Orvis Buys Ross and SA. Do We Care?

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By now I’m sure everyone knows that Orvis has purchased Ross and Scientific Anglers from 3M. Do we care?

Well, some of us do and there seems to de a division of opinions. When I started asking friends what they thought of the deal it didn’t take long for the words “dog bed” to come up. It’s a widely held assumption, especially with folks on the west coast, that a company can’t make a good fly rod and a good dog bed at the same time. There are even bumper stickers available slamming Orvis for not being a “real fly fishing co.” Frankly, I disagree with this assertion, and I’m going to tell you why.

Before I do I would like to acknowledge that Orvis is one of our advertisers. Please take a minute to click on their ad. That’s how we get paid, or hope to at least. My opinions on this subject have nothing to do with Orvis’ support of G&G. I’ve been making this argument for a long time and the Ross SA deal is just fuel on the fire.

Is Orvis a real fly fishing company?

Founded in 1856 and selling fishing and hunting gear exclusively, Orvis is the oldest mail order retailer in the U.S. In 1874, Charles Orvis designed and sold what has been called, the first modern fly reel. In the 1870s the fly fishing arm of Orvis was taken over by Mary Orvis, daughter of Charles, who published a landmark book of fly patterns. In the 1940s Orvis and rod maker Wes Jordan introduced the impregnated bamboo rod. Charles Orvis started donating company profits to conservation efforts in the 1800s and to this day Orvis gives 5% of its pre tax profits to conservation. That was a gift of over $10 million last year. In 1966 Orvis opened its first fly fishing school to bring new anglers into the sport and I believe it was some time in the mid 1980s when the company sold its first dog bed. WTF! does it take to be a real fly fishing company?

Should we examine 3M’s record? I’ll not waste your time.

What is Orvis guilty of?

In my opinion, primarily success. Orvis realized long ago what every fly shop owner has come to terms with in the past few years. You can’t stay in business catering to the hard core trout bums. Sorry guys, they call us bums for a reason. Orvis was the first company I know of to identify and market what has become known as ‘the fly fishing lifestyle’. It’s been very successful and dog beds are part of it.

Walk into your local fly shop and take a quick inventory. Tell me how much actual fishing gear you see and how much real estate is taken up by clothing, luggage, coffee mugs, artwork, and what-have-you. That’s the future and I’m fine with it and you should be too, and here’s why. If some fool wants to spend $300 on a dog bed to support a fly fishing company so that they can continue to sell fly rods with unconditional lifetime warranties, let him! And remember that 5% of that goes to trout conservation.

Why am I glad Orvis now owns Ross and SA?

I have dealt with all three of these companies as a customer, as a vender and as member of the media. One of them, without fail, always has their shit together. Care to guess which one?

Orvis has always provided the best customer service in the business. I broke my Orvis rod, walked into the Orvis store with it and no receipt, and walked out with a brand new one in five minutes. That’s remarkable!

When I have a question about some insanely technical fly fishing minutia, who do I email? And who takes time out of his busy schedule to find the answer and get back to me? Tom Rosenbauer, 30-year Orvis employee.

What does Orvis plan to do with Ross and SA?

First off, keep them as independent companies with their own brands and their own visions and their own dedication to producing quality gear. No one is suggesting that the companies will be folded into Orvis or closed to put them out of competition.

Second, fund them. Orvis, because they are a fly fishing company and they care about fly fishing will be increasing the budgets for both brands. How much and where the money will go is a question I can’t answer with any certainty but I’ve heard the word quadruple thrown around.

Third, offer leadership. The rumor is that Jim Lepage will be relocating and overseeing operations at SA personally. I have no word on any changes at Ross and am sensitive that folks are likely very nervous. It’s my impression that Orvis intends to manage in a supportive way and with a light hand.

What does this mean to the consumer?

Hopefully a strengthening of brands we have come to trust. A return of two great companies to management from within the fly fishing community. A rededication to a tradition of innovation and opportunity. An increased commitment to customer service and at the very least, a better night’s sleep for the dog.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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106 thoughts on “Orvis Buys Ross and SA. Do We Care?

  1. This is spot on. I am proud to buy Orvis products and quality products from companies that give back to the sustainability in our sport. Regardless of the diversity of the interests they hold. Orvis, Patagonia, Clif(just to name a few)-diverse and responible companies that can turn a profit while making great product.

  2. I must admit to being disappointed when I heard the news, though, if asked, I could not have articulated why. I guess it was just my knee-jerk reaction to yet another “flattening” within a marketplace – and one near and dear to my heart. Thank you, Louis, for a well reasoned reassurance that this is not a bad thing.

  3. You really can’t fault a company that has been so successful for so long. They make a huge contribution to the sport of fly fishing every year, and continue to encourage folks to get involved in the sport, and in conservation. I don’t own very many Orvis products, but the stuff that I’ve bought, I still have after many years. They make quality products, and they stand behind them 100%. So what if they sell dog beds… They’re really nice dog beds! I have 2 labs that travel with me sometimes and I like being able to pick up what I need at one place. And let’s not forget, too, that MANY Orvis products are made in the USA. How many companies can say that? Not very many.
    I don’t think Ross and SA will tank because Orvis bought them. I would much rather see a fly fishing company own them, than a company that makes tape, spray paint, and those sticky hook things. Would you rather have Johnson&Johnson buy them out? I think not! Or worse, it would suck more if they had to close up shop. I’m glad Orvis bought them. Thanks to them we will probably see some cool new stuff come down the line with the added funds that will be injected into their (Ross and SA) R&D.
    Got a little long-winded, but that’s my 2cents.

