Pack Like a Pro: Gear up with fly fishing guide and TV host Hilary Hutcheson

Pack Like a Pro: Gear up with fly fishing guide and TV host Hilary Hutcheson

As host of the popular Trout TV television show, Hilary Hutcheson understands the importance of image. But it’s the substance behind the image that defines this on-camera star. Hutcheson lives to fish, and she routinely out-fishes the other guides, professional anglers and co-hosts she works and hangs out with.

Hutcheson and her husband Shane produce Trout TV together and operate the boutique PR agency, Outside Media. With one of their clients being Montana Fly Company, Hilary says with a laugh, “I get to talk with media about maribou, sexi floss, soft milking eggs and stuff like that.”

When Hutcheson isn’t fishing, thinking about fishing, pitching sexi-floss or producing fishing TV shows, she focuses on just about any other outdoor activity that’s at hand, as long as she can enjoy it with her family. We caught her at her home in Columbia Falls, Montana, and got her to share some details about the gear in her pack and how she uses it.

Gear Institute: What are you up to these days?
Hutcheson:  After a few years away from it, I’m back to guiding for Glacier Anglers, where I started guiding as a teenager. I’m such an old lady now, I’m always telling the young bucks stories of how the river used to take that other channel and how the take-outs are so much easier now-a-days.

My sister, Whitney, is executive director of Casting for Recovery and I’ve enjoyed being more involved in this nonprofit’s efforts to offer free fly fishing retreats to women with breast cancer. The weekends with these women are so powerful and really make a difference in their lives. Fishing heals.

I’m also proud we created several public service announcements for Trout Unlimited about proper fish handling to reduce stress and improve survivability of fish in catch-and-release. Beyond the work we did for Trout Unlimited this summer, my co-host Rich Birdsell and I each shot a dozen new episodes of TroutTV.

tu large2

While I fished this summer in Estonia, Alaska, Florida and all over the western United States, I’ve also been spending a lot of time with my kids on the river NOT fishing. We’ve been stand-up paddle boarding, rafting and catching frogs. The kids are a bit put off by fishing these days, since it takes me away from them, so I’m trying not to push it too hard. We just like to be together outside, and that’s enough right now. I’m so grateful to my family (especially my husband, Shane), friends, coworkers and industry partners for an unforgettable summer.

Gear Institute: As a sponsored athlete, you have a lot of gear at your disposal. What items of your sponsor’s gear do you always carry?
Hutcheson: The Costa Del Mar Isabela sunglasses with 580 glass amber lens are my go-to sunnies for on and off the river. They’ve stood up well to hard use and the amber lenses work perfectly in variable water and weather conditions. I never take them off—when they’re not on my face, they’re hanging off my neck catching sandwich crumbs. When I put them back on, the crumbs get in my eyes. You know what I’m talking about—don’t pretend it doesn’t happen to you.

CostaDelMar Isabella2

Cheeky reels have made a huge difference for me in the last year because they’re really durable throughout all my travels. My favorite is the Ambush 375 because it’s versatile enough to be paired with various 4-7wt rods but I just picked up the new Boost 350. It’s a great freshwater all-arounder at a really doable price point. By the way, I think the name “Cheeky” has something to do with Mary Poppins and skiing but I’m not sure.

Cheeky Ambush

Speaking of Mary Poppins, I love my Fishpond Westwater Boat Bag for guiding. It could carry giant houseplants and Tiffany lamps and brass mirrors and measuring tape if I chose to pack that stuff.

Westwater Boat Bag

Gear Institute: What items—other than sponsor’s gear—do you carry on your adventures?
Hutcheson: While I always bring my Nomad journal with me and try to keep it up to date, I can’t read my handwriting. I’ve really never been able to. But it’s fun to go back and try to figure out what I was trying to document.

nomad journas

I also make sure I always have room in my pack (or boat) for my MFC River Camo Flask.

MFC Flask -2

Topped off with Dry Fly WhiskeyNote from Gear Institute: That could partially explain the illegible nature of her notes.

Dry Fly Whiskey

For guiding, the Montana Fly Company boat box is a must-have. When I’m filming Trout TV, it’s awesome to see that the majority of the guides I go with also have MFC boat boxes. The boat boxes are great because they’re waterproof, lightweight, durable and have plenty of real estate for stickers.

boat box

Gear Institute: What are you especially excited about or interested in right now?
Hutcheson: I am excited to see how different brands come up with effective and creative ways to protect the environment. I like what Flyvines is doing to recycle used fly line to make lanyards and sunglass retainers and I like how guides and other brands like Costa and Casting for Recovery are spreading the word with cross promotions.


I really like pocket knives, and I found a knife that I am saving up for. It’s the Spyderco Native 5 Lightweight knife with a fiberglass-reinforced nylon handle. I like it because it has a short blade, so it fits in my pocket well. And, it’s made in the USA, in Colorado. It looks like a real good peanut butter spreader.


Because of the knife thing, I typically pack a lot of Band Aids. I love the Ultralight & Watertight first aid kits from Adventure Medical Kits, and their new 6-ounce  Steelheader kit is tailor-made for anglers. (GI Note: That Dry Fly Whiskey mentioned above is a good disinfectant as well as a painkiller—though combined with that knife thing, it may also be a contributor to the need for a medical kit!)

AMK ultra

Gear Institute: Are there any special packing or gear-protecting tips/tricks you use?
Hutcheson: Speaking of tips, the sound of a rod tip getting stepped on or slammed in the door is the worst sound ever. So, I keep a couple of magnetic Sportsman Bumper rod holders on my truck. It just holds the rod in place while you’re getting prepped.

Sportman BUmper

As a guide, I always worry about not having enough water for clients. So I pack the Katadyn Mini water filter in my boat bag and I use it all the time to pump river water into their water bottles. So far no one has gotten giardia. Or maybe they have—they’re just long gone by the time the thunder rolls.