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High Country Fly Fishers offers beginner fly fishing clinics

'Park City and the Heber and Kamas Valleys are an ideal place for High Country Fishers,' said Eric Luna, president of High Country Fly Fishers

PARK CITY, Utah — Patty Johnson dipped her toe into fly fishing two years ago and still considers herself a “newbie.”

She was told about the High Country Fly Fishers’ three-day, annual beginner’s clinics and signed up for one.

“I registered and did the classroom and casting sessions before venturing out to a private lake with the High Country crew to put my knowledge to work, and I am so glad I did,” Johnson said. “I caught several beautiful rainbows, and, with that, I was hooked for life. Since that day, I have taken several other clinics, including a women’s rowing clinic, and now I fish every chance I get.”

Johnson is now active in High Country Fly Fishers, a chapter of  Trout Unlimited (TU), a nationwide, nonprofit organization that is dedicated “to conserve, protect and restore North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds,” according to its mission.

High Country Fly Fishers works with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and other TU chapters in Utah on conservation projects.

“One of our projects for the past few years is to restore the Strawberry River near Strawberry Reservoir,” Eric Luna, president of High Country Fly Fishers, told TownLift. “We stabilize eroded banks and plant willows to give shade so the kokanee salmon and the cutthroat trout can spawn.”

High Country Fly Fishers will host its spring coed clinics in May and June. The first clinic will be the men’s clinic, which will run May 14-16, the second, June 11-13. High Country Fly Fishers provides everything participants will need for their day of fly fishing, including a hearty lunch. The cost for the clinics is $95 each.

“The first day, we’ll meet at Saint Mary’s Catholic Church where students will be introduced to knot tying, gear, entomology, reading the water, and other essential subjects,” Luna said. “On Wednesday, we’ll go to Deer Valley Ponds and teach you how to cast with one-on-one instruction from our members.”

On Thursday, the group will head out to the water for a day of fishing, again with one-on-one instruction.

“Hosting these clinics helps High Country Fly Fishers spread the word about fly fishing and conservation while getting the community involved,” Luna said.

One of the biggest misconceptions about fly fishing is that it’s an expensive hobby for old, retired people.

“That’s really not true, but it can be,” Luna said. “If you want to spend $1,500 on a fly rod, you can, but you can also buy inexpensive $150 starter kits and get out on the water and catch just as many fish. It’s like golf, expensive clubs won’t make you a better player, but once proficient, you will appreciate the difference good gear can make.”

High Country Fishers also works to help heal the environment throughout the year.

“We do organized river cleanups and encourage our members to pick up trash when fishing on their own as well,” Luna said. “One of our more rewarding programs is our affiliation with Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, where we take disabled veterans and teach them how to tie flies and build rods, teach them how to cast, and then take them out to fish.”

“We also work with a program called Casting For Recovery that works with breast cancer survivors,” Luna said. “And, we go into local grade school classrooms and educate children on the importance of conservation and stewardship through a Trout Unlimited national program called Trout in the Classroom. This program provides an aquarium and eggs from native Cutthroat Trout that are raised by the students in the classroom and then released into the wild. Again, we want to get the community involved and share our love of fly fishing, and what better place to start than with the children.”

The High Country Fly Fishers will host its annual clinics on May 14,15, and 16; and June 11,12, and 13. Contact Eric Luna about HCFF by emailing HCFF599@gmail.com. To sign up for either clinic, go to https://www.highcountryflyfishers.com/activity-sign-up/.

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