  4. I’ll add one other point — I don’t believe any fly fishing equipment manufacturer is even close to Orvis when it comes to educating anglers about the sport, especially new anglers. They have a great blog, podcast and no shortage of books and videos. Additionally, Tom Rosenbauer is a great ambassador for the company.

    I’ve seen “serious” anglers roll their eyes when Orvis products come up in conversation. I’ve used a wide range of Orvis products and have been plenty happy. I’ve never needed their service, but I’ve heard it’s world class. In my mind, Orvis operates as a near-perfect American company. Oddly, I’ve switched to using primarily Scott and Nautilus, but often feel guilty because I get a lot out of reading their blog or listening to their podcast. (Note to Orvis: I still spend plenty with your company).

    IMHO their are a lot of good rod companies with amazing products. Some sell dog beds too.

    • You’re so right about that. Orvis definitely gives back. If you feel guilty about your Scott rods and Nautilus reels (2 of my favorites) maybe you should buy a dog bed.

      • Good call. I’m sure the dog bed would arrive before my Nautilus reels I just ordered. Ugh.

        I’ll need to get an Orvis dog as well…

  5. I Think Orvis is unbeatable reagarding customer service. While there are some great companies with great products out there, it is undisputable that no company goes above and beyond to introduce, educate, and promote the sport of flyfishing the way Orvis does. I love the fact that their show on WFN is extremly “beginner friendly” to encourage new anglers to a sport that I think we can all agree, can be a bit intimidating to some.

    As a former flyshop manager, if I had a need for anything when it came to classes, schools or whatever, all I had to do was pick up the phone and call Orvis. I know at one point they sent me dozens of rods and reels for a huge instructional event I was organizing – at no charge.

    Congratulations to Orvis on their new endeavors and I wish them continued success!

    • Thanks for that perspective Metrela. Orvis is indeed a great ambassador as were you in your fly shop days. You were always very good to me and I will always remember it.

  6. Part of my business activity is a pet shop. Over the last 15 – 20 years we have seen consolidation in the pet industry to the point that a few corporations now own the majority of brands. What was once an innovative, exciting, vibrant business run by hobbyist has matured to few manufacturers (actually importers), large distributors without sales professionals that know their product and customers, and a few large dry good suppliers with a business model focused on dog food. What has been lost is competition, local shops with livestock and knowledgeable sales staffs, product quality, and availability of repair parts. This is what happens to a quirky pastime when it evolves into a maturing industry. But it really sucks if your are not looking to get rich from the industry. Anyone have a 7’9″ far and fine for sale?

    • Now here’s something I didn’t expect. Perspective from the dog bed industry!

      I could not agree with you more about consolidation. You will enjoy my upcoming article on the IFTD show. If you’re looking for innovation the small manufacturers are the way to go. That far and fine was a great little rod.

      • I will look forward to the article. For years you had to go to the Pet Christmas Show and National Hardware show in Chicago every year to keep up with new product and for seasonal discounts. Now the few big distributors and manufacturers buy all the both space and are more likely to offer coffee than innovations. We go about every 3rd year now. Nothing wrong with Orvis, but a lot of small companies contribute a lot of time product and money to our conservation and fly fishing education events and programs and never say a word send out a press release or mention it in their ads.

        • Great post and great points Louis, thank you for sharing this perspective. As a full time Fishing Manager at a busy Orvis shop in Arlington, VA, I can say first hand that we are incredibly passionate and dedicated as a company to making and keeping the love and sport of fly fishing accessible to anyone who wants to give it a try. Our Fly Fishing 101 program is unprecedented (see the short video here – non commercial link: http://vimeo.com/62671453) and as already stated our commitment to conservation projects for far more than just Trout is unmatched. I am incredibly proud to work for Orvis, and to sell and fish with our products. And, I am thrilled with this purchase as I only think it will be super positive for all three brands, and most importantly to the end user.

          Dan Davala

          Oh, and yes, I have said 7’9″ far and fine – it was my first Orvis rod ever, and incredible. I may even part with it – Louis is free to pass along my contact if you’re really looking for one!

          • Dan, I can personally vouch for every word you posted. Your dedication, the amazing time and talent your colleagues at Orvis give the sport, the education programs, the passion you show everyone is great to see. And that should serve as a model for other companies.

            I don’t have any reservations recommending Orvis to friends and new comers to the sport. If Orvis manages Ross and SA like their own stores and brands, then I for one am looking forward to the results.


            ps: Orvis also makes great dog toys!

  7. I started fly fishing about 15 years ago out west. At that time, and because of where I was located, there were way too many other options for me to consider walking into an orvis store and purchasing gear….and of course, according to my buddies it just wasn’t any good. I know now that it just wasn’t considered “hardcore” enough for them. Fast forward to now, I live in NYC and I have two choices for fly shops, one of which is Orvis. I shop both, and still buy all brands of gear but I continually find my self buying more and more of the big O. Rods, reels, lines, waders, jackets, chest packs, leaders and tippet, etc. At this point, none of it has failed me, but I take comfort in the fact that knowing if it did, I’ll be we’ll taken care of. If you’re turned off by the fact that Orvis sells dog beds, then you should probably stay out of the store on 5th Avenue in midtown Manhattan (you’d go crazy watching the tourists come in and buy all the random shit), but if you’re a NYC fisherman, then you’ll be missing out a great fly shop, with a super knowledgeable bunch of guys. Nobody in this area does more to bring people to our sport.
    As for their acquisition of Ross and SA…I would hate to think that this is a beginning of a trend but for now I’m sure it will help all three brands. As long the industry doesn’t start gobbling itself up, I’m ok with a deal like this.
    I will be waiting for the digi-camo to go the way of the dinosaur though ;).
    Louis, thanks for your candor on the matter.

