High Country Fly Fishers more than a fishing club
High Country Fly Fishers is a fly-fishing club, the Park City chapter of the nonprofit environmental organization Trout Unlimited that helps to protect cold-water fisheries.
The club holds monthly meetings and host annual men’s and women’s fly-fishing clinics and fly-tying classes.
It also works with Project Healing Waters, a fly-fishing specific nonprofit organization that, according to its mission, "is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans."
High Country Fly Fishers also provide services when needed for another nonprofit, Casting for Recovery, which gives support to women who are survivors or have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
The club prides itself on its conservation-oriented projects, which include planting willows along the banks of the Strawberry River and building ramps for access into fishing areas.
Fred Drulard, treasurer for the High Country Fly Fishers, has seen the increase of service projects in his seven years as a member, and the one he has fully been involved in is the willow planting.
"This has been an ongoing project with the Department of Wildlife Resources for quite a while," Drulard said during an interview with The Park Record. "We’ve been planting willow for three or four years and we used money that we raised to purchase willow pots from local nurseries. Then we get a group of our members together to put on some boots, grab shovels and go out to the riverbank and drop in the pots of willows."
This past year, Drulard discovered a couple of grants from The Trout and Salmon Foundation and Trout Unlimited that were available for conservation projects.
Trout Unlimited’s Embrace the Stream program, which is a matching grant program that awards funds to its chapters and councils for coldwater fisheries conservation, and the Trout and Salmon Foundation preserve and enhance the trout and salmon resources of North America by "the encouragement, support, and funding of meaningful projects," according to Drulard.
"We applied to both of them and received some money," he said. "Trout and Salmon Foundation granted $2,500 and Embrace the Stream gave us $1,500."
High Country Fly Fishers bought 1,200 willow pots with the money and, on Sept. 5 and 6, took two teams to the river and planted 500 willows.
The Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) at Strawberry Reservoir oversees the project, Drulard said.
"Planting willows is the last step of what is called the Strawberry Reservoir Restoration Project," he explained. "The DWR already dredged the stream and put in some of the cloth retainers and boulders to hold the stream banks in place and did a lot of other heavy lifting."
Willows strengthen the riverbanks by keeping the soil in place with their roots, Drulard said.
"They also provide shade to keep the water cooler and a more hospitable habitat where the fish can spawn," he said. "There are three breeds of fish in the reservoir — cutthroat and rainbow trout and kokanee salmon, and the kokanee salmon and cutthroat will go up the Strawberry River to spawn if the conditions are right."
At one time the area around the reservoir had a lot of willows, but they were killed off to provide grazing grounds for livestock, Drulard said.
"That didn’t work out so well, so the DWR began the restoration project and channeled the river so it would flow more actively into the reservoir," he said. "I’m sure it will take a fair amount of time to fully restore the area, but these willows grow quickly and this area could turn into a fishing habitat that is not too dissimilar to the Provo River, which is a super place. We’re happy to be a part of this project and receiving the grants was the real kicker."
In November, High Country Fly Fishers will help build stepping ramps so people can have access to the Weber River.
"If you go along the Weber River you will find a lot of private property," Drulard said. "The landowners give us permission to pass on their lands to get to the river for fishing, and we use wooden steps to get over the livestock fencing.
"The steps are in poor condition, so we’re going to work with the DWR to provide us some lumber to build either new ramps or repair existing ones," he said. "These are the types of things we like to do."
Mike Leigh, president of the Park City Chapter of High Country Fly Fishers, said the club continues to find different projects to serve the community.
"The ramp project has been on our radar for a couple of years," Leigh said. "We had some money in the budget and time, and it seemed like a worthwhile project, because the ramps are something that fly fishers use."
Joining High Country Fly Fishers is simple.
"If you join Trout Unlimited and live in this zip code, you are automatically attached to our chapter," Leigh said. "If you don’t live in this zip code, you can specify which chapter you want to be involved with. We do have a number of people in the club who are from Salt Lake City."
Leigh, who has been affiliated with the club for 14 years, said he enjoys all the different aspects of fly fishing.
"I like being in the outdoors and the peacefulness of it," he said. "I like the problem-solving aspect. You have to pay attention to details in order to be successful in fly fishing. I have also found that I can be totally consumed with fly fishing and being on the water is the only place I have found where I feel like I can really get away."
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