Sunday, July 5, 2009

Orvis Part 2

James Hathaway, who works for Orvis as the Communications and Conservation Director, a/k/a PR man plus, responded to my all too brief post on my strong opinion about Orvis Rods, particularly, my Orvis Rod.

I did make a foray into the nether reaches of fishing gear and found the original aluminum tube and rod sock that came with my first Orvis Rod, an 8'6" 4 piece 6 wt from the Green Mountain Orvis series. It came with a lifetime warranty and I bought it in a kit that included a reel, backing and line. The reel is a dandy, and despite many hundreds of hours of fishing, looks new. It is from the Orvis Madison series and was made in England.

I've had it over 20 years now, and it's been the perfect rod for many types of fishing. From small creek fishing in California and Texas to largemouth big lake fishing in Texas to big river fishing to salt water fishing in Texas bays and even out to the bonefish flats of the Bahamas.

It's caught fish in all of those places, and in many more. I bought it at the Orvis retail store in Houston, which had just opened back then in the late 80's. How I became an Orvis fan starts years before.

In my early teens, I was already subscribing to the fishing magazines of the day, such as Field and Stream, Outdoor Life and Sports Afield. In my later teens, there was an excellent monthly newpaper style magazine I often read called The Texas Fisherman, and it featured some of my favorite Texas fishing writers, guys like the late Russell Tinsley and the late A.C. Becker. Together and apart, those guys fished all over the great state of Texas for decades, back before so many of our rivers had damage done to them from the footprint of man.

Every now and then in those early 70's magazines, you would see a mail-in offer from Orvis for a nice small item, like a wallet with fishing leaders or various types of flies and streamers in some sort of case. It was usually 4 or 5 flies or in the case of the leaders, a plastic leader wallet with different leaders to try out. It was priced cheaper than what you would have to pay through the Orvis catalog, and was usually a selection of items that you couldn't get in that small of a combination, a special offer item for a cheap price. Seems like it was $4 or $5 dollars for some of these items, designed to attract new customers and introduce them to Orvis quality.

Well, I know Orvis continued doing specials like this over the years, and every so often I'd get whatever item they were offering. By the time I was 10, I had found an old Sears Ted Williams fly rod I got for a great deal at a garage sale, and at some point in my later teens bought a Berkley Bounty Hunter fly rod. Both of these were and are great rods, I'm constantly amazed at the fiberglass strength of the Ted Williams rod, being an 8 wt. designed for large bass and light saltwater use.

In the mid-eighties, when I would often visit the now defunct Austin Angler, I would try out various used Orvis rods, some made of graphite and some made of Bamboo. That was really the first time I had ever tried out an Orvis rod, and I was just so impressed with the feel of both types of rods. I went fishing a couple of times with one of the guys that owned the Austin Angler back then, and they'd always bring a nice Orvis rod for me to fish with. But they were really expensive. But it would be a few more years until I had an Orvis of my own.

When I was graduating law school, as I said, I bought the cheapest 4 piece fly rod outfit that Orvis had, and I think it went for about $300 for the whole outfit. Of course, I bought some leaders and flies. It was actually a semester before I finished, and it counted also as a Christmas present to myself. I promptly went to the Guadalupe for some winter Rainbow Trout fishing, and that began what has become my near constant companion on the water.

It all started from those postcards you could pull from the Field and Stream and other magazines with the special offer from Orvis. You'd also get a catalog from Orvis with the special offer, and let me tell you, those golden days of Bamboo Rods from Orvis are just great rods.

So I'm still trading with Orvis after all these years. Like many American companies, they're working hard in these troubled times to take care of their employees. It's owned by the Perkins family, who bought it back in 1965. It's stayed a family company, albeit a large one, for all of these years. It all started back in 1856 with Charles Orvis, who opened a fly fishing store in Vermont, and had continued all of these years, an American company.

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