TU Business Member George Hunker Receives Orvis Lifetime Achievement Award

The annual Orvis Guide Rendezvous in Missoula, MT is where the best guides, outfitters and lodge owners and operators get together once a year to celebrate, network and learn. Needless to say, it’s a tough crowd. But there were more than a few teary eyes last Friday night when TU Business member George Hunker took the podium to accept the Orvis Lifetime Achievement Award.

Growing up in New Mexico, George came to fly fishing at an early age. “I was addicted by the time I was 10 years old,” he says. “I sort of figured it out and taught myself by reading books.” He made his way to Wyoming in his early 20’s, became an instructor with NOLS, the National Outdoor Leadership School known for teaching outdoor skills in some of the most jaw-dropping wilderness locations, and eventually worked his way up to Associate Director. He married his sweetheart and now wife Paula in 1975 and by 1977 together they started Sweetwater Fishing Expedition. In between, they spent time in New Zealand, a celebrated Mecca for fly fishing, and returned to the States to try their hand at ranching and farming.

Hunker is the owner of Sweetwater Fishing Expeditions in Lander, Wyoming for over 30 years, one of only a few fly fishing outfitters to take anglers into the rugged Wind River Mountains. He specializes in guided camping trips to the high country – either walking in with animal support, riding in on horseback, or backpacking trips -- and day fly fishing excursions on the smaller streams coming out of the east side of the Winds. His love for his home water is legendary.

“The Wind Rivers are a rugged, rocky mountain range, with active glaciers and steep granite walls,” he says. You’ll find the world’s largest herd of Bighorn Sheep here, and lots of moose, elk, deer, and smaller critters. The lakes we fish are from 9,000 to 12,000 feet up, carved out by the glaciers, and inhabited by all kinds of trout; mostly brook and cutthroat, but we get our share of golden, rainbow, brown, and lake trout, too.”

 Now 67, he took on a partner about ten years ago to guide additional trips and recently his son Hank has been assisting and will be running his own trips soon. “I love this life,” he says. “I get to share what I would do for free, and provide an exhilarating and peaceful outdoor experience for all kinds of people. If I had my life to live over, I’d be right here.”

“Our goal is simple,” he says, “to take people to beautiful places, where trout abound, and where the simple camp life can cleanse our minds and bodies. We are primarily about two things: fly fishing in a perfect environment and making sure our guest are well taken care of and feel our love for this setting.”

A simple goal perhaps, but one that George has pursued with passion for decades. Universally loved and respected by fellow guides and conservationists, George Hunker is the spirit of Wyoming. Soft-spoken, kind and generous, he’s been an inspiration to many of our younger colleagues. Rawhide tough, he still outwalks mountaineers half his age. But in the end, the thing I’ve always loved most about George is his ability to instill in all of us a desire to work together to make Wyoming a better place.

Well done, my friend. Well done indeed.

Sweetwater Fishing Expeditions, LLC  (O,G)

George H. Hunker III

Lander, WY 82520

(307) 332-3986




said on Thursday, April 30th, 2015

Truly inspiring, Walt. Thanx.


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