250 to $500 for a single person, depending on which guide you hire. Gear rentals add an additional cost. Still, it is worthwhile for a new angler to go fly fishing with a guide to learn the nuances of the sport.

A guide also can make it easier to establish good habits while avoiding bad ones.

“There is a lot of potential to learn with guides,” Griffith says. “If you take the time to set a goal with your guide for the day, whether it’s learning about the fish, the bugs, the flies or knots, it can be one of the most knowledgeable learning experiences there is out there.”

Find a destination

Utah offers a plethora of lakes and streams all over the state that are popular destinations for fly fishing. The Green River draws many anglers from out-of-state. The Weber River and Provo River are popular fly fishing spots for anglers who live along the Wasatch Front. There are thousands of fish per mile in those rivers and multiple opportunities for different bug hatches.

Once an angler has gained a little experience with fly fishing, Durrant recommends going off the beaten path and taking trips into back country streams and lakes in places like central Utah or in the high Uinta Mountains.