The New Orvis, Sales Pitch or Substance?

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A New Look For The New Hotness. Photo by Louis Cahill

A New Look For The New Hotness. Photo by Louis Cahill

Have you seen the stickers that read: Proud not to be an Orvis endorsed guide, real guides support real fishing companies?

Well, Orvis has. I was surprised to see the sticker at the Orvis headquarters in Manchester, Vermont, and even more surprised to hear Orvis executives discussing it openly, and even take responsibility for for the perception that lead to its creation. Orvis has an image problem and they know it.

The problem started where so many do, at an ad agency. In the 1980s Orvis was having great success with its lifestyle stores. It was no longer just a fly fishing company. It was a fly fishing/hunting/lodge/clothing/home decor/dog bed company. That’s quite a lot for agency account executives to get their heads around.

Orvis was rebranded under the label ‘distinctive county living,’ and the hundred-thirty year old brand that embodied fly fishing to many anglers was folded into something that felt immediately phony to serious anglers. Suddenly the men and women at Orvis, who had spent their careers creating innovative, high quality fly fishing gear, were the picture of uncool.

“That phrase sets my teeth on edge,” Tom Rosenbauer tells me.

It’s a very rare thing for a company the size of Orvis to get their heads around this kind of problem. The more common corporate response involves drinking a lot more Kool Aid and doing some vigorous, if unwarranted, back slapping. The fact that Orvis sees the problem speaks volumes.

So what’s changing at Orvis?

It’s pretty easy to see that the face of Orvis is changing. The company was the first in fly fishing to embrace internet marketing and social media. With the creation of Orvis News and Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast the hundred-fifty year old brand proved it could still lead the pack when it comes to innovation.

“Tom Rosenbauer has done something truly great here that transcends the conventional customer-retailer relationship. He has built a community around his podcast and I believe our listeners feel he is more like a fishing than a brand representative.”- James Hathaway of Hathaway Communications. (Read the full interview @ Trout Underground)

 

The look of Orvis has changed as well. Images and design in the company’s ads and branding are fresh and young. Gone are the silver-haired, pipe-smoking country gentlemen who rode the company’s image, among hard core anglers, into the ground. Rod tubes show off flashy graphics and Orvis ball caps flaunt the likeness of carp. This is definitely not your father’s Orvis, at least on the surface.

But what’s really going on? Is the man behind the curtain an advertising executive or a rod maker?

What I saw at the Orvis plant and headquarters surprised me. I met employees who have been building and repairing Orvis rods for over thirty years. I watched them eagerly using equipment and techniques that are the most advanced I have seen in a rod shop. I saw quality control practices that border on obsessive. I saw an R&D team made up of young, enthusiastic guys with engineering degrees, who you could fairly call hard core trout bums.

I saw a real commitment to innovation and improvement. The new Helios 2 and superfine glass rods which exceeded my expectation. New waders that are a vast and overdue improvement over recent designs. A new boat bag that designers have slaved over to the point of taking a loss in man hours. I saw trusted hands turned to their industry with newfound vigor and a lust for innovation and quality.

In short, I saw an old dog with some very impressive new tricks.

I’ve written several pieces about Orvis and their products in the last year and it occurs to me that I’m starting to sound like a cheerleader. No one is more shocked than me. When Orvis was on the way down I was a vocal critic. I held the company’s feet to the fire for declining quality and for losing touch with its customers, but lately they have surprised me at every turn.

Is every Orvis product and service the best in the industry? Of course not. Orvis is a battleship of a company. It’s incapable of turning on a dime, but turning it is. Turning to listen to its customers. Turning to innovative design and quality products. Turning to support a young and enthusiastic community. And like a battleship, once it gets on course, it’s a force to be reckoned with.

God speed Gentlemen!

Read about:

The New Helios 2

Orvis’s takeover of Ross and SA
Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
www.ginkandgasoline.com
hookups@ginkandgasoline.com
 
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61 thoughts on “The New Orvis, Sales Pitch or Substance?

  1. Kent, I couldn’t agree more.

    A few years ago, I had the opportunity to be part of a ten person on line group of fly fishers, that over the course of several days provided feedback and ideas to a number of questions conducted by an independent marketing group that Orvis had contracted. Since then I was delighted to see that some or our suggestions, including some of mine, were implemented by Orvis.

    I think Orvis gets a bad rap, but they are turning that around. I’ve noticed that Cabelas started offering fly fishing classes, which I am sure was a direct response to Orvis’ Fly Fishing 101 & 102 classes. And who can argue that The Orvis Guide to Fly Fishing that ran on WFN the past couple of years is a great way to introduce a wide range of folks to fly fishing.

