Best Fishing Guide: Johnny Spillane |

Best Fishing Guide: Johnny Spillane

Johnny Spillane transitioned rather smoothly from life as an Olympic-medal-winning Nordic combined skier to life as a businessman. Within months of retiring, he agreed to buy Steamboat Flyfisher in downtown Steamboat Springs.
Joel Reichenberger

While Johnny Spillane took home three silver medals from Vancouver’s 2010 Olympics in Nordic combined, he now has another piece of hardware to add to his list: town’s Best Fishing Guide.

“I like sharing the special experience of it with great people,” he says of his affinity for guiding. “I love watching people get big grins on their faces after figuring everything out and catching a fish.”

It helps that he’s been doing that a long time. Hanging up his skating and jumping skis after his triple-medal performance, Spillane, who grew up in Steamboat and has been fly fishing for nearly 30 years, now owns Steamboat Flyfisher, where he juggles administrative duties with dropping a fly as much as he can — both for fun and guiding clients.

While he employs up to 25 guides in the peak season, including 15 full time, he enjoys wetting a line whenever he can, fishing upwards of four times a week when not running the store or enjoying his family, including wife, Hilary, and daughters Genevieve and Hadlie.

It’s this experience that endears him to his clients.

“The biggest thing is him just being a local who grew up here fishing the river his whole life,” says fellow guide and Steamboat Flyfisher employee Jesse Rapp, who grew up fishing with Spillane. “He knows the fish, the water and the aquatic life better than anyone. He’s also probably one of the biggest believers in being respectful of the Yampa and taking care of it.”

And, of course, there’s the same calmness and competitiveness that carried him to the Olympic podium. “He has a great sense of humor and is really patient with people on the water,” Rapp says. “His goal is to help people fall in love with fishing just like he did.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User