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.
Clint Packo is the co-founder of and a guide for Freestone Outfitters, in Denver, Colorado. Originally from Colorado, Clint began guiding in 1994 on the Colorado Front Range. Since then, he has fished extensively throughout the world and continues to learn and grown in a sport that he admires and loves.
1. When did you start fly fishing?
I began fly fishing in 1992 and began guiding two years later on my home water of the South Platte—in Waterton, Colorado—and Cheesman Canyon. Initially I was self-taught and probably spent the better part of a year without catching a fish, though I fished every day after school. Being unproductive and terrible didn’t deter my enthusiasm. This probably just made the sport more intriguing, in the long run.
2. What’s your favorite water?
My favorite water has changed over the years. Initially it was the South Platte, where I was fishing and guiding. Then as my home waters began to expand, so did my guiding opportunities. As a result, the Upper Colorado River and the Williams Fork River were introduced into my areas of interest and obsession. For several years, these two rivers were where I spent nearly all of my fishing and guiding time. After all this time and many “new” favorite waters, now my favorite water is the one I’m lucky enough to be fishing. Maybe the Blue River or the Upper Colorado?
3. What’s your favorite fish to chase with a fly rod and why?
On occasion, I have used a fly rod and local rivers to try and angle for my most favorite fly-rod quarry, which is young, attractive, “outdoorsy” women looking to expand their experiences in the out-of-doors. However, if you are referring to my favorite piscatorial quarry, it is definitely trout, since they are what initially attracted me to and held my attention in fly fishing. I’m actually quite obsessed with continuing to expand my experiences and to fish for different species and experience new places in doing so.
4. What’s your most memorable fly-fishing moment?
My most memorable fly-fishing moment is a tough call. There have been so many. However, mine has to be proposing to my wife on the banks of the Madison River and the afternoon of fishing that followed.
5. What’s your most forgettable fly-fishing moment?
My most forgettable fly-fishing moment has to be falling into the Buller River in New Zealand when the bank below me collapsed while I was fighting a relatively small brown trout. This ended in a landed fish, torn pants, bruised legs and butt, as well as a broken Orvis TLS 865-4. There was also the time I was fishing for tarpon and stuck myself in the neck with a barbed Tarpon Toad. I finished fishing the day, and an emergency room trip later with laughing doctors and nurses ended that forgettable day. Or maybe it was the time when I left a South American saltwater destination and proceeded to spend the next two weeks removing more than 50 ticks from my torso, legs and a surprisingly number from my highly “sensitive” areas…
6. What do you love most about fly-fishing?
I love fly fishing for many reasons, including the sense of adventure, the never-ending learning, the travel, the unlimited experiences, the friendships that continue to grow. But most of all I enjoy spending time outdoors and all the experiences that are heightened by fly fishing.
7. What’s your favorite piece of gear and why?
My favorite fly rod is Orvis Trident TLS 865-4 mid flex and the Orvis H2 908-4 tip flex. I have used these rods all over the world and am continually amazed by how they perform. My original CFO II is my favorite reel, and the Orvis Mirage flouro tippet is certainly my go-to and favorite leader and tippet material. All of these items help me provide the best experience for my customers or make a given day more enjoyable whether I’m fishing by myself or guiding.
8. What’s your go-to fly when nothing else is working?
My main producers and day-savers are the Flashback Pheasant Tail Nymph in a size 16 or a Redheaded Stepchild in size 16.
9. What was your favorite fly-fishing trip?
My favorite trips have been those that I get to share with good friends or my wife. There have been many of them, but my honeymoon in Iceland probably tops them all. We camped and fished for three weeks and enjoyed scenery and fishing experiences that we can’t replicate anywhere else in the world. I lived out of a car and tent for a couple months on the South Island of New Zealand, and as a gratifying and unbeatable experience, that has to be at the top of the list, as well. Between those two, I’m certainly torn.
10. What’s your next dream destination?
My dream destination is floating one of several rivers in Alaska—living off what you can bring with you, seeing bears, salmon, trout, and other unforgettable wildlife. I have done these trips a few times and continually think of them when trying to find another option. Floating more than 100 miles with a friend or two and seeing areas of this world, which are unmatched in their beauty and significance, makes this trip the dream destination that continues to amaze and impress.