#theholestory: Spencer Morton

#theholestory is a new series of the untold stories of Jackson's wonderful inhabitants

A trip to Jackson Hole at 9-years-old made such an impact on Spencer that when he was old enough to return on his own, he pulled into town with $5 in his pocket and a quarter tank of gas. His story of sleeping in his truck and working multiple jobs until landing a place to live is one many can relate to. But what makes his story so unique is listening and following a passion. That inner drive is what kept him in town and eventually led him to build a business that Jackson can be proud of.

Jackson Hole Fly Fishing School began from a natural ability to teach as well as a love for the sport. With over 20 years of fly fishing experience, and notably an Orvis instructor, Spencer brings a unique level of skill to JHFFS. His niche is teaching all ages and skill levels. 

Starting a business is not easy and one would think even harder in a small town. But Spencer found the community welcoming and supportive. It’s what sets Jackson apart from other mountain towns. He knew he had the drive to work hard, to make his business a success and as he explains, “failure is not an option.” He controls the energy, enthusiasm and excitement for the business and therefore was ready for anything to come his way. What he didn’t expect was the support received from competitors, elected officials, friends and family. The community genuinely cares about their neighbors and the success of other small businesses. Spencer strongly believes “we all do better when working together, whether it is in fishing, hospitality, construction and other non-profits we all push each other to do better everyday.” He continues, “Jackson is a desired destination because the small businesses create lasting impressions on our tourism industry, and we keep the personal touch that a small town needs.”

He works on the business year round but from May to October is when he is truly challenged. The main thing he needs to learn is when to “shut it off and simply enjoy the reason why we moved here in the first place.” What most don’t realize is the small business owner and operator is usually up by 4:30am even if they don’t even see a client until 7am. There are boats to clean, equipment to prepare, last minute organization for changes that ultimately happen, and you have to be able to think on your feet and roll with it. And when the clients are all done for day, that doesn’t mean Spencer’s workday is over. There are calls and emails to return, permits to secure, preparing the team for the next day and so on. There are no days off for an outfitter or fishing guide in the summer. Each one works just as hard as the next. “Every guide promotes the number of days they work in a row as a badge of honor,” explains Spencer. But it’s that level of workload that easily weeds out the guides who are doing this for the wrong reasons. The ones you want to get on the water with are the guides who can handle the physical and mental demands of the job and have an innate strong work ethic.

Having parents who operated Swiss Challenge, a teenage adventure camp in Switzerland, turned out to be a good foundation for Spencer to understand what he was developing himself. And that family upbringing also instilled a respect for nature. He knows that a good day on the job is one where a client holds a positive memory of the experience. But what is more important to him is connecting their experience to watershed conservation. “This connection is vital to the long term sustainability of Jackson Hole’s natural resources and as a business owner in the fisheries industry, I have an obligation to lead by example about the importance of protecting our fisheries.”

h/t Bridget Pattee