A chat with Hilary Hutcheson

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Hilary Hutcheson and dog, Jolene.

An interview with Columbia Falls guide, fishing personality and Laryís Fly Shop owner Hilary Hutcheson.

Whatís up with Hilary these days? First and foremost, navigating through life with two teenage daughters. Ella and Delaney are bright and dynamic, and itís fun for me to try to keep up. Iím guiding fulltime. This year was busy, started in April and went through the first week in November. My fly shop is open all year, but itís slow in the winter, so thatís when I write for fishing publications, work with fishing brands on multimedia projects and public relations and buckle down on conservation campaigns.

You moved back to Columbia Falls to live and run your own businesses. Yup, itís been over 10 years and Iím happy with it. The Valley is growing and changing but not so fast that you feel out of place.

Why do you love fly fishing so much? A lot of people love the solitude and peacefulness of fly fishing. But I prefer the adventure and excitement it brings. I want to be laughing with my family, friends and strangers when I fish, rather than by myself, because for me, the shared experience provides better memories than those I make alone. I love the joyful, wild times found on the river with others. My favorite days are when I get to fish with my sister, Whitney.

You love guiding. Yes, I do. I started guiding in high school, and Iíve never gotten tired of it. Even when I took on other careers, I kept coming back to guiding and I know Iíll never get it out of my system. I get to experience people from all over the world and I love sharing this area. For me, guiding has always been a whole different beast than fishing for myself. Iím more focused, detailed and organized as a guide than as an angler. I love putting people on fish, and the well-dialed process that leads to the high-five.

Youíve fished all over the world, whereís your favorite fishing hole? The Upper Middle Fork of the Flathead River. I still havenít found any place I love more. I love its history as the birthplace of the Wild and Scenic River Act, and the security in knowing that this federal designation should help keep it as pristine as itís always been.

Favorite fish? Well, Iím still targeting permit on tropical salt flats. Theyíre a very difficult fish to catch on a fly and Iíve had more chances than I deserve. Still, thatís the fish I see when I close my eyes at night. Iíve been close so many times. Itís still there; itís still possible. I like it because it is really hard. The challenge is the thing!

To be continued next week..

Jerry Smalleyís Fishful Thinking column appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.

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