    • Thanks for your input Dave. I can only imagine how difficult it is being a fly fisherman in NYC. Hats off to you buddy, you are definitely hard-core.

      I don’t think this is the beginning of a trend. Really it’s a continuation of an existing trend. Fortunately there’s not enough money in the flyfishing business for it to turn into Walmart quite yet. I have a post concerning that coming up in a week or so.

      In the meantime whatever gear you’re buying, support your local fly shop!

  8. Thank you for this! I tried to explain to the naysayers that this was a good thing but because I was an Orvis employee they didn’t buy it. Well put!

  9. I am an old-timer in the fly-fishing world. Now 63, I have been fly-fishing since I was in elementary school which represents more than 50 years of it. Dad was a friend of Wes Jordan and I actually had the privilege of fishing with them. Years later, after I had inherited one of my father’s early Orvis graphite rods the rod wore at the connection of the tip. I asked if anything could be done about it and they managed to find a matching tip which they sent to me at no cost. I have a lot of flyrods from several of the elite companies, but none are of better quality than those from Orvis, including my Wes Jordan bamboo which I still regularly use.

  10. Where might Heddon, Leonard, or Payne be if they had been bought by a company with roots in fly fishing rather than interests in other industries? I’ve always been convinced that people slander Orvis simply because it is easy to hate the big dog on the block. Simms waders leak as much as anyone else’s. Some Sage rods are made overseas. Rio makes great lines, but so does SA and Airflo. Unswerving loyalty or hatred of a company is every bit as silly as is blind allegiance to any one political philosophy or ideology. Besides, many fly fishing companies (besides Orvis, Ross, and SA) are inextricably linked in ways the general public simply does not realize.

  11. You make some great points. It is so easy to jump onto the Orvis bashing bandwagon. It seems to me Orvis was out of touch with the “cool” flyfishing culture for a decade or so and that’s where a lot of this negative attitude comes from. Sadly, it boils down to poor marketing decisions…

    Also – correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe acquiring Ross puts Orvis one step closer to their goal of providing American made reels as well.

  12. Spot on Louis! Nobody could have said it better. I was surprised to find out that Ross was formerly owned by 3M. That’s hilarious… But I do love their Scotch tape. I think it’s a huge step forward for Ross and SA to now be under the wing and financial support of Orvis.
    Also, I think Tom Rosenbaur is a great guy and listen to his podcasts all of time. I do not have a problem buying Orvis products if it means keeping Tom employed and pumping out the fly fishing audio jams.
    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got an Orvis ad to click on… You’re welcome Louis 😉

  13. In terms of the argument that a company can’t make quality fishing gear and any other non-fishing product at the same time, then we need only to look at Shimano, one of the largest suppliers of conventional fishing tackle in existence. In addition to providing some of the best conventional fishing reels on the market, my friends who race road bikes say they are one of only three reliable companies producing components for that hobby. Now, I know it doesn’t always go over well bringing up conventional tackle of a fly fishing blog, but it’s true. I hope to, and believe we will, see good things out of this acquisition.

  14. Just this last weekend, while standing in a spring creek in Central PA, I looked at myself and my entire outfit and then yelled over to a fishing buddy “I think Orvis should be paying ME!” (True story)

    I have one of their Access Rods, Reel, “3D” fly line, Guide Sling Pack, Sonic Waders, Boots, Tippet Spools, and even a few of their slim Fly Boxes… and I love every single piece of Orvis gear I have.

    Yes, I love Orvis, but I think I might have a problem. lol

  15. Louis, I too think this is a good move all the way around. Good for SA, good for Ross and good for Orvis. I try and support Orvis as much as I can. And do so if for no other reason than the 5% that they give back and because of Tom Rosenbauer. I too have emailed Tom with a question and he has taken the time to reply back to me. And who can argue that his podcasts are some of the best, if not the best fly fishing podcasts available. Also, the fact that Bruce Richards, who was SA’s chief engineer and fly line designer is coming out of retirement to work once again for SA should speak volumes. My only complaint is that there are no Orvis stores where I live.

  16. Good stuff Louis.

    I was listening to Zach Matthews on a recent (Dec 2012) Itinerant Angler podcast (no financial interest yada yada) where he was talking to Steve Hemkens – the head of product development at Orvis and they were tracking the progress of Orvis from an “ordinary” rod company to rediscovering their focus in this arena, primarily as the result of Helios series of rods. It’s very interesting listening whichever way your opinion of Orvis as a company lies: http://www.itinerantangler.com/podcasts/2012/12/podcast_inside_orvis_with_stev.html

    For me, my contacts with Orvis have been somewhat limited – they don’t have a significant presence in Ireland, and they have no presence (that I’m aware of) in Australia.

    I must admit though – my first fly rod was (is) a silver label TLC #5 ordered on the ‘net in 1999. I found the 25 year guarantee by accident last night – I’ve not needed it yet, but its reassuring to know its there.

    I also own 2 of their ceramic nippers – they’re razor sharp even 14 years later and they will never rust.

    Ok it’s not dog beds, and it’s fly fishing accessories – but its good, so I’m keen to see how the SA relationship progresses, especially seeing as Orvis’s fly line were boundary pushing at one point (wonderline)

    Keep up the good work on the blog – it’s a highlight of my day

  17. Ross has been falling off for a while now. That vexxis looks and feels like crap.. And as for orvis rods and reels.. blehh… with the budget you have it shouldn’t be difficult to produce products that people WANT to use.

