Orvis Trout Bum of the Week XXVII: Jon Hill

Colorado angler Jon Hill with a stunning high-country cutthroat trout.
All photos courtesy Jon Hill

A couple years ago, we ran a series called “Trout Bum of the Week,” in which we highlighted some of the guys living the good life. . .of a sort. (See the bottom of this post for a link to the previous installments.) This is our second round of profiles. Most of the subjects are guides who have turned their passion into a vocation, spending their time in an outdoor “office” that may include a drift boat, gorgeous mountain scenery, and crystal clear water. Others do have day jobs but manage to spend every other available minute on the water with a fly rod in hand. Whether you aspire to one lifestyle or the other, it’s illuminating to explore the different paths these men and women have taken on their way to achieving “trout bum” status.

Jon Hill lives in Littleton, Colorado and works in the digital-graphics field. But he spends almost all his spare time chasing trout in the high country, and his photos have been featured many times on the Orvis News. (See here, here, and here, for just a taste, or visit his blog, Ramblings.)

1. When did you start fly fishing?
I started fly fishing when I moved to Colorado in 2003. As a going-away gift, my good friend Randy gave me a rod-and-reel setup, and I was on the water within a week of moving. I haven’t slowed down since.

For the past few years, Hill has been obsessed with fly fishing in the high country of his home state.

2. What’s your favorite water?
Anything higher than 10,000 feet above sea level. A few years ago, I started doing a lot more hiking into the backcountry to find more off-the-beaten-path areas to fish. And what I found was some of the most amazing fishing in the most amazing landscapes one could ever imagine.

3. What’s your favorite fish to chase with a fly rod and why?
As much as I love to catch cutthroat and brown trout, I would have to say my favorite fish to chase with a fly rod would be smallmouth bass. Taking a cork from a recently finished bottle of wine, putting it onto a size 2 hook with a massive amount of feathers and legs on it, then taking that fly and stripping it across the surface of a lake to get hammered by a four-pound smallie is some of the most exciting fly fishing I have done.

4. What’s your most memorable fly-fishing moment?
The most memorable fly fishing moment I have had was when I caught my first golden trout in Colorado.

Getting off the beaten path is key to finding perfect little trout.

5. What’s your most forgettable fly-fishing moment?

My most forgettable fly-fishing moment would have to be changed to my most forgettable moments. I fished four separate days last year with my friend Tom—hiking and fishing for a few dozen hours in total. On those trips, I caught one fish and Tom caught one and a half (anything three inches or less can’t count as a whole). So needless to say, I won’t be taking any trips with him this year because someone is to blame.

6. What do you love most about fly-fishing?
Honestly, I love just being on the water. I am so lucky to be able to be outside as much as I am and to have the Rocky Mountains as my backyard and playground.

7. What’s your favorite piece of gear and why?
Hands down my favorite piece of gear is my Safe Passage Sling Pack. Over the years, I have tried a number of different vests and various chest packs. I have to say, from the first day of using the sling pack, that it is by far my most versatile piece of gear.

Hill is introducing his young son, Brennon to both fly fishing and the wonders of mountain waters.

8. What’s your go-to fly when nothing else is working?

I’ll have to go along with a fellow trout bum Spencer Higa and say the Higa’s SOS nymph—although I tie them up in red. (And for me the acronym SOS stands for Save Our Skunk…for another day.) I have used this fly in all types of water around Colorado and have caught all different types of trout with it. It is definitely a fly that I have confidence in. I refuse to count my four failed trips last year as evidence against the success of this fly.

9. What was your favorite fly-fishing trip?
My favorite fly-fishing trip goes along with my most memorable moment. Four of us went on a quest in search of golden trout in Colorado. It was by far the most difficult trip I have done, in some of the roughest terrain I have hiked. At the end of the day we found the gold we were looking for and had the best time with a great group of guys.

Another beautiful, wild trout from one of Hill’s hike-in adventures.

10. What’s your next dream destination?
That would have to be Iceland. I have been obsessed with the images and footage that has been coming out of there as of late, and I hope to make it a reality in the next couple of years.

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