    There are no Orvis stores where I live, so I don’t own any of their rods, but have a number of their reels and other gear.

    Dave

    • Our Orvis store in Kelso, Scotland, has closed for all the reasons mentioned. Add to that the frequent absence of any actual fisher-people on the shop floor and you can understand why people walked away from Orvis. Not even a cup of coffee on offer last time I was in! Sad.

  2. Kent, just an observation, but it seems to me (flyfishing junkie) that Orvis, this supposedly poser fishing company, is more vocal and involved in conservation and habitat improvement than all the other “real” fishing companies, combined. While I’m not the biggest fan of old stodgy guys smoking pipes in a lodge that costs two months pay for one week of fishing, I can appreciate a good product, and I can appreciate a real effort to make change. My opinion ( a Scott fly rod devotee, I might add) is that Orvis walks the walk on both counts.

    Thanks for the post.

    a.

    • Aaron, I couldn’t agree more. I happen to be a St Croix guy when it comes to fly rods. But I don’t think a lot of fly fishers and folks in general realize that Orvis gives 5% of their gross to conservation efforts. And they are not just fishing related.

      Dave

  3. The Orvis marketing message is messed up. Orvis makes some great fly fishing products, including some hot sticks and digital printed quick dry casting shirts. The confusion comes when they are in the same catalog as $130 cords, ankle length house dresses and old man wool vests. You can be successful as Nicki Minaj, Blake Shelton or Martha Stewart but you can’t make it trying to be all of them at once. In my opinion.

      • Maybe not but you should see my inbox. Every once in a while we all have to step back and look at our business model. Don’t get me wrong I have a couple buddies running Orvis lodges and have a lot of Ovis labels bouncing around behind the seats of my pickup. They will be fine.

    • You have to remember that orvis is the longest run catalog company in the world. They cater to all walks of life, and have done so for a 100 years. Personally i don’t mind that they sell clothes, and dog beds because that means they can put more money into research and development for rods, equipment , ext. People tend to forget that the more money you have, the more effort you can put towards all things fishing related. Also the new group trying to revitalize the fishing are great guys, and are doing great stuff.

      • I’m thinking from now on when Louis wants to bump the G&G organic reach he is going to stir up the Orvis pot again. I would.

    • My wife loves their clothing. I own a few rods and reels of theirs, along with 2 pair of waders, 3 pairs of wading boots/shoes, 4 pair of socks, and a vest. I have 2 or 3 of their shirts, a hat, and I bought some great Virginia peanuts from them. So if you need me, I’ll be singing a country hip-hop song in my kitchen while I make homemade ice cream sandwiches and Beef Wellington from scratch.

  4. As a kid I remember my Dad having ORVIS gear, from nippers to the fly-fishing guide. When I took up fly-fishing for the first time since childhood, my searches led first to Orvis. They have great resources on-line for learning just about anything you need to know. They have a wide range of gear options, that so far I’ve been pleased with. I overlook just about all the other items on their website (though I do have a great dog cage for the backseat) because to me I still trust them as a fly-fishing resource. I don’t see a negative impact on their fishing products just because they carry a wider product catalog. I’m fortunate to have a store near work, and it’s filled with friendly, helpful staff. They publish an awesome monthly newsletter targeted to my part of the country. I love my $25 off of $50 coupons I seem to get monthly. And even though I’ve shopped around for gear, I’ve still ended up looking like an Orvis sponsored angler, because quality and often times value has led me back to their products.

  5. Hey guys –

    First off, pretty sure Louis wrote this, not Kent.

    Secondly, this brand transition has been in process for several years now; really going back to when the Zero Gravity was released in 2007. That was around the time Orvis started re-badging its clothes with a more updated logo, getting away from the stitched-on patches with the old crossed rods and net graphic.

    I know Orvis has people who read this blog. While I think they have had a lot of success in improving their brand image, there are some things they could still be better at, because this brand is still not quite on the premium footing they want it to be on, Louis’s comments notwithstanding. (By the way, great post, Louis). I give them great credit for what they have achieved so far, but if you want to talk about where they would undoubtedly like to be, here are some observations:

    The rod quality is there now, and the perception has caught up. People don’t bag on Orvis rods (even in private) like they once did to, say, the Trident TL. Well done on the domestic rod production.

    But the softgoods are still a mixed bag.

    Let’s take for example the Orvis Gale Force Waist Pack ($98.00). This is clearly a copy of the Simms Dry Creek Hip Pack (also $98.00), itself a knockoff of the Patagonia Stormfront ($229.00).