    I was interested in a orvs helios ion at the reno nevada store. It was a 1wt. for 795 it wasn’t worth it. but the lady working assured me they would go on sale to somewhere around 500 very soon. Checked back the other day and te entire display case of those rods were sent back to orvis to be used for parts on newer rods…. Really? why? I WANTED THAT ONE WEIGHT…….

  18. I have been a fly fishing guide for over 15 years at an Orvis endorsed lodge. When I started there none of us were big fans of the Orvis product we were asked to endorse that has changed over the years as Orvis has worked hard to make better gear and they have. I now also work at a fly fishing related start up company and Orvis has been a huge supporter of our efforts, while other brands have been more hesitant to build a relationship with us we get nothing but the best service from Orvis. I am excited to see them take the wheel of both Ross and SA.

  19. Thanks for dispelling myths and clearing the elephant out of the room. I have a selection of Orvis, Sage, Winston, and Redington rods and reels> I have had service on most and by far, Orvis has repeatedly been most professional and top of the game at expediting my fishing gear back to me in order to get back on the water before the season was over. I have two labs, they are not fortunate enough to lounge on a Tempur-Pedic dog bed, but maybe someday…
    Tight Lines,

  20. I own many different brands of fly fishing gear like most of us, and a lot of it is Orvis brand gear. I stand by any company that stands behind their products as well as Orvis does. And lets face it, they make and design top notch gear. I think some anglers just don’t care for companies like Orvis because they compare them to other big box stores. Orvis puts in their time and money to help this “sport” of ours, and to help conserve it for future use. I dont see what harm a company like that will do to it’s new investments.

  21. Ross has been going downhill fast ever since they were purchased by SA, in my opinion. Hopefully this acquisition will help turn both companies around.

    I have nothing against Orvis, but they also don’t produce anything that really interests me. Except for some sweet matching robe/slipper sets, which are my preferred all-day attire.

    • I like the Orvis rods and reels and used to be a devoted fan of their waders and boots until I lingered out west with ne’er do wells who introduced me to Simms. I love the way Simms waders accentuate my better parts.

      I’m with you on those robes. Comfy!

    • SA bought Ross out of its third bankruptcy. Like most machine shops that make fly reels, the fly reels were not the primary business. Ross had other products which were profitable (its reels were not), which were robbing machine time from the reel side.

      In other words, Ross drove Ross into the ground, not anyone else. They failed to innovate and/or to reinvest their capital in more advanced machine stations that did not require human intervention (like Nautilus), thus lowering machining cost. As a result they ended up with clunky, older designs which were not price competitive from a dealer perspective. What they primarily had left was strong customer loyalty.

      Orvis did not really buy Ross. They bought SA, for a lot of very good reasons, number one of which was that SA was most or making all of Orvis’s lines anyway.

      Ross will most likely go through what happened to Lamson a few years ago. Sage bought Lamson for its customer loyalty and then didn’t do much with it. They subsequently sold to The Waterworks, creating Waterworks-Lamson. Those guys used the better-known Lamson name to push their innovative product into more shops and thereby built a strong company again. But the only thing left of the original Lamson company was the brand itself.

      I foresee Ross having its Montrose factory dedicated full time to making its other products, while the name itself goes on the block to someone equipped to make use of it. Orvis will likely absorb SA’s R&D back to Bennington eventually while leaving production in Midland, MI. They will have integrated their own supply chain and positioned themselves to be the supplier to several other brands which rebadge SA lines.

  22. Got a pretty active thread off that post. Well done. While I support many other brands, Orvis has been in my arsenal for many years and their customer service is a primary reason. I own more Ross Reels than any other brand, but since they were purchased by 3M, I have not bought a one, primarily because there are so many good choices out there.

    Thanks for the history on Orvis and fly fishing. They are great for the sport and I hope they have continued success and continue to give back.

  23. I guess the folks on the west coast would rather Orvis offer “trucker hats”, windshield stickers, cigar humidors and t-shirts vs. their dog beds………tell me all you “cool” companies and bloggers, what have you done to further this sport lately?

  24. Thank you for the write up. I didn’t know about Orvis acquiring Ross & S.A.
    I’ve never owned any of their products including Orvis. Actually, I own some flies Mr. Hise made for me. Top knotch. Still have and use.

    I did know that Orvis was old as dirt. And, I say that in the kindest way.

    I know two Orvisheads. They’ve been fly fishing in excess of forty years exclusively with Orvis products. And, they’re not fair weather
    fashion fisherman. They’ve always been exceedingly helpful and knowledgeable regarding my madness (and patient), capable and conscientious and active regarding conservation, sustainability and education. I consider myself fortunate to know these two gentlemen and bustin’ dem lipz with them when they’re hitting the still water in my neighborhood. So, if Orvis is about the ethos and skills that these two gentlemen represent, then I think Orvis is top notch.

    As for corporate acquisitions and consequences … ack, fish still swim, and I’m tossing to them.

  25. Many of us are already using 3M products for fishing. I use a lot of SA fly lines (plastics!), but the biggest advance is with new resins used for amoung other things, rod building, and Sage One’s, Hardy Zeniths etc. use these. Not sure if Orvis uses that same technology, but if not, they soon will! Perhaps there is something even more exciting coming down the line from 3M that Orvis may be able to access. Hopefully, this is a two-way deal.
    My first graphite double-hander was purchased from Orvis and I still have it. Nice rod, caught lots of fish and owes me nothing. At the time, Sage just had prototypes out, that was it. Could be incorrect, but Orvis out-sources a lot of their gear production (eg. Hardy made some of their reels for awhile). Maybe Ross will also make Orvis product? Could be a win-win as I’m very happy with all of the Ross reels I own. Anyway, Orvis has a long track record of success, so I think these acquisitions make sense. Time will tell.

