Talk about an article I never thought I’d write. Let’s start at the beginning. Hi, my name is Dave, and I was an Orvis hater. I don’t know when my hatred of Orvis started. It definitely started though. Everyone who worked at Orvis shops kind of seemed like pricks to me. I played off Orvis endorsed guides as dudes who could afford the sticker. The term “whore-vis” was an old favorite in my lexicon. I guess everybody has to hate somebody and for me, Orvis was a hate dumpster. Anything wrong with the industry, well Orvis must be involved. If my waders leaked it was only because an Orvis-led conspiracy was sabotaging wader plants all over southeast Asia in what can only be described as a Mussolini-type power play. Well, fellow haters, I stand before you today as a ticket holder on the Orvis train (which I found out means something much different than it does in prison). This transformation wasn’t an easy one, you don’t go from hating to love-fest in a day…it takes a week.

When an invitation from Orvis shows up at your door, the internal conflict goes something like this:

-Wow, an Invitation to spend a week at Orvis all expenses paid!

-But, I hate Orvis.

-But it’s free!

-You’re right, I am a whore.

-Let’s go to Orvis!

What I found out in Vermont was an eye-opener to say the least. Mistakes were admitted to, complaints were aired, and I am neither able to deny or confirm that Phil Monahan broke down into tears and uncomfortably bared his soul (really disturbing stuff there Phil… you might want to talk to someone about that). It also turns out that they know what we’ve been saying about them all these years. It was kind of like sitting in the principal’s office and being read a list of shitty things you’ve said about another kid in your class. Anyone with half a conscience feels pretty, well, shitty. I’m not going to go through everything said that day, but let’s just say it was all laid out for everyone to see. This cathartic exercise was painful, but seems to be Orvis’ acceptance of the way things have been and a starting place for the way things should be.

-Let’s go to Orvis!

The way things should be, is that when it comes to gear, you should try to bring only the highest-quality product to the marketplace. You should also only put the best people you can find in charge of developing and crafting your wares. Settling on either of these points should not be an option. Outside of the marketplace, you should do everything within your considerable power and influence to make the sport better for those who participate, and those just finding it. Last but not least, the people in charge of the whole deal should probably fish more than as a casual hobby to impress cocktail party guests.

I’m not saying that Orvis will be this company they envision this year, next year, or even the year after. What I am saying is that at least they finally see it. The facts of the matter are that Orvis donates more to water and wildlife conservation than almost all the other big players in the game. Orvis has started a free intro to fly-fishing classes at all their stores to bring more people into the sport, which if we don’t want to go the way of the abacus, is a good thing. The Orvis H2 is a sweet stick as far as I’m concerned, and one of the better ones I’ve flung in a really long time. Also, just so everybody knows, Orvis is the only major family company left. Most major manufacturers have been swapped and acquired by elite last names of industry more times than a misguided couple at a key party.

I know those of you who know me think that the week I spent checking out Orvis was more akin to reprogramming than fun. And yes, it is easy to say nice things when people take you fishing (on their dime). But in the end, after meeting the people behind the evil empire, the evil empire just might not be so evil. I mean no man as warm and cuddly as Tom Rosenbauer can be evil, can he?

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