    What factors influence the buyer in comparing these three products? The Patagonia bag is the most expensive and it shows: super burly PVC-coated waterproof fabric, heavy rubberized zippers (actually annoying to work), custom clasps and straps built of the same rubberized material. Classic Patagonia overkill, but undoubtedly durable.

    The Simms bag seeks the price conscious consumer who still needs a bag that won’t fail. Inverted, rubberized zippers (to better shed water), a thick ribbon handle on top, welded seams and a serious waist strap. Simms designed this bag and gets credit for stealing the substance of the Patagonia original without simply copying the exact product.

    Now the Orvis bag. On first glance it is a carbon-copy of the Simms bag (dudes, that is no accident). But the subtle differences would make the consumer recognize the superior quality of the Simms product for the exact same price. The Orvis logo, stamped on in red, matches nothing, nor does it convey “Orvis” to the consumer who voluntarily affiliates himself with the Orvis brand. The logo looks like a one-off, or at best a logo which will be used this year then abandoned. The top loop grab strap; thinner than the Simms model, but encased in a plastic grip. Win for Orvis, right? No, because the grip is made of cheap, serrated plastic and likely will pinch fingers when the bag is picked up under heavy load. That plastic strip actually adds nothing to the product. A thicker ribbon strap would have been a better choice, stitched in half to make it stand up. Likewise Orvis has added a satchel strap, which no one else offers: win again right? Wrong, because the satchel strap has a cheap orange loop on top which will definitely pull free if you mistakenly hook a loaded bag on it. The satchel strap also has overly burly clasps holding it on the product; when removed, the female sides of those clasps are going to flop around and gouge the consumer in the back, right where the bag is most likely to make contact when cinched tight under heavy load. They will be a constant annoyance. But (ironically), the biggest design failure is the rear zipper, which has an orange loop of thin cord as a pull tag. The orange matches nothing, not even the red logo. In fact it clashes with the ugly logo. Moreover, it appears to be sealed together with some kind of apparently cheap, clear tubing. Orvis’ website doesn’t display this feature in enough detail to determine its quality, but past experience of Orvis products suggests it will be cheap plastic at best. The consumer thinks to himself, this loop is ugly in the first place and will probably break off.

    Game, set, match. Price no object? Buy Patagonia. Budget conscious? Buy the Simms. What about the Orvis? “It’s a knock off with feature bloat. Less is more, Orvis.”

    Less truly can be more. Orvis’s design team is a lot like Microsoft. They were the 800 lb. gorilla when the competition was all mediocre, but when the competition caught up, they tried to maintain their lead by copying the best ideas of those around them and just slapping a few more features on there. People don’t want “features.” They want quality, and true innovation. If you’re going to have an offshore production model to support your profit margin, you HAVE to have the innovators working on new, bad ass designs from scratch, not just copying what everyone else does and trying to scrape a few bucks off while slapping on some cheap zippers.

  6. I will say I like where Orvis seems to be heading. For those who have already commented on their conservation work I could not agree more as they are simply committed to conservation efforts.

    I used to live near an Orvis shop and I was ALWAYS conflicted going into shop. I liked some of their equipment but always found it funny that all of the fly gear was in the very back of the store. Overpriced clothing, dog beds and household knick-knacks seemed to be more of Orvis than the fishing products. Eventually I just refused to go b/c I felt like I needed to wade through 30 people 3 times my age to get fly gear. Instead I would drive a little longer to get to a fly shop.

    I will say that the new Helios 2 is a beautiful rod. I had the chance to use it and was utterly surprised with the performance. With that being said I will stick with my Winstons…

    I think it will take some time for Orvis to get serious consideration by some folks. If they keep up the quality such as the Helios the products will speak for themselves over time. I just have always found Orvis to be a confused Company… hopefully they focus on the fishing and leave the old man slippers and robe type days behind…

  7. While I’m very democratic in my selection of brands, it seems that many of my fly fishing “touchstones” are Orvis. From my hemos to my Battenkill trout reels, I wouldn’t feel whole on the water without them. Yeah, I know I can get such things elsewhere, but I didn’t in those early days and these items have survived the years to become a part of me.

    Oh, and my dog loves his bed.

  8. Orvis offers something for everybody. They stand behind their products and are on the cutting edge of serious performance. I bought an H2/mirage combo…best combo I’ve ever used. As an outdoor writer for nearly 15 years, I have many rod companies lining up to give me a free sample, but after trying seven rods, the H2 became my new go to stick. Cant wait for the new fiberglass superfine. Overall, consumers knock companies for marketing issues or appearances, could you imagine if we dissected coke or Pepsi or fast food, you’d never eat out again if you realized all the chemicals in Pepsi or mcds. Get over the old guy image and enjoy great products and best customer service, appreciate a company that gives back. How much does a Simms or sage gibe to conservation? Thank Orvis….customer for life here.