  26. I’ll echo what most have said. I applaud Orvis as a business, as a quality gear supplier, and as being stellar in customer service and outreach. Some of my friends give me hell about my “Whorvis” gear, but I keep bombing out casts, smiling and taking fish. I fish other brands, but when I start to shop for something new, Orvis always get a strong first look. And often gets my money.

  27. The orvis store around the corner from me DOSENT EVEN SELL LINCENSES. gimme a break. As a trout bum there is nothing wrong with wanting a store catered to trout bums, dosen’t mean ur gonna get it but a clothing first store (i.e. orvis) isn’t right either.

  28. I totally agree with some of this article…it’s hard to compete with tradition and history…and ultimately good business sense…no doubting Orvis has all of that.

    I used to be on the Orvis Pro Guide Program years ago and I purchased my fair share of Orvis products over the years, including my very first fly rod. What ended my relationship with them was their lack of understanding for their clients needs. For example, I used to provide the classic orvis battenkill reels to my clients…they were a bomber reel for their time…and very simple to clean and fix on my own, if you had the right parts. After years of buying spare parts from them to fix my reels…they said they could no longer sell me parts and that I needed to send the reels to them (at my own cost) for one of their shop guys to fix. As a guide I couldn’t wait 3-4 weeks for some guy on the east coast to replace a few drag washers (a project that takes less than 5 minutes) on what were, otherwise, fine working reels. They couldn’t get what I was asking for and they refused to allow me to buy spare parts for my field repairs. So, that ended my relationship with Orvis…I haven’t bought, nor have I recommended anyone buy, anything from them since. In my opinion, at the time, they lost focus of what brought them success…customer service and fly fishing knowledge. Maybe they got too big too fast? Too corporate? Focused to much energy on designing the perfect dog bed? Anyway, since that experience I try my best to spend my dollars on small family run businesses that take pride in listening to their clients needs, building great products, and delivering stellar customer service. It might cost me more upfront but it’s totally worth it over the long haul.

    Anyway, I’m willing to give anyone a second chance, even Orvis. But it will take some time and a lot of proving to me that they build great products, that they stand behind, and not just be a hugely successful corporate business. Sometimes trading out your broken reel with a brand new one, without giving you grief, isn’t the best long term solution.

    I wish Orvis the best of luck making a come back in the fly fishing world and I look forward to seing what they have to offer.

  29. This may be a shock to some, but the fish don’t care where you buy your gear from. Compare with other major companies and their prices are competitive as is the quality. I cannot envision myself spending $1300 on a rod/reel set up. That being said, I love my made in England Battenkill reel. When I got into tying, I bought a bunch of stuff from the son of a lifetime fly fisher. In a box were 4 old fly wallets from Orvis that I use today that must be 50 years old. As the saying goes, hate the game not the player. If you want to buy some trendy new fly gear, have it. If you want to buy Orvis, unlimber your wallet. But remember the fish don’t give a damn either way.

  30. Pingback: http://www.ginkandgasoline.com/fly-fishing-news/orvis-buys-ross-and-sa-do-we-care/ | A Trout Ate My Homework

  31. This I can attest to, I have been treated like a king in every Orvis establishment I’ve had the privilege to visit. And 90% of the time I don’t spend a dime! Well done Orvis.

  32. Several years ago, I tried to get into fly fishing. I went to several shops who were willing to sell me gear, willing to give me hints and pointers but no one had the time to teach a raw rookie to really fish. A couple of frustrating seasons later and my gear went into storage for many years.

    Fast forward to a couple of years ago and I happen to walk into an Orvis store, looking for a really good (and last) dog bed for my aging hunting dog. The next thing you know, both me and my dad are signed up for a basics fishing class. Took two more fishing classes with Orvis and I now spend far more days on the water than I do in the field and I do so with my dad.

    Orvis not hardcore enough? Whatever, those guys in the Cherry Creek store know how to fish and love to share that. I’m now “loyal” to every local fly shop anywhere I’m fishing as well as Orvis anywhere I travel. Their programs and gear allowed me to spend plenty of time with my dad (and now brother), enough time that I now have two friends instead of just family.

    I still have and love my Ross Cimmaron but have added Orvis and other gear to my tool kit. My saltwater reel from Orvis has landed one really awesome fish!

    Thanks Orvis for making all that possible! Looking forward to seeing how Ross and SA get even better!

  33. I admittedly do not buy a lot of Orvis products. Not because of the quality but the fact that I buy as many American made items as I can. They do have a couple of nice rods that are made in the USA but I don’t need to spend over $700 dollars on a rod to catch fish. My only concern before I read the article was the USA division of Ross Reels. Sometimes when a company is bought out like this things that were once made here start to be made overseas. I like my Ross reels and do not want to see this happen.

  34. Orvis may be big & service great in your country,but in South Africa the service sucks.We get better service from Sage!

  35. I’m a big fan of Orvis. Their commitment to not only their customers and the environment but also to the sport are unmatched. They’re not the only brand I buy but they get first dibs on my business.

  36. My local fly shop is an Orvis store. I started out fly fishing last year at their 101 class. Ive since been to orvis endorsed lodges and a large amount of my gear is Orvis. All things being equal I tend to buy Orvis gear since the support and advice i get from the guys in the Orvis store is good and honest, they remember my name and remember what my latest fishing exploit is. The manager there is always willing to do some casting with me. That sort of personal service goes a long way. Shopping there doesn’t feel like i’m shopping at a big corporate beast, and as a beginner they were not intimidating or sneering. I’ve met some people in smaller fly shops on the river that were amazing too, others less so. Next month I’m going with Orvis Travel on my first bonefishing trip, I can’t wait!

