Students get hooked on Fly Fishing


    By Nicholas Sowards

    Screen savers on the computer displaying images of men with mammoth fish. A glass case decorated with a variety of flies. A photo of a fly fisher silhouetted by a gorgeous sunset. A copy of “A River Runs Through It” sitting on the shelf.

    Ramon Zabriskie is one of two professors who teach the 30-year-old fly-fishing course at BYU, offered through the recreation management department. A veteran fly fisher himself, he is mostly in the business of sharing his passion with his students.

    Fly fishing, along with courses such as rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking and kayaking, is one of a group of highly sought after classes offered through the department. Due to the high demand for these courses, students must put their name on a waiting list at the department office as early as one to two semesters in advance to be considered for admission. Instructors aim to keep class sizes small in order to give each student the best learning experience possible.

    The fly fishing course offers students a chance to get away from the daily grind of studying and going to classes, and allows them the opportunity to pick up a new sport.

    “The whole idea with these classes is first, to teach a new skill, and second, to get students to enjoy the outdoors,” Zabriskie said.

    One of those students who has used the fly fishing class to break away from his difficult schedule is 23-year-old John Marshall. Marshall, a junior majoring in exercise science, took the fly-fishing class last semester and is now one of the teaching assistants.

    “It”s quiet, it”s peaceful, you”re out there alone, and you rely on yourself,” Marshall said. “You compete with yourself and not anybody else.”

    Growing up, Marshall said he always had an interest in fly fishing, but never really became involved until he took the class.

    “It got me to actually start doing something I was interested in,” Marshall said.

    Marshall said he now spends two to three days a week fishing on the Provo River. Much of his enthusiasm for fly fishing can be attributed to Zabriskie, whose interest level and passion for fishing is “beyond obsession,” Marshall said.

    The premise behind fly fishing is using an imitation fly that sits atop the water, rather than bait, to fool a fish just long enough to hook them. To do this, fishers use a variety of flies, techniques, and of course, the famous fly fishing casting style.

    Zabriskie described the fly-fishing casting style similar to the way a person might whip a vacuum cord to get the plug to come out of the wall. For some, the mastery of this skill is not so easy to come by.

    “Fly fishing is a little bit more complicated than bait fishing,” said Rebekah Brentley, a 24-year-old senior majoring in recreation management. “It was kind of hard to get the casting down.”

    Brentley took the course this past winter, and was one of only three girls in a class of 16 students. However, Brentley said women should not be deterred by the fact that fly fishing is seen as a a male-dominated sport.

    “Fishing is typically known as a male sport, but there”s no reason women shouldn”t participate as well,” Brentley said. “If it interests you, then do it.”

    Zabriskie typically spends the first two class sessions on campus, teaching his students the basics, from tying a fly to practicing casting. From then on, the class meets most of the time on the Provo River, where students pull trout out of the water and enjoy the break from their studies.

    The class also includes a final trip to the Green River near Flaming Gorge, a location renowned across the country for its fishing.

    Many students name the Green River as their favorite place to fish for the semester. The Green River particularly holds a special place in Brentley”s heart. She not only hooked the most fish on the class trip, but also the biggest – a 23-inch white fish.

    Zabriskie said all students should take time out of their busy schedules to enjoy leisure activities.

    “If you take time for yourself, you feel better, you”re happier, you produce better, you work better and do better in your classes,” Zabriskie said.

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