Olympian Johnny Spillane purchases downtown Steamboat fly-fishing shop

Michael Schrantz
World champion and three-time Olympic silver medalist Johnny Spillane recently purchased Steamboat Flyfisher and will continue to pursue his passion for the outdoors in his own hometown.
John F. Russell

— World champion and three-time Olympic silver medalist Johnny Spillane is going to be spending more time behind the counter of a Steamboat Springs fly shop.

On Saturday, Spillane completed the purchase of Steamboat Flyfisher on Yampa Street from Tim Kirkpatrick.

A typical offseason for Spillane consisted of packing away the Nordic combined gear and grabbing a fly rod to guide for the downtown fly shop and outfitter, but this past spring, with his retirement from professional skiing imminent, Spillane struck up a different type of discussion with Kirkpatrick.

Spillane said he had to think about the future and providing for his family.

Other opportunities, such as plans to purchase an outfitter business in Utah and an attempt to help bring a casino to the Yampa Valley, didn’t work out.

“Aside from skiing, this was my other big passion,” Spillane said about fly-fishing.

Spillane grew up going to Steamboat Flyfisher, and when he broached the subject of buying it with Kirkpatrick, there was interest.

“It seemed like it made more sense as the summer went on,” he said.

Kirkpatrick still will own the commercial space in the Olympian where the business is located. Spillane said it’s good to have Kirkpatrick around in some role, and he’ll maintain an interest in the store as its landlord.

Spillane said there are a lot of parallels between professional athletics and business. They’re different fields, he said, but both are competitive, and there are principles that guide success.

“I know what it takes to be successful,” Spillane said.

There likely won’t be “Fish with an Olympian” guide trips, and there were no medals hanging in the shop Tuesday morning. It will be very close to business as usual for the longstanding fly shop.

Spillane does have plans for the business, such as reaching out to more destination travelers and expanding outfitting to include hunting, but he also said the fishing guide staff is strong and will stay consistent. The retail side will continue to search for new products and be 100 percent dedicated to fly-fishing, Spillane said.

Steamboat Flyfisher also will continue to focus on getting more people involved in the sport under Spillane.

He said he wants to reach out to women and children and spread the word about how tremendous the Yampa River is as a resource.

What he’ll be doing less of is guiding.

Now, most of the time he spends on the river likely will be for fun with his family, Spillane said.

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206, email or follow him on Twitter @MLSchrantz

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