    • That’s exactly what I’m talking about. That’s how you run a business. Orvis is a huge company and yet they pay attention to that kind of detail. Thanks for your thoughts. I’m glad your getting such great support from your local Orvis store.

  37. I once saw a joke with a dog on a front porch chewing on a stick and the caption went, “A stick is a just a stick, unless it’s an Orvis stick. Then it is $250.”

    That being said, I own nothing but Orvis rods and reels – 5 of them. I don’t own an Orvis dog bed, but I might buy one now. Great article.

  38. Do you know why some people and some other companies down Orvis? I do, it is because Orvis has the best warranty in the business. I have a number of fly rods and a lot of other fly fishing gear including probably enough fly tying material to open up a shop. Of all my equipment Orvis has, by far, the best warranty. Of all my fly rods, if any of them break, it will be the Orvis that gets replaced the quickest and with the least hassle. AND THEY DON’T CARE HOW LONG i HAVE OWNED IT, the other companies can not say that, and that is why they complain about Orvis

    • A lot of companies could learn something about customer service from Orvis. They may not be the “coolest” Company in the business but they are not “too cool” to care about their customers.

  39. Things orvis does well
    1. Customer service
    2. Warranties
    3. USA built rods (upper end rods)

    1. Chinese made reels – compare an orvis reel to a hatch (you can’t) and that is sad.
    2. Wader quality
    3. discontinuing rods every year

    • I’d say that’s a fair assessment.

      This gives me the opportunity to answer something several people of said. I do not contend that Orvis makes the best gear in the business. Some of their gear is great and some not so much. I wore their waders for many years and have been disappointed in the quality of recent offerings. That said here is my point.

      Orvis is a well-run company that cares about its customers, the sport of fly fishing and the environment. That’s a hell of a lot better track record than 3M. The minutia of where their reels are made is not my point. It is my assertion that Ross and scientific anglers will be better off under Orvis management than they were under 3M.

      Thanks for your thoughts Jason.

  40. I bought my first Orvis rod at one of their tent sales, weeks before leaving for Alaska. It was a used rod and I paid a fraction of the price of the same model rod would have cost new.

    Three days before leaving for Alaska, I took my wife out for a casting lesson. When I opened the rod case the rod was broken – I have no idea how it got broken, I assume I must have been careless…. The next day I drove in a panic to the Manchester store. I told them about my situation and they gave me a brand new rod – no questions asked. Because of that I am a loyal Orvis customer.

    I know when I go out west that some people have a condescending attitude about my gear. I can’t say that I care much. It serves me well….

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    • Waiters are definitely an area that Orvis needs to improve. I wore the silver labels for years and loved them. The quality of those waiters went sharply downhill and I have not owned a pair since.

      • I agree with this. My first pair of silver labels were awesome and I bought a second pair and they leaked very quickly, got a replacement pair and had the same problem. I won’t go back until a major quality upgrade happens.

  43. Orvis stores are typically a nice retail experience but I rarely buy anything there. I’ve owned their travel rod/reel case for years and have their newer sonic travel waders for spring wading. Both of these items are excellent products in my experience. Otherwise their rods are way too expensive and their current line-up of reels is only mediocre. The competition is just so much better for the price up and down the scale. Also, pretty much every rod builder has a great warranty these days. I say the more competition the better for us anglers, but likely this acquisition won’t do much for pricing.

  44. I have owned Orvis rods & reels since the early 80’s. I was at a Kaufman’s Streamborn fly fishing class on the Deschutes with one of the 1st graphite rods, a Lamiglass blank my father had made for me. That Lamiglass had poor ferrules & I broke it the 1st day of the class. Randal lent me an Orvis 9’3″ 5wt Western Spring Creek & I fell in love with it. My parents were living in New Hampshire at the time so I asked my father to go over to Vermont & pick me up a blank & build it. I fished that rod for at least 15 years until I broke it fishing Falling Spring creek in Chambersburg PA while wrapping up my fathers estate. Having booked a guide for the following day I went to a local fly shop & bought an Orvis 8’6″ 4wt. I sent in the Western Spring Creek & they replaced it with another 9′ 5wt that I still own. the 8’6″ 4wt was replaced a few years ago with a rod that I really didn’t care for so I returned it along with the price difference & got a Helios 9′ 4wt which I broke & was fixed/replaced just recently. I bought a Superfine 7′ 1ounce 4wt for my son on his 8th birthday, that rod has been broken a couple of times, replace/repaired. Only my Helios was I charged for repair, I think they have a great company that stands behind their product.

  45. As a life long fly fisher and collector and user of classic tackle I have been struck many times by the fact that without leaders in the industry for the competition to persue there would be few improvements in fly fishing or any industry for that matter. I’m an older guy that dearly cherishes older and new equipment equally. It takes all kinds of people to make a world and in fly fishing the same is true particularly in trout fishing. I fish bamboo on bright days with delight and on wet days or when conditions are nasty I fish modern synthetic rods and the mix is theraputic. With some species more tech consuming that others one thing is still relivant and that is that it is all fly fishing and that means it’s all good! I am optimistic they will be motivated for the good of the sport we all love.

  46. I grew up in Manchester Vermont. I know all about Orvis and their sleazy business practices. They have along history of firing employees just before they hit the twenty year mark so they don’t have to pay them their pension. I know of them demoting a long serving vice president of the company to janitor in order to humiliate the man into quitting. They did by handing him a broom in front of everyone with whom he worked.

