Sisters Hilary Hutcheson ’00 and Whitney Milhoan ’03 incorporate the great outdoors into their careers. (Photo Lee Cohen)
After growing up fishing and floating the rivers surrounding Glacier National Park, it’s no surprise that University of Montana alumnae and sisters Hilary Hutcheson ’00, Columbia Falls, and Whitney Milhoan ’03, Bozeman, have turned their passion for casting into meaningful careers.
Following her graduation with a degree in broadcast journalism and stints working in TV news in Missoula and Portland, Oregon, in 2005 Hilary started hosting Trout TV, a 30-minute network program that showcases the beauty and art of fly-fishing from locales across the country. She returned home to Columbia Falls in 2008 and co-founded the outdoor-focused marketing and public relations firm Outside Media, which acquired Trout TV in 2013.
Hilary also works as a professional fly-fisher for some of the top brands in the industry and spends a fair amount of time lobbying for two issues she says are key to her family’s livelihood: public lands and climate change. She has no doubt that her Montana upbringing influenced this current career trajectory.
“Rivers and wild places got into my blood early on, and Montana has everything to do with that,” Hilary says. “Our parents let my brother and sister and I roam pretty freely around the valley, and I quickly became confident on the water and in the mountains. And it’s not just the experiences we had outdoors, it’s also the way our parents raised us to respect and appreciate the resource. They taught us how to take care of the environment, and they taught us that what happens to the Earth happens to us, so we need to treat it the way we want to be treated.”
She stepped away from Outside Media last year to focus more exclusively on the fly-fishing and conservation aspects of her career by opening a full-service fly shop, working as a full-time fly-fishing guide in the summer and speaking, writing and lobbying for conservation issues. She’s also an instructor for Casting for Recovery, the nonprofit her sister leads.
Whitney, who studied sociology at UM, took over as executive director of Casting for Recovery in 2013. The organization provides free fly-fishing retreats across the country, including two in Montana, that promote physical and emotional healing for women with breast cancer.
“It seems like a strange combination, but the program makes sense on two levels,” Whitney says. “The motion of fly-casting can be good physical therapy for women who have gone through surgery or radiation as part of their treatment for breast cancer. And, of course, then there are the emotional and psychological benefits. Fly-fishing is truly a practice in meditation and an accessible, authentic way to connect with the natural world.”
Both sisters credit their time at UM for helping them pursue their passions today.
“At UM I learned how to create. I learned how to build things,” Hilary says. “Working through the constructive process from the beginning to end has helped me immensely. It all takes the ability to plan, develop, execute and polish. Learning this process was the most important thing I took away from my education in Missoula.”
“I think UM is unique in its ability to provide such high-quality education in one of the most sought-after outdoor communities in the nation,” Whitney says. “The professors and the administration all appreciate the important role that outdoor adventure plays in the lives of students at UM, and they’ve found a way to encourage balance. This was important for me during my time at UM – I needed a place that would support the ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality that I’d grown up with.”
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