  9. Over the last year I’ve been muttering amongst friends that the old dog (Orvis) is starting to change, that I like the new look of their products and that they are moving in the right direction. Moving towards the future generation of fly fishing. Changing the look, killing the stigma they gotten as the tweed hat wearing elitist fly fishing asshole that knows all, tells nothing, smoking his pipe drinking glenlivit. Their only problem with their “New” direction is that people won’t stay away from you on the stream because your an elitist asshole…..but because you look like a bad-ASS!!!

    To all the Game of Thrones fans out there. “Orvis is Coming”

  10. I qualify myself as fly fishing gear agnostic. I have fished rods from Scott, TFO, Orvis, Beulah, ACR, Meiser, and so on. What do I care about most? The quality/performance of the gear and the customer service. As an example, Beulah will take a rod back and repair at pretty much the same cost whether you are the original warranty holder or not. Orvis customer service is top notch and their rods/reels are some of my favorite. These are things I care about and appreciate in a company. When you have a company that makes a good product and backs it, then you are setting yourself to be a great business.

    One thing I notice with many people that I talk to about fly fishing equipment is that they make narrow and unfair conclusions about other companies and their products. This happens A LOT. I heard one shop owner say they wouldn’t use a rod under $500 except for kindling…. He was referring to items he was selling in his own shop and he had never tried the product…. Get over yourself…

    Anyways enough of the stereotyping stuff. Orvis does something smart and invests in different markets. This is something you see Microsoft, 3M, GE and other big companies do. They diversify so that they can become a stable company. You wouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket would you? The thing that makes Orvis great is that they are listening to their customers and making changes so that they can bring some great stuff to the table. All while educating new fly fishers with their podcasts and learning center, AND they are big on conservation efforts. So even if you don’t like the product, why knock a company that’s trying to save the rivers you fish on? Boo to the haters out there!

    • I love orvis rods. I have had 4 over the last 20 years. Their customer service is top shelf. As I get older I am not as cat like walking / wading I broke 2 of my rods in the last 3 years. The local orvis shop handled the repair paperwork. Both rods were replaced with nee rods in about a week. I lost a favorite rod that was replaced with a model much put down by those in the know. It has become my go to 3 weight. I like orvis clothes. Their trout-bum line fits the style I like, warm comfortable, works for hiking, fishing, hanging out. The local shop donates to more than one Trout Unlimited winter banquet bucket raffle
      My only gripe is they don’t stock enough fly tiying materials
      Just for the record I don’t work for Orvis
      I just like their rods.

  11. I was sorry to see that the Orvis store near Union Square in San Francisco closed this year. There was another fly fishing store (forgot the name) just around the corner that went belly up a year or two before — now there is nothing in SF. I didn’t mind walking past the aisle of Barbour jackets to get to the wonderful fly fishing section in that Orvis store. I don’t know if this is just a isolated store closing or if it is a move to pull out of main street and migrate to all online. I hope the Woodlands store is still open when I visit Houston this spring. More fly fishing shops is good — fewer is bad. I appreciate that Orvis is still in the business of fly fishing and only wish there were more stores. I also support my local fly fishing stores and buy from them even if they might be a little more expensive than online.

  12. I’m probably NOT alone in owing ORVIS at least some of the credit in my getting into fly fishing. Let’s be honest there is more than a score of small, innovative, ‘cool’ fly fishing great brands out there that would LOVE to have the problems a multimillion, global giant in the outdoor lifestyle arena company like Orvis has.

    Kudos to them for realizing they’ve lost some market share to smaller, nimble more hip outfits. They’re trying to remain relevant and that’s a GOOD thing for everyone especially those small outfits, that while COOL, don’t have the reach or resources to get in front of any newbies.

    I think what is KEY to their reshaping their image is partnering with dealers that carry these other brands, are GREAT fly shops that KNOW their waters and fishing that get and keep anglers interested.

    Sure, I own a few non-angling items from ORVIS (I have a liking for Filson gear and Barbour stuff, sorry if I have disposable income), but among my Helios/H2/Superfinetouch/CFO reels I sport Hatch, Abel and CF Burkheimer.

    Orvis, if I’m not mistaken, is also responsible for a lot of innovation and history in fly fishing. I think they can successfully ride both horses as long as they keep the quality there and, if their decision to have the new CFO made by Abel in the US is any signal, they are taking the right steps.

    I’m extremely glad that they see the importance of branding (I’ve branded a company or two) as an important tool to have in their quiver.

