The partnership between Trout Unlimited and the Orvis Company goes back a long way. The birth of the company predates the birth of TU by a century, but the spirit of the two organizations has long been intertwined. The owners of the company, the Perkins family, have a long and proud history of supporting conservation across America and specifically of supporting our work at Trout Unlimited. They are simply terrific partners for us in every sense of the word.
And every year since I’ve worked at TU, I’ve attended the Orvis Guide Rendezvous, their annual gathering for their endorsed guides, outfitters, lodges and fly shops. Every year until COVID came along. Wisely, Orvis cancelled this much-loved fly-fishing industry get-together in 2020 and again in 2021. That was the right thing to do, but all of us missed it. I certainly did. I missed my friends and the laughter and the personal connections.
That’s why we all looked forward with anticipation to the chance to gather again in Missoula, MT, last week. The Guide Rendezvous was on, and as always it was a celebration of fly fishing and conservation. Trout Unlimited CEO Chris Wood was a featured speaker. His remarks on the importance of guides, outfitters, lodges and fly shops in advocacy for places like Bristol Bay in Alaska, the Smith River in Montana and dam removal on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington were spot on.
But Chris wasn’t the only star of the show. Many of the attendees were TU Business members, and they dominated the prestigious Orvis Endorsed Awards in all fly-fishing categories:
Fly Shop of the Year – Northwest Outfitters in Coeur d’Alene, ID
Mike and Teresa Beard own this great shop. They’ve been terrific supporters of the TU proposal to remove the lower four dams on the Snake River in eastern Washington. As Mike says, “I have been fortunate to be on these waters for the last 30 years. Growing up, and still to this day, some of my favorite stories come from the people and families who were here generations before that. The opportunity to bring back a world-class fishery as well as restore the cultural and economic impact from a wild river is an endeavor that will benefit the entire region and beyond. Salmon and steelhead are keystone species that are part of the fabric of the Pacific Northwest. This opportunity is bigger than ourselves and the time is now to come together and find a path forward to benefit the entire region and all those that love the river and what comes with it.”
Fly Fishing Lodge of the Year – Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge in Kvichak River, AK
TU’s successful campaign to defeat the ill-conceived Pebble Mine proposal was the product of many years of hard work by thousands of people. But nobody worked harder to save Bristol Bay than Brian Kraft from Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge. His long-term commitment and advocacy for this iconic place inspired us all. Bristol Bay and its watersheds have sustained generations, brought anglers and hunters on lifetime trips and supported the people of Alaska for years on end. We look forward to working with Brian to advance permanent protections for Bristol Bay.
Fly Fishing Guide of the Year – Bryan Donoway from Flys in Disguise in Jarrettsville, MD
Bryan provides professional flyfishing Instruction and guided flyfishing trips on the Gunpowder River watershed in North Central Maryland and the Savage River watershed in Western Maryland. With over 20 years of fly-fishing experience and seven years of professional guiding experience on local and western MD waters, he prides himself on providing the best experience on the water. It’s a catch and release experience with Bryan, and his waters to sustain healthy populations of trout. If you’re new to fly-fishing or just want to expand your skill set, he can provide instruction that will help you be a better angler.
Fly Fishing Outfitter of the Year – Willowfly Anglers at Three Rivers Resort in Almont, CO
The Schumacher family has owned and operated Three Rivers Resort since 1983. Mark and Mary Jo have always been very connected to the land, the community and to their guests. Strategically located where the East and Taylor Rivers come together to form the Gunnison River, Willowfly is in a great spot for anglers to fish many rivers, streams, reservoirs, and natural lakes. The diverse fly-fishing opportunities in this area keep guests coming back for generations. Each of the guides at Willowfly is a trained, experienced professional who cares about sharing their passion with each guest. A day spent on the water with them is a special time to learn, enjoy the beautiful outdoors, and walk away with lifetime memories.