Resistance is Futile

[Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series by Orvis’s Mike Mckinney about learning to fly-fish after avoiding the sport for as long as an Orvis employee can. We’ll follow Mike’s successes (and failures) along the way.]

Hi, my name is Mike.  I’m in Information Technology and have been with the Orvis Company for 25 years. You may find this hard to believe, but until two weeks ago, I had never been fly fishing. I’m an avid golfer, and any spare time I had was spent the links.

I have family and friends who, upon learning I work for Orvis, immediately launch into a fly-fishing discussion, which always led to an awkward moment where I had to admit I don’t fish…resistance is futile.

I work for a company with a rich sporting tradition that sells some of the best equipment available––and which I can get at a generous employee discount––yet I still did not fish…resistance is futile.

My son began working at Orvis, worked his way on to the technical-support line for fishing, brought home equipment I could use for free, yet still I did not fish…resistance is futile.

I’ve been through the rod shop and the Manchester fishing school several times. I’ve had to learn capacity calculations for loading reels with line and backing, what right-hand and left-hand mounts are. I worked on systems where we kept perpetual inventory on thousands of units of tippet, leaders, flies, rods, reels, cases, vests, fly boxes, and more.  I have a pretty good vocabulary for the product, but still I did not fish…resistance is futile.

I work mostly out of our Roanoke, Virginia, facility, where there are only a handful of avid fly fishermen, so it has been easy to avoid talking about fishing if I needed to. It’s a much different story when I’m in the Home Office in Sunderland, Vermont, where the sporting lifestyle is much more prevalent. But my job only required me to travel to the home office about four times a year. I found a few golfers, but most of the others would rather hunt and fish. There was always lots of equipment around––prototypes, samples, loanersĀ­––a casting pond with loads of largemouth bass eager to get caught, and schools at a great employee rate…still I did not fish…resistance is futile.

Mike McKinney in a Tree

The curse of a beginning fly caster: a tree.

photos by Tim Bronson

In October, I took a new position within IT that requires me to be in the Home Office at least a week every month. The winters are long and cold, and away from family and friends I’m always looking for something to do. One evening, Tom Rosenbauer was speaking at a Trout Unlimited Chapter on small-stream fishing. I had listened to his podcasts, and Tom has a unique ability to make the art of fly fishing interesting and understandable even for non-fishermen. Several organizations support TU, including Orvis, and part of the chapter meeting is to have a drawing for donated items. By filling out a TU survey, I was entered into the drawing. Fly boxes, books, videos, and nets, were all given away in succession. The next-to-last item was a float trip, and the grand prize was the new Orvis Access 905-4 rod and an Access reel. When the winning number was read, and it was mine, I actually said, “Oh no.”  First of all, I never win raffles; second, I knew this was the going to lead to offers to take me fishing and teach me how to use the new rod…resistance is futile.

Two weeks ago Steve Hemkens, our Divisional Merchandising Manager for Rod & Tackle, offered to take me fishing and teach me some basics. He is an accomplished angler, very patient and knowledgeable, and as luck would have it, spent his youth caddying in Missouri when he wasn’t fishing.  His ability to relate fishing techniques and equipment to golf cannot be a coincidence…resistance is futile.

I’m having a great time learning to fly fish.  Plenty of mistakes, but just like in golf, when you do it right, you can feel it and often the rewards follow.

Now, as for the fish I have yet to catch… resistance is futile.

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