    The key is NOT just to change on the surface with ads, logos, layouts, but to take the brand further with deeper commitment like partnering with ‘cool’ companies to create products, hiring younger more knowledgeable trout bums (guys and girls) in their fishing departments, getting their name in cool initiatives and events, hiring younger writers etc …. In truth I know they can completely separate the fly fishing arm from the mother ship.

    And frankly, I’m 40, as I get older I think at some point I might just find myself toking an old stodgy pipe, thumbing my nose at new fangled bafoon newbies on my spring creeks, casting a custom made bamboo wonder…I already got 3 Filson ‘old man’ vests at nearly $200 bucks a piece…..;-)

  13. I’ve been impresses with Orvis. I’ve met many of their people and I’ve fished their products and I think if you take a critical look at what they are putting out right now and evaluate it honestly, you have to give some big props to the old lady of the fly fishing world.

    I look forward to seeing where they go from here.

  14. Jason—commenting on your “Orvis isn’t cool.”

    I don’t know about you but as you get older maybe when you get in your early 30s, you’ll find all you care about is performance, quality, stability, value–(maybe even tradition when you have kids), and the people behind the product…that’s “cool” to me as a 39 year old.” Last time I fished, yesterday, the fish didn’t care about “cool” just that I put the right bugs in front of them and I enjoyed every pinpoint cast and every minute of the fight. Nothing Orvis has ever failed me and the my current Orvis outfit outperforms anything else I’ve used in 27 years of fly action.

    Bob–I’m with you, results and performance and great folks not only backing it up but doing something for our industry/conservation. Now that’s “cool.” Your eggs in one basket is spot on too.

    To those who have never cast an Orvis, Go try a new Helios, I think you’ll reconsider your thoughts on Orvis with a test drive.

    New gear looks good too. Charlie!

  15. …. In truth I know they *can’t* completely separate the fly fishing arm from the mother ship.

    It’s my understanding that a lot of their rod R&D comes from $$$$ gained from their ‘lifestyle’ products. What rod/reel/back/clothing angling company can easily take millions from one department and shift it another to push the technology envelope forward, raising a tide that eventually raises ALL BOATS????

    Not many??

  16. Here’s my first-hand experience with that sentiment – and the reason where my loyalty lies in the fly fishing industry.

    Walking into the entry-way of the hotel expecting a rowdy crowd, the first Ice-Out didn’t disappoint. The first vendor table I stopped at was surrounded by guys snickering like they’d just seen their first ladies underwear section in the Sears catalog – but it was the black with white lettering “I’m Proud Not To” sticker they were so proud of. It quickly disappeared like it was a Bozeman secret.

    It struck me as odd and did make it a little uncomfortable, but myself along with a couple of other Orvis-Endorsed operations, were there to network and, it was along the way to Casper for the 25th annual ELOG Rendezvous. Toured the plant, shook some hands, went to the casting comp, the trailer back-up test – you know, stuff that guides do. It felt familiar now and I could tell egos were a little more relaxed once a little friendly competition started. Well, not really.

    The point being that brands work very hard to develop loyalty, and the fly fishing space is now more innovative (and with big-business problems!) than before, and it’s because committed and passionate people are at the helm. There are few people who take it more to heart than the leadership at Orvis, and everyone benefits from it. To deny the strength of the Brands being critical to the long-term conservation, education, and advocacy for recreational fishing and the industries they support in turn is simple thought.

    Being proud to not be something is a mis-guided sentiment. Competition is good, and in 25 years if there’s still ice left, maybe we can warm up flipping pages of the undergarment catalogs.

    Proud to be an Orvis-Endorsed Guide.

  17. Another thing about the sticker…funny that sooo many people fault fly fisherman for being elitists, and here is a bunch of ‘elite’ guides who want to separate themselves from other guides by putting down a company that basically helps them and supports efforts to preserve and conserve sources that make their businesses thrive! Unbelievable.

    When I see that ORVIS ENDORSED GUIDE or ORVIS AUTHORIZED DEALER, I feel some reassurance about my dollar spend.

  18. I’ve always been a fan of Orvis rods, but even more so in the last 7-10 years. The Helios and H2 are phenomenal sticks, and I love that they started focusing on releasing quality “economy” sticks (I own a couple of the economy sticks too). I think orvis has done a good job of refreshing its brand at least for the fly fishing side of things, even in their rod design, getting away from the gold trimmed wood reel seats and things like that, and moving to more technical components and desgn. Pick up an older orvis rod and you feel like you are fishing with a rolls royce, a “luxury item”. Pick up a new one and you feel like you are fishing with a ferrari, a “high perfomance item”.