    I wouldn’t cross the street to piss on Leigh Perkins if he were on fire. The residents of Manchester have been stockpiling picks and shovels for decades to bore down through the hard Vermont marble and granite, so when Leigh Perkins dies, they’re sure he’s been turned over to Satan personally.

    Suffice it to say I won’t be buying Ross or Scientific Angler products anymore ever. If you actually care about the people who work to make the fly fishing products you use, you won’t buy anything from Orvis either.

      • I’m old school. I take a dim view of people who purposely go and screw over the very people who worked hard to make their business a success.

        To my way of thinking they deserve to share in a measure of it.

  47. Wow this has gotten pretty far afield. So I was on the Kalamazoo this morning, had a great day. How yoo doin’

  48. Over 40 years fishing and many Orvis products. 1. Good stuff, still use my Far and Fine. 2. They back up their products 3. This bring Bruce Richards back to SA – and that is great!

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  50. I’ve been CEO of Orvis for the last 20 years. Gratifying to hear that our dedication to the health of the sport and the resource is appreciated so broadly.

    Our diversification has served us well. Our business is now evenly split into 4 groups 1-Fishing/hunting, 2-mens apparel, 3-women’s apparel, 4-Pet/home.

    I think we are the only fly fishing company that has not been sold in the last 20 years. That diversification has made it possible for us honor our warranty and invest where our heart and soul is – fly fishing and conservation.

    Acquiring SA (and Ross) adds to the talent and experience of the team that keeps us strong.

    • Well, that’s something you don’t see every day. Perk, we are honored that you would take the time to address our readers. Thank you for your thoughts and for running such a great fly fishing company. We appreciate it. Oh, and please sign up for the newsletter!

    • Hi Perk. Bob Dimesky here. I want you to know that I consider Orvis to be the finest group of flyfishing purveyors anywhere! I have been long associated with Orvis since the days of my friend and advisor Don Owens. I continue, to this day, to espouse the philosophies your Dad and you have always imparted to sportsmen and your dealers alike; respect and protect the environment for “Without quality habitats, both our quarry and our adventures within them would evaporate.” Just imagine what our lives would be without our sporting pursuits! I for one could not fathom such a loss!

      Regards, Bob

  51. My first pair of breathable waders were Orvis Silver Lable model. Lasted 10 years! Been through a hell-of-alot of dog beds in that time period. Not Orvis beds though. Can somebody please give Mr. Rosenbauer some lessons on Skagit casting. Mr. Ward maybe?

  52. I’ve had a Silver Label 5w 9′ for over ten years and still fish the shyte out of it. I’m a West man, fish ID, MT,OR,WA,UT,CO,WY 52 weeks a year.
    My local Orvis shop is great and they even do community stuff, credit to the local owners of course.

    As far as I know 3M only owned Ross for a short time, reletively five years. As far as SA they’ve had them for some time and the 3M model for coverage is to big an area and to few people in the field. However don’t bash 3M as the textured line was developed under their watch and it is by far the best trout line ever.

    3M innovates and they have no problem making stuff and private labeling them. Consider that the average American uses 10-15 3M products a day and I’m not talking about “swiffers” Duct Tape, and “post it’s”

    Granted they are the most expensive but they make the best and are the most pirated company on earth.

    Reels? Orvis and Ross need this as the Orvis reels just don’t stand up and Ross’ decline has been sad. I have an old Ross on my 3wt and an Abel on my 5wt. Abel is on the decline as well that poor family owned company is at odds over the head honcho marrying a porno star. They tried to sell the company not long ago but that fell through.

    I would prescribe Orvis to work the SA product lines better and have the Ross factory start producing quality reels again. I don’t cars who’s name they put on them.

    Oh and by the way, the other local fly shops are snobs, well, most and that coming from a guy who fishes as much as they do. Some are good, real good, particularly one in Missoula, but the Orvis ones are consitently friendly. Local to me is the Rocky Mountan West.

  53. I prefer Orvis buying SA rather than some Venture Capotalist because tVC’s are only interested in Return-on-investment (ROI) than anything else.

    Orvis’ heritage is fly fishing and that makes a big difference how they will run SA (and Ross) in the long run. However, I do worry about the price of fly lines that went up from around $40-50 to $70+ these days. I sure hope that Orvis/SA will keep good fly lines affordable. $40-50 is a good price.

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  55. I will not deny Orvis has great customer service and decent products, but they fall short in the real world of offering great value to their dealers. I have been in the fly shop business for many years, i used to be an Orvis Dealer, but I had to get rid if them, they were not good for business.

    As was eluded to earlier in another post, they decide when you, (as a dealer), must put your inventory on sale which makes it very difficult to be competitive. For example: The Dealer bought $2000 worth of reels at his regular price and plans to sell them throughout the season to garnish his profit. Halfway through the season Orvis decides to tank those reels and puts them on sale for half off in their catalogs or online store and the Dealer who paid full wholesale is left holding the bag. This has happened so many times it is just a way of life for most Orvis Dealers, I just can’t live that way and meet my obligations. That is why I think this is a bad deal and I will discontinue SA and Ross because of it. It may be a big win for the general consumer, but not for the retailer! I am in business to promote this sport which I love and has become the main of my life, but I need to make a living also. I also need a good partner who will support me without pulling the rug out from under my feet!

    I feel the Ross Evolution and Momentum reels will be kept in some form in the Orvis line-up, but the rest will fade away. They really wanted SA for the lines, the Orvis lines will probably go away in favor of the more well known name of SA and Orvis will have effectively sealed their supply chain. In the interim it will be the Dealers who will suffer the most with product dumping and confusing support until this whole thing gets itself sorted out in a couple of years.

