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The City Journals

Staying active with a splash of serenity during the pandemic

May 18, 2020 11:54AM ● By Kirk Bradford

Fly fishing enthusiast Winter Inglefield is all smiles holding up a “buttery” brown trout on the lower Provo River. (Kirk Bradford/City Journals)

By Kirk Bradford | [email protected]

For Millcreek residents, nearby Millcreek Canyon offers a unique and accessible way to step into a world that is seemingly unaffected by the pandemic. 

And, for fly fishing enthusiasts, who during normal times can travel around the state to target different species and sizes of fish, the canyon offers an opportunity to discover Millcreek’s particular species of trout, the Bonneville cutthroat trout, and to compete in a contest. 

Each year, Utah conducts its annual Cutthroat Slam. The event creates some fun competition while helping protect Utah’s waters. The Utah Department of Natural Resources and Trout Unlimited teamed up to create the event. By registering and paying $20 at utahcutthroatslam.org you can embark on the challenge to rip the lips of all four of Utah’s subspecies of cutthroat trout. You must photograph and release each of the four in their native waters. 

Once you successfully have landed all four—the Bonneville cutthroat, Colorado River cutthroat, Yellowstone cutthroat, and the Bear River cutthroat—you email your information and photos into the organization. Once verified, they are posted online at the cutthroat slam website along with the date you completed the slam. To add to your bragging rights, they mail you out an official award certificate. 

The money raised each year is used to help fund native cutthroat trout conservation projects across the state. 

Why do people like fly fishing so much?

To better understand its appeal, it has been described as similar to practicing yoga. The key piece at the core of both is practicing mindfulness or being in the present moment.

Winter Inglefield, an avid fly fishing enthusiast, explained the experience and how all your senses are at work allowing you to be completely in the present. “As you wade into the river and begin to let line out of the reel, your feet must assess where and if there is traction down below. Is it mud you’re stepping into or a slippery rock? Your knees adjust to the slight push of the current. The deeper you get the harder it pushes. The crisp smell of water and moss alerts another one of your senses, as you scan the river looking for the noses of trout sneaking above water for a meal.”

Most people who enjoy fly fishing, she said, remind each other to stop and look around, not just for fish, but at all the life in and around a river. And, when you start casting, it’s almost impossible to think or worry about anything else. 

“As the river current drifts the fly toward the fish you wait ready with anticipation. If you watch hard you’ll see the fly disappear under the water before the tug. As you pull back and set the hook, it’s an adrenaline rush to see that brightly colored fly line start to zip in unnatural directions while feeling something wild and alive on the other end,” Inglefield said.

The serenity and single-pointed concentration involved with fly fishing are similar to what people experience with the practice of yoga or meditation. 

Humans are creatures of habit, and our natural tendency is to fall into a pattern of living we a comfortable with. We often worry about the future and dwell in the past, both things that we can’t change and can cause a lot of stress. Staying in the present reduces stress. Finding serenity during this difficult time may be more than something you want, it may be what you need. 

Luckily, rivers are near, fish are biting and all one needs is a fly rod starter kit. Give it a go and while you are there, don’t forget to stop, breathe and look around at nature. 

Note: State officials spent most of last month advising people they were restricted to the outdoors near where they reside. After a month, Gov. Gary Herbert reduced some of those restrictions, but before taking any trips outside, check the DWR website for updates at wildlife.utah.gov.