    Where I think you begin to see the true turnaround of their overall vision for their fly fishing dept, and the manifestation of responding to customer feedback is in 2 recent products: The Silver Sonic waders, and the CFO reel. The silver sonics are lightyears ahead of any wader orvis has ever produced that I know of, and you can tell that they were designed by fishermen for fishermen, and they put it at an attainable price point.

    The brand new CFO reflects a direct response to customer feedback. It will be click pawl and US made. People always dig on the current disc drag asian CFO (I own one and like it, but I’m weird), and Orvis listened.

    Finally, they started making fly fishing more attainable to people who don’t drive a Jaguar, in creating multi price point, but still high quality gear.

    I think seeing that kind of move forward in areas aside from their rods signals that they got the message. Old dudes with pipes and tweed jackets arent the future. People who love to fish, demand quality, but can’t spend 800 bucks on waders and a G on a rod and reel are.

    And who cares if they make dog beds…they are nice dog beds!

  19. My issue with Orvis is simple. Every accessory I have bought from Orvis broke too early. I am guilty of walking into the Gates Au Sable Lodge and saying “I don’t like Orvis.” (Bad karma, right?) They sold me a Lamson instead. I don’t have anything personal against Orivs. I would just rather have my zingers and such work. I will keep an open mind, thanks.

  20. I don’t buy fishing equipement because it’s cool or uncool, or worry about whether or not I’m “posing” with regards to what I use or do on the water. I’ve fished plenty of brands and always come back to Orvis, at least when it comes to rods. Not only have their rods always performed for me, but everytime I break one, which one would need more than two hands to count them on, I send it back to Orvis, pay a nominal fee, and recieve a brand new one in the mail in as little as two week… even quicker if you request express processing for an upcoming trip. Something has to be said for a company that can last 150 years, especially a fishing company. I’ll continue to support them for years to come, whether or not people think its a real company with real guides. Since when did fly-fishing become more about impressing social media “friends”, and less about having the passion for a sport that encompasses true admiration for the outdoors?

    • I agree, everyone should buy whats best for them. So when I go into a normal fly shop I typically can look at or buy a sage, Winston or Orvis rod…Not the case in an Orvis store. This is the problem to me in a nutshell – You always hear Orvis has great customer service, Look up online complaints and the customer response from Orvis is always the same ” We Apologize for the bad experience you’ve had, this is not the normal Orvis customer experience!”
      Everyone says Orvis customer service is the best there is and its probably accurate. Well, how about a company who’s stuff doesn’t break all the time?! I’ve owned several Orvis rods that snapped like a tooth pick, one brand new while false casting. yep, they took care of it but I’ll never own another Orvis rod again. I love their Wallets, and sling packs, they make great clothing as well. Never once had a sage or Winston rod break, even when abused by clients.

      The “Poser” tag comes from years of marketing to the elitist fly fisherman wearing tweed and smoking a pipe in some over priced Orvis lodge. Talk to most die hard Orvis fans and the conversation quickly drifts to a story about their guide tying on flies and getting them on fish. I rarely meet a Orvis fan that’s a true angler. Orvis Guide endorsements mean nothing! A guide pays a fee TO Orvis yearly for this honor, Oh, and the guide needs to use Orvis gear to convince the client its the best thing out there. I don’t begrudge any company for marketing to the mass population, selling other stuff like clothing, dog beds or whatever – Orvis has done great things for fly fishing but they also do this by trying to exclude all other manufacturers and vendors.

      Fish what you love, for me its not Orvis because while I admire the great customer service I’d rather buy gear from a company that makes a product well enough that I don’t need the customer service.

  21. If it weren’t for Tom’s Podcasts, I wouldn’t be half the fly fisherman that I am now. His imparted wisdom has saved me YEARS of learning curve, had I had to figure it all out on my own. Additionally, It was the Orvis News website that first led me to the Gink & Gasoline blog, for which I again owe them dearly for!

    I AM one of those fly fishermen that look like a walking Orvis catalog, from the boots up. I have Orvis Boots, Sonic Seam waders, Guide Sling Pack, and my #1 go-to rod is a 10′ 5wt Access, for nymphing.

    I buy Orvis products for many reasons, including as a thank you for all they have imparted into me and to my fly fishing knowledge and skills. I am thankful and grateful for all of their assistance, and I recognize that with my wallet.

    Yes, I do buy other brands as well, but when I am doing comparisons, I always make sure to scan the Orvis website for comparable, or better products before I purchase anything, and more often than not, The Orvis products are superior (in my opinion).

