For more than twenty years, the Orvis Company has been recognizing excellence in sporting experiences through its Endorsed Lodges, Outfitters, and Guides Program (ELOG). Each year representatives from each of these categories are nominated and ultimately one is chosen for the best of the year.
These awards are based on a number of criteria, the most important being the voice of the customer; the feedback we receive on these operations from the customers who have experienced them for that is the ultimate arbiter of success. Also taken into consideration are the operation’s environmental commitment to and stewardship of their resource, and their partnership with Orvis in providing the finest sporting experience possible for the Orvis customer.
The winners of this year’s awards were announced at a ceremony during the 2015 Orvis Guide Rendezvous in Missoula, Montana, on April 25. Click here to see the lists of nominees for each category.
Here are this year’s winners, with some entries accompanied by an exemplary customer review:
Orvis-Endorsed Guide Lifetime Achievement Award
George Hunker, Sweetwater Fishing Expeditions, Lander, Wyoming
For the last three years, we have recognized the Orvis-Endorsed Guide Lifetime Achievement Award, and we are honored to carry this tradition forward and once again recognize the passion, dedication, and commitment displayed by one of the most influential guides to ever don waders.
George Hunker started Sweetwater Fishing Expeditions in 1977, along with his wife Paula, in Lander, Wyoming, and they have become the experts on fishing the backcountry the Wind River Range. Previously, he was one of the first National Outdoor Leadership School Instructors to work his way up to Associate Director. He is a former rancher and farmer, the father of three children (who he openly admits are smarter than he is), a lover of the outdoors, an addicted fly fisherman and fly tier from his youth in New Mexico.
He was named the Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide of the Year for 2003. He is known by his peers as a conservationist, philosopher and humorist. According to George, the goal of Sweetwater is simple: “To take people to beautiful places, where trout abound, and where simple camp life can cleanse our minds and bodies.”
2015 Endorsed Fly-Fishing Guide of the Year (West)
Chuck Page, of Big Hole Lodge, Wise River, Montana
Chuck Page has been guiding on the Big Hole River and other Southwest Montana waters since 1983. He left Woodland, California at the age of 18 to guide in the Bob Marshall and Crazy Mountains of Montana. He became an outfitter, guiding fly-fishing trips and elk hunts, and his father joined him in 1984 to form an elk hunting business in the Pioneer Mountains above the Big Hole River.
Chuck began guiding fly fishing trips for Big Hole Lodge in 1989 and would often take clients on horseback into the high mountain lakes of the Pioneer mountains. His incredible work ethic, knowledge of the Big Hole River, and unmatched desire to “get his clients into fish” are renowned. Chuck seems to find a fly pattern that will work even when the fishing is slow. Chuck lives with his wife and daughter in Wise River, Montana, and is the head guide at Big Hole Lodge.
2015 Endorsed Fly-Fishing Guide of the Year (East)
Brown Hobson, based in Asheville, North Carolina
Brown Hobson runs Brown Trout Fly Fishing, in Asheville, North Carolina and was a member of 2014 Fly Fishing Team USA. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources from the University of the South.
A native of South Carolina, Brown started fly fishing at age 15 in North Carolina, but he didn’t get serious about the sport until his college years in Tennessee. After making his way to Jackson, Wyoming, where he eventually become manager of the Jackson Hole Orvis store, he returned to his roots in the Great Smoky Mountains. His fly fishing experience combined with his Orvis customer-service background give Brown a skill set that allows him to provide exceptional days on the water.
2015 Endorsed Fly-Fishing Lodge of the Year
Madison Valley Ranch, Ennis, Montana
Madison Valley Ranch sits on the banks of a stretch of river known as “The Channels,” where wading anglers can wander and find a piece of water all to themselves. The lodge is also within striking distance of many other famous rivers, such as the Beaverhead, Big Hole, Ruby, and others.
Spectacular Big Sky Country views inspire, and the daily activity of local wildlife takes you back to a different time. You can escape from the hectic pace of everyday life and indulge in a luxury adventure where all the details are someone else’s worries and you are just warmly welcomed. One recent customer wrote:
“We’ve been visiting this lodge for many years now. Everyone has been so warm and inviting since our first trip and everyone after. They have truly become friends we look forward to seeing each visit. The fishing, the guides, the beauty of the valley, the cuisine, and the positive relaxed energy of the lodge all make this our most looked forward to trip of the year.”
2015 Endorsed Wingshooting Lodge of the Year
Greystone Castle, Mingus, Texas
What’s both unique and compelling about the Greystone Castle (which also won this award in 2011) is that it offers so many things to the upland gunner: large fields of sorghum, millet, and switch grass bring memories of great gun dogs, flushing pheasants, bobwhite covey rises, and days in the field with friends.
The ownership and staff have been dedicated to creating one of the finest sporting experiences found anywhere in the world. Long-term habitat improvement and wildlife management has made Greystone an extraordinary hunting venue. This coupled with the unique castle facility and outstanding customer service makes Greystone Castle a destination without equal. This reviewer obviously agrees:
“I visited Greystone Castle as a first-time hunter within a mixed group of seasoned and novice hunters. The guides and dog handlers did an awesome job showing us the ropes, and they made it easy to fit right in. I was amazed at the quality of dogs and guides. The Lodge staff, wait staff, chefs etc. were fantastic. They were there when you needed them and invisible otherwise. The food was fantastic. Zero complaints other than we couldn’t stay longer”
2015 Endorsed Fly-Fishing Guide Service of the Year
Long Outfitting, Livingston, Montana
A recent Trout Bum of the Week, Matthew Long started guiding in Montana in the early 1990s and established his own outfitting operation in 1997. Since then, he has won this award three times. The small group of experienced guides accompanies clients on some of the most diverse trout fishing opportunities on the face of the planet—from float trips on the Yellowstone to wading trips in Yellowstone National Park, to battles with the wily trout of Paradise Valley’s famed spring creeks. Here’s an evaluation from one satisfied customer:
“Our guides were amazing! They customized to our needs, and were very responsive with communications. We even ran into another guide on the water that started asking ours for advice, which to our initial surprise he gave openly. It my mind this speaks to the quality of his character. We definitely were with the right guides!”
2015 Endorsed Fly-Fishing Outfitter of the Year
North Park Anglers, Walden, Colorado
Located in Walden, Colorado at the center of North Park’s diverse and exciting fishing opportunities, North Park Anglers takes pride in providing only the best equipment, flies, and advice from experienced guides who live and fish throughout the North Park region. Whether you are a first-time visitor to North Park, or have been fishing the area your entire life, their staff of friendly, knowledgeable guides can offer you indispensable tips and techniques for landing that trophy trout you’ve always dreamed about. This reviewer certainly felt that commitment:
“I’ve used guides and outfitter all over the world but none more professional, helpful and enthusiastic. From advice on the water or in the shop, these guys go out of their way to make you feel like you’re the most important customer they have. And did I mention their fly selection, holy @^%$!!! It’s amazing.”
2015 Endorsed Fly-Fishing Expedition of the Year
Deep Canyon Outfitters, Bend, Oregon
Deep Canyon Outfitter’s offers a fly fishing and adventure their clients won’t forget. The staff of Deep Canyon is passionate about sharing the best fly fishing experience with you. Their stated goal is to connecting you with nature, your family and friends, or with yourself. Whether it’s casting a Chubby Chernobyl during the famous Deschutes River stonefly hatch, fishing from a float tube on the beautiful Hosmer Lake, or swinging flies for summer steelhead, they cater each experience to meet your specific needs. This