Getting to Know: Justin Harding
This story is found in the Summer 2019 edition of Park City Home.
Justin Harding is the owner and founder of Park City-based Utah Pro Fly Fishing, whose client-pleasing motto is “No Fish, No Pay.” A fly fisherman since the age of 12, the 35-year-old Utah native started guiding in college, spending much of his time, as he and his team still do, in pursuit of rainbow trout and brown trout on the Provo River, which rises in the nearly roadless Uinta Mountains east of Park City.
Q: How does fly fishing in the Park City area compare with other parts of the country?
A: The dry fly fishing on the Middle Provo is pretty spectacular; as good as anywhere in the country. The fish are typically between 10-16 inches (I’m okay with any size fish). If you want bigger fish, 15-20 inches, I’ll usually take you to the Lower Provo, where the fish eat sow bugs kicked up by the river rafters. But then you have to deal with that scene, too.
Q: How’d you get started?
A: When I was 12, I went high-country camping with friends, who, on a remote mountain stream, introduced me to dry fly fishing. (Dry flies float on top of the water, wet flies, beneath the surface.) During that trip I also learned to tie flies, and after I caught my first fish on a fly I’d learned to tie myself it was really me that was hooked. I started guiding to get through college, fishing almost three times a week, until it became a business. I’m still guiding, and still learning, and always will be.
Q: What’s the key to mastering fly fishing?
A: Local knowledge. No matter where you go, fly fishing is basically the same as far as the skill set. It’s the implementation of local knowledge that makes the difference. When I go somewhere new, I always use local knowledge the first day and then I’ll branch off on my own. But it’s always important to remember that if you are nice to the older guys and gals out there, they know the most and they’ll sometimes give you a tip that can change your game.
Q: Who is the ideal fly fishing client?
A: Either someone who has never fly-fished before or an expert. Typically, beginners have no expectations, are humble, and don’t have bad habits. Experts know some days are tougher than others and have developed patience, but are also especially fun to guide when the fishing is hot because they can put on a perfect dry fly cast to a rising fish.
Q: What does fly fishing teach you about the rest of life?
A: If you don’t know something and you want to learn it, put in the time, stay humble, keep at it, and one day you’ll master it.
Q: Can you be a good fly-fisherman and not have a reflective mind?
A: Isn’t the reflective mind what fly fishing is all about? My client Don Fierce says it best: “Trout take me to beautiful places.”
Q: Is there a fly fishing film everybody should see?
A: “A River Runs Through It.” Thinking about it makes me want to watch it again. More than half my clients say it was this film that made them want to try fly fishing.
Q: What about you would most surprise your fly fishing clients?
A: I have a real estate license and am just as passionate about helping my clients find their dream home as I am about fly fishing.
Q: When not fishing, you most like to…
A: Enjoy family and friends.
Q: What’s the best fly fishing gift you’ve ever received?
For more stories from this edition, visit the Park City Home special section.
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