    SA/Ross/Orvis had no choice but to tell all us Dealers nothing would change, they made this deal just as most orders that were placed last fall were going out the door, it would have been financially devastating to tell us anything else! We’ll see how things flesh out next year, I’m sure there will be some changes and more coming down the road. That mat be good for the consumer, but not for the Dealer who is struggling to make a living as it is!

  56. So far, our experiences with Orvis have been quite positive. We have some of their products, and these have been satisfactory. I also have an (older) Ross Reel (Rhythm 0) that I’ve enjoyed using. I hope this acquisition works out for all parties.

    I’m a bit astonished at how rabid the antis have been; I can’t wait to see the feedback on the Pure Fishing (Jarden, Inc) acquisition or Hardy & Greys.

  57. I see these purchases as going even closer to core FF business. It makes me happier than seeing Ross start making their fine reels offshore.

  58. The idea that Orvis’s getting too big in the fly fishing field is absurd. This company has always held its end users in high regard. The validation comes with the fact that if you look at the all the consolidation that the industry has undergone since the 1970’s you see that the designs, which are at the forefront of our beloved sport have been made by some of its oldest players. The quality of our gear allows us to be better casters than we might otherwise have become without a great deal of extended practice. The waders we wear make us more mobile, more comfortable and more able to concentrate on our fishing rather than that annoying wet spot in our boot. The traction we have gained by the furious improvements to our wade shoe bottoms has made us all more “sure-footed” while diminishing riverine and stream- to- stream bio-contamination at the same time. Having an ability to give back, as in the case of Orvis and Simms originates with producing quality products and service; to get to that position means you have “treated people with respect” In fact, even the gloves we use to handle fish are being researched and improved as firms like Simms as they search for ways to leave the mucus layer of our quary intact as we release them. . All said, flyfishing’s old line companies are getting it right! The search for the “Green way to live” is important and worth the effort. I support Orvis and Simms because they support us all in keeping our sport alive and vibrant for future fishermen everywhere. There is something to be said for designing and warranting top quality products and the thought of helping sustain both the fisherman and the fish. These firms have done both in a masterful manner.

    Bob Dimesky
    A current Orvis user and former Orvis dealer

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  60. Let’s start with the first question. If Orvis was successful a fly fishing and hunting shop for a hundred years, why change? (Start selling dog beds, lamps with fishing guys on it, cans of flavored nuts, and whatever else the idiots in marketing thought up) Because of the market? Baloney Sandwich I say! I have an MBA from a top school and learned how to fly fish as a poor kid in Vermont. The reason why us fisherman hate Orvis and their products is simple. THEYRE A SELL OUT!!! If they understood the word loyalty, they would know, while bums we are, we are loyal bums… The last straw for me was when the CFO reel suddenly wasn’t made in England any more…. Not enough money in it for them, it’s a real dirty move. The company is about profits instead of the sport. I find them to be repulsive and I see the company falling apart, as well as the industry as a whole. Sadly, they had a chance to hold firm, but greed won. This will be the last ditch effort… Probably, some idiot MBA finance and MBA marketing people got together and said “we need to get bigger, let’s buy everyone, this way we’ll BE the market”. Let’s look for Orvis to start acquiring (killing) it’s competition.
    These men know little of business and even less of the heart of a fly fisherman.

    • Well, I’ve been around Orvis for decades. My parents fished with Wes Jordan, and I remember as a kid going to the old bamboo fly rod shop in the old frame white “factory” in Manchester to watch Wes do his thing. Yes, Orvis has exploded its marketing. Now here are my two cents. First I can go to an Orvis shop and my wife is happy looking at clothes which lets me spend lots of time in the amazingly complete fly shop. Second, I have seldom purchased a poorly made Orvis product, and if it proved to be, they replaced it immediately. When one of my father’s early Orvis graphite fly rods needed a new tip they found one and sent it back to me saying “enjoy your Dad’s rod.” They never charged me a penny to do this. I have several Orvis rods from different periods of development, including The Wes Jordan bamboo. They all are well made wonderful instruments. You will never hear me bashing Orvis.

  61. Boy, was THIS article off! Suffice it to say I have been an Orvis customer since the 50’s, and it is not the same company at all. Certainly not since it was invaded, by invitation, by a slew of what I can only call NON sporting types.
    Yes, they’ve expanded their lines. }
    Yes, they brought us the “Lifetime” warranty. (Now expecting one to live only 25 years after rod purchase?)
    I’ve spent so much time in Orvis my wife wanted me to work there. And I almost did- in their Casting Instruction classes. (I didn’t because the pay offered barely covered the gas to get from home to the shop in Manchester.)
    I far, far preferred Orvis when their ‘main’ store was across the street and down from the Equinox. And then the Rt 7 store, along with the ‘back building’, was always an enjoyable time.
    Then came the “new” and “bigger” shop, replacing the ‘old’ one. Along with the new building came a far less enjoyable and far more ‘commercialized’, and smaller, fly shop.
    And an even smaller gun shop as well.
    Some things simply do NOT improve with “newness”.
    At least the Wes Jordan’s and Battenkills are still as good as the day I got them way back when.
    Quality was a given and much appreciated. AND looked after. “Unlimited” warranty repairs/replacements simply do not offer one the belief that others will care for their equipment. (Maybe that’s one of the reasons one can find so much ‘new’ Orvis fly fishing equipment being offered for resale?)
    Sorry, but I’m not a fan of the ‘Do it all’ “fly fishing” business. It was far better when it was a shop.

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