The outdoor experts: Steamboat’s top hunting and fishing guides offer unforgettable adventures

Fall colors frame the Yampa River and fishing guides Johnny Spillane and Mike Orsi. Mike Orsi was named the top guide in the 2022 Best of the Boat conetest with Greg Creamer (not pictured) placing second and Spillane placing third.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The city of Steamboat Springs and the surrounding area has become synonymous with top-notch fishing and hunting.

Visitors and locals have access to fishing and hunting guides that can take them on excursions, showing them the ropes and providing them with the best adventures possible.

Local fishing guide Mike Orsi has been guiding in Steamboat since the turn of the century and says he would not give it up for the world. He has worked with Bucking Rainbow Outfitters through its recent merger with Steamboat Flyfisher, where he works today. 

“The best part of guiding is the relationships that I have built over the past 20 years,” Orsi said. “A lot of days I’m able to hangout with friends and I always love creating new ones.”

For many, fishing in Steamboat starts and ends with the Yampa River. It is a staple landmark for visitors and loved by locals. 

“The Yampa holds a special place in my heart,” Orsi said. “Everyday is different and unique. My ‘office’ is a beautiful and challenging place. I’m always excited to go to work.”

Not every top guide started out in the fishing business. Greg Creamer came to town to change up his lifestyle and get out of the corporate world. 

He moved to Steamboat primarily to ski.

“Guiding was a way for me to keep skiing,” Creamer said. “Ever since then, it’s now been 10 years that I’ve been swapping in the seasons. I work with the Steamboat Powdercats in the winter time and now I do Freestone Anglers in the summertime.”

2022 Best of the Boat Results

Best Fishing Guide

  1. Mike Orsi, Steamboat Flyfisher
  2. Greg Creamer, Freestone Anglers
  3. Johnny Spillane, Steamboat Flyfisher

Best Hunting Guide

  1. Perk Heid, Del’s Triangle 3 Ranch
  2. Adam Grimes, One80 Outfitters
  3. Nathan Birdseye, Steamboat Flyfisher

Best Fishing Outfitter

  1. Steamboat Flyfisher
  2. Straightline Outdoor Sports
  3. Bucking Rainbow Outfitters

Creamer used to manage fly fishing for the Home Ranch, a guest ranch in Clark. The property was sold and turned to private land but the water remained with the original family. 

They gave the water rights to Creamer who then opened Freestone Anglers in 2019. Now, he gets the best of both worlds, spending his summers catching fish and his winters skiing the mountains. 

Similarly, Steamboat Flyfisher owner Johnny Spillane has fallen in love with what Steamboat can offer throughout the year. Everyone knows the city’s winter sports pedigree but Spillane says the warmer months can be just as great.

“We’re so fortunate here to have such an amazing resource such as the Yampa River and the Elk River,” Spillane said. “They help to bring the fly fishing community together and help make Steamboat one of the best year-round destinations to be outdoors.”

Hunting has also been a major component of the Yampa Valley experience for years. 

Coming to Steamboat 11 years ago, Nate Birdseye quickly joined the hunting community in Steamboat and began working as a guide for both Solitude Outfitters in Steamboat and Pack Country Outfitters in Yampa.

He does archery guides with Solitude and rifle guides with Pack Country and though he has been guiding since he was 18, he says the passion has still not gone away. 

“It gives me the opportunity to get people out there who don’t necessarily have the skills for themselves to go chase after elk,” Birdseye said. “They’re the toughest critter in the woods out here and it’s awesome to give somebody an opportunity who has never even seen one before or hunted one before the chance to look at them in their natural habitat and act like natural elk.”

Birdseye says the best part is helping those that get the opportunity to kill an elk by filling their freezer with high-quality meat.

Not many have guiding in Steamboat longer than fifth-generation Routt County resident Perk Heid. 

Heid has been working at Del’s Triangle 3 Ranch for 35 years and has become the company’s general manager. He has been a hunting guide for 30 years and says he learned everything he knows from his father, Ray. 

“I absolutely could not do it without the support of an amazing staff,” Heid said. “That is my No. 1 lesson that I have learned, is I am standing on the shoulders of giants who make it possible for me to do this.”

Del’s Triangle 3 Ranch offers guided hunts on both private and public land while covering everything from archery to rifles. 

Perk Heid, of Del’s Triangle 3Ranch, saddles up Jerry the mule. Heid was voted best hunting guide, while Del’s Triangle 3 Ranch was named best horseback outfitter.
Joel Reichenberger

Heid’s number one goal is to someday turn the whole business over to his two sons, Justin and Jason, who he says are avid hunters and great guides. 

Heid’s passion for his craft has only grown over the years and it has been a dream for him to do it with his family. 

“This is something that has always been in me and I’ve always done,” Heid said. “I’ve never had the desire to do something else. I’ve been guiding my whole life pretty much.”

New outfitting partnership gets riverfront home

Steamboat Flyfisher and Bucking Rainbow merged in June 2021 and carried each other over the threshold of a new location in July 2022. 

John and Jarrett Duty, owners of Bucking Rainbow, and Johnny Spillane and Rob Burden of Steamboat Flyfisher combined all guiding services in 2021. 

The new location at 655 Yampa Street is on the banks of the river that the guides love so much, with massive windows that lure the casual shopper towards the waterfront deck. 

“I think it’s going be a great location for us being right on the river and offering a little bigger retail space,” co-owner Spillane said in 2021. “It will also offer more visibility. We’re a little bit out of (the) walking part of downtown at our current location, and this move kind of puts us right into that space.”

This was originally published in the 2022 Best of the Boat magazine.

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