    But most importantly, their customer service is second to none! Call Orvis up and you get a real live person who actually knows what they are talking about, and will bend over backwards to make sure you are a satisfied customer. That in itself, in a world full of crappy customer service, is reason enough for my loyalty to them.

    I am one VERY happy Orvis customer!

  22. Can anyone help me learn who owns Simms, Abel, Reddington and Sage? A snapshot as to the owners and their passions? Are they fishermen? Do they love to fish? Do they care about the natural world in a way that gives back? Are they active in the business, or do they just watch from afar as they see how their “investment portfolio” is performing. After you do that for those companies, do the same research for the owners of Orvis. You might learn more about why the battleship is turning while some of the others may still be going straight, but now have one hell of a headwind.

  23. Interesting topic, and all of these replies goes to show this has been an ongoing issue with fly fishing enthusiasts for quite some time now. Changing gears a little bit…. I’m glad to see Orvis is trying to change their image but, sometimes, for me, it’s about more than just the product. When I first got serious about my fly fishing in my teens, I always found myself at either Orvis, or the Fish Hawk in Atlanta, and Orvis had a huge impact on where I am today with my fly fishing. One thing that I enjoy about Orvis is their people. Top notch, always a pleasure to talk to, and always knowledgable about the local fishing. Pick a popular fishing destination, and there is probably an Orvis within earshot where you can pick up some flies, intel, etc on your way to the water. Do I believe Orvis has some things to work on? Yes. But ultimately, so does everyone else. This is an ever-changing, evolving sport (especially recently), so there will always be room for improvements. Orvis has been around decades longer than most of these other guys, and has seen this sport progress through the years. It would be foolish to think a brand such as this won’t still be kicking ass 50 years from now.

  24. Hesitate to be repetitive with some of the above, but I must add my Orvis experiences:

    I have owned Orvis, Sage, GLoomis, Scott, and Redington fly rods and fishing and outdoor gear from a dozen name companies from Patagonia to Cabelas. But Orvis is still my go-to place, and I own more of their rods than any other.

    Cool is much less important to me than consistency and being there in the long haul. The label on a product means nothing to me. Whether it lasts and works or keeps me dry and warm does. My Orvis rods from more than 20 years ago are still under warranty and they are still there to honor the warranties. Every warranty issue I have had over the years has been resolved without hassle and to my satisfaction, regardless of fault (one of my son’s buddies drove over a fly rod, for example).

    My son and I learned fly fishing at the Roanoke Orvis store fly fishing school in the early nineties and polished our skills year after year at an Orvis-endorsed Alaska lodge, and the quality of the instruction and guiding was top-notch.

    Tom Rosenbauer’s books and podcasts are great in content and communication, and they serve the newbie and experienced fisherman alike. But more importantly Tom listens to his audience and adjusts what he does… apparently like his company is doing. When I have asked Tom questions, he has graciously taken the time to answer them.

    I have a retriever (my 5th) as well as fly fishing gear, and my current Chesapeake is the third of my dogs to use the same Orvis dog bed and it still looks good. I like that they sell dog beds. Never considered it a knock against Orvis.

    I care that a company where I am spending my money invests in protecting the resources that supply me with so much enjoyment.

  25. great article as one of their employee in one of the retail stores , other customers will give me grief about the direction of orvis fly fishing saying things like how can orvis make a fly rod and a dog bed at the same time? or similiar things to were said in the article especially the western guys. but the reality of it is orvis has been making fly rods since 1856 and sage g loomis all came in the 80s so you tell me who has a real more fly fishing history? than a company whos only been around for a tiny drop of what orvis has done. im not saying orvis makes the best rods or their the only rods i fish but people need to give credit where credit is due and orvis deserves all the credit for the rods they crank out.

  26. If I need good tools, I don’t avoid buying Craftsman just because I might have to walk through the home goods or lingerie section of Sears.

  27. I’ll offer this. From what I understand of the history of Orvis, it at some point was floundering may have even gone bankrupt. The Perkins family comes in and starts the ‘lifestyle’ line of products. Saves the company. And from what I see, they’ve changed their corporate logo at least 3 times.

    They also introduces sporting clays to the US if I’m not wrong.

    That all tells me they know what they are doing, and while they, like so many others, have off shored production on some items, they are very much dedicated to their customers, maintaining quality (where it really matters) and are forward thinking (at least the Perkins family).

    C

  28. Orvis is the last old fly fishing companies out there. Hardys is now owned by the same conglomerate that owns Zebco. Shakespeare, Pfleuger, South Bend, , etc etc are now all part of big corporations. Thats worth at least a little something.

    • Not to mention Far Bank Enterprises is the parent company of Sage, Rio & Redington.

