Trout Bum of the Week L: John Packer

John Packer loves chasing Colorado brown trout during caddisfly hatches or with big streamers.
All photos courtesy John Packer

Welcome to our series called “Trout Bum of the Week,” in which we highlight some of the folks living the good life. . .of a sort. (See the bottom of this post for a link to the previous installments.) 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. 

John Packer is the owner of Fly Fishing Outfitters in Avon, Colorado. When I first met him many years ago, he was a guide at FFO, but he worked his way up and took over the business. A native of Michigan, John has lived in the Vail Valley since 1992.

1. When did you start fly fishing?
I got hooked watching Kurt Gowdy on The American Sportsman. I told my dad that I wanted to fly-fish, so he took me to old man Griffiths’ cabin on the Au Sable River in Michigan in 1977. It wasn’t until I move to Colorado and became a guide in 1992 that I understood what that trip had really meant.

Sometimes, the guide gets to be in the bow of the boat.

2. What’s your favorite water?|
I love my home water—the Eagle River, in Colorado’s Vail Valley—which has one of the best caddisfly hatches anywhere.

3. What’s your favorite species to chase with a fly rod and why?
It’s tough to beat fall brown trout on streamers. Why? Because it’s streamers. I also love chasing juvenile tarpon in the mangroves.

4. What’s your most memorable fly-fishing moment?
My first tarpon on the fly. I had grown up tarpon fishing in Key Largo and had caught many of the beasts on hard tackle, but my first on the fly in 1991 was freaking mind-blowing and life changing.

5. What is your most forgettable fly-fishing moment?
The time my clients and I were struck by lightning in the boat on the Eagle River. No Worries: we survived. But I’m pretty sure they will never come back to Colorado.

This gorgeous fall fish fell for a meaty streamer.

6. What do you love most about fly fishing?
The sense of brotherhood. No matter where we are or what we’re chasing, we all fly-fish for we share the same common passion.

7. What’s your favorite piece of gear and why?
My Helios 2 996-4 saltwater tip-flex rod. It’s my go-to bass, streamers, and bonefish rod.

8. What’s your go-to fly when nothing else is working?
A Size 2 TeQueely usually produces for me.

When winter hits Colorado, John enjoys chasing tarpon in the tropics.

9. What was your favorite fly-fishing trip?
Fall streamer fishing on the Colorado River is the best: Big browns on big flies.

10. How do you define the difference between someone who loves fly fishing and a true trout bum?
The trout bum doesn’t need to set an alarm clock!

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