The Future of Fishing Is Female: Hilary Hutcheson
Professional fly-fishing guide, shop owner, and mom of two Hilary Hutcheson on how to get the whole family fishing
As far as backyards go, Hilary Hutcheson’s is tough to beat. Hutcheson’s parents worked for the National Park Service, and she and her two siblings were raised in Columbia Falls, Montana, just outside Glacier National Park. “There were basically no limitations on where we could go,” she says. It’s ironic, then, that Hutcheson—who now owns her own fly shop in Columbia Falls and is a fly-fishing guide in addition to being an ambassador for YETI coolers—“discovered” the sport not on an idyllic trout stream but in the neighbor’s shed, where she and her sis Whitney found a stash of old fly-fishing gear. They hauled the rod to a river, took turns casting the line, started catching fish, and haven’t stopped since.
As two young women of Asian and German descent, they didn’t look like your typical fly-fishing junkies. But they made it work. They found jobs as nannies, house cleaners, equipment sorters, and, later, raft guides. And they were so taken by the Montana wilderness, the mystery of rivers, and the challenge of rafting and fishing that they’ve built their lives around these pursuits. “When I first started,” Hutcheson says, “people were surprised that I was their guide because I didn’t look the part…small stature, female. But I dealt with it by giving people a killer day, and now people book me specifically.” For Hutcheson, who is also raising two children, fishing is her lifeblood. “It’s biologically tied into who we are, and helps us understand why we’re here,” she says.
The best part, says Hutcheson, is how affordable and accessible the sport is to everyone, regardless of who you are or where you live. There’s great fishing in practically every state, and the sport’s ranks are filled with generous anglers eager to share their passion. “I’ve seen it over and over. A person will come in looking for a fly rod and say they don’t have any money,” says Hutcheson. “I’ll tell them to get on an online forum—and watch the magic.” A kid recently said he wanted to tie flies but couldn’t afford a vise. Within minutes, several people had offered theirs—with one even offering to ship one for free. How cool is that?
Take Me Fishing™ and Vamos A Pescar™ are the national campaigns from the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. RBFF strives to increase participation in recreational boating and fishing, thereby helping to conserve and restore our country’s aquatic natural resources. Learn more at TakeMeFishing.org.