      And if my sources aren’t wrong, the Redington waders (new line) are licensing the technology from ORVIS.

  29. My first fly rod was one of the Tridents. What a dog of a rod compared to what they’re making today. I’m a diehard Orvis fan. Their rods have really be extraordinary the past few years. And they’re beginning to figure it out with the rest of their gear. After what I think was a rough transition to non-felt boots — some of those early rubber soled designs were clunky and uncomfortable (bring back the Henry’s Fork dammit) — they’re starting to hit their stride and the wader technology has got me looking to hanging up my Simms, though not quite. The sling pack was a true innovation and is still a leader. While Orvis may have copied the ugly waterproof pack from Simms, the sling pack in Simms new line looks strikingly like Orvis’. Regardless, I still make the annual trip to Manchester to ogle the goodness and give them some coin.

  30. Maybe the reason that Orvis isn’t considered cool is b e c a u s e they are the oldest surviving fly fishing company?

    The younger generation of fly fishers are the ones who change smartphones, girlfriends and fly lines as frequently as showers in a rain forest. A company who has survived more than a century and seen many hypes the current era can be very confusing. How to keep your customer’s attention if they are not as loyal as they have been for decades?

    Not an easy task…

  31. I have lots of Orvis. I’m in the Atlanta store 6 times per year or so and every now and then they have something I cannot find at The Fish Hawk shop. So I consider myself in the middle relative to the Orvis argument.

    They do have a perception problem and good for them working to address it. The #1 thing they could do to change my perception?…stop sending me 3 different catalogs that arrive on the same day (Fly fishing, mens clothing and the dog book).

    I get at least 6 copies/season of the exact same catalog. Not at all consistent with an environmental theme.

    Send me one big catalog/year a la Herter’s (who remembers that?) and let me use the web site other than that.

    • I asked them to stop sending all the other catalogues. I only wanted their FF one. Now, that’s the only one I receive.

  32. I love Orvis! I could never think of buying another brand. I know when I spend my hard earned money I get quality and performance. They are the best in the business. They stand by their products and their customer service is the best for any product produced.

  33. This posting is fascinating to me. Like most folks, I shop for quality equipment at the best price. This is often “past generation” Orvis Products. The annual pronouncement of “the latest and greatest” new rod always brings a smile to my face, because it leads to markdowns on rods that were called the “very best” a few years before. A question: What is more important? Presentation or the name on your rod?

    Their clothing is good quality but overpriced. Two things do bother : the deluge of catalogs that fill my mailbox and their merchandizing the term ” trout bum”. Very tacky.

    If you have ever had a problem with an Orvis rod or reel, you will find them excellent to work with.

  34. Pingback: Gink and Gasoline on the New Orvis Marketing | Tight Lines and Tidal Waters

  35. Regarding James Hathaway.

    I went to high school with him. The last time I was in contact with him, a few years back, he was working for Orvis.

  36. Pingback: Creating a Social Media Strategy for Orvis

  37. Have been using Orvis rods and reels for 22+ years. Still the best products on the market. Same goes for their fly lines. Yes, there are some items I’ve purchased from Orvis that I have been disappointed about, overall still great products. I’ll stick with Orvis, not really caring about opinions of others.

  38. As I see it one of the biggest reasons for the sticker referred to in the original post was that if you wanted to be an Orvis endorsed guide you could simply buy your way in if you pushed their products enough on your outing with the reviewers of your services. (I am not saying this is true or false, I’m only stating what I’ve heard repeated at MANY shows throughout the U.S. That I have attended.). This is as I understand it one of the biggest hurtles that Orvis must overcome for people to once again begin endorsing their name an products as in days gone by.

    People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care!

    Listen to what you don’t want to hear and you can begin to understand where the true problems lie. I am neither a guide or fly shop owner/employee, I am simply a hard working blue collar fly fisherman.

  39. I have to disagree with your opinions of the “New” Orvis. I just contacted their service department to get spare parts for one of my several CFO reels and I was told that I have to send it in because they are running out of service parts and they have too many versions on the market to send parts to customers. What? I have gotten service parts for this same reel before without issues, now I have to send it in?? They are running short of parts? They don’t have serial numbers and keep track of production changes? There are tens of thousands of those reels in customers hands. They expect a CFO to last a lifetime and pass them down to their kids. I have a lot of Orvis equipment…..nice to know that my thousands of dollars invested in Orvis reels and spools is becoming worthless and maybe unservicable. Lost me as a customer and all the future business I was going to give them. Tell their new millenial 3rd Generation owner that abandoning your customers is never a good thing. Guess I start buying Hardy reels.

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