We’re grateful for all our local supporters, and our next ambassador introduction comes from an angler right in our backyard. Hillary Pennella has been fly fishing for years, but it all started after a canceled backpacking permit led to her first fly shop visit in Colorado. She was hooked, and immediately brought her enthusiasm back home to to rivers and streams in the Driftless.

Since then, Hillary has become very involved in the local Twin Cities community, especially with @flyfishingwomenofmn and continues to share her passion for exploration with anglers of all kinds. Hillary is a true believer in the power of a fly rod to connect with people, and we’re grateful to have her on the Ambassador team. Check out her spotlight below, and be sure to follow along on her next fishing adventure!

Get To Know TroutRoutes Ambassador, Hillary Pennella (@mn_onthe_fly)!

Q: Describe your fly fishing journey up to the present. How did you start fly fishing? Where is your favorite place to fish?

A: As a kid & young adult, I’ve always had a passion for the outdoors. I spent a lot of time along the St. Croix River Valley in Minnesota, exploring hiking & fishing opportunities and just spending time outside. After attending college in Chicago, I had a strong need to reconnect with nature, so I started hiking & backpacking. On a backpacking trip in Colorado, my backpacking permit was canceled due to bear activity in the area, so I found myself with nothing to do & no where to go! I ended up wandering into a local fly shop in Estes Park and took a fly fishing class. Needless to say, I was hooked! I ended up buying my first fly rod at the Ace Hardware in town and spent as much time fly fishing on the rest of that trip as I could. After that trip, I started trying to figure out how to fly fish back in Minnesota. I didn’t know anyone who fished, or that trout even existed in Minnesota! I did as much research as I could and started finding local rivers & stream access where I could fish for trout as well as other native species. I love fishing for trout in SE Minnesota, which is part of the Driftless region, but I also love fishing the upper St. Croix or Mississippi for smallmouth bass and northern pike. 

Q: What is your favorite fly pattern (either to fish or to tie yourself)?

A: I am definitely a streamer junkie. The tug really is the drug! My favorite pattern is the Zonker or Slumpbuster. They’re really versatile patterns that work for many different species from trout to steelhead to pike, and they’re super easy to tie!

Q: What TroutRoutes feature do you find yourself using the most?

A: I love exploring new water. TroutRoutes has made finding new water that much more accessible through the offline maps where I can download particular regions or streams before heading out. I can download entire regions of a watershed in the Driftless and not have to worry about losing cell service while spending a day on the water. Having the ability to switch between map modes also makes it easier to see what the local stream access & regulations are when I’m exploring a new area or even a new state!

Q: What’s the most important thing you take away from the water at the end of a fishing trip?

A: For me, it’s all about the connection to nature. We live in a fast paced world, and fly fishing has helped me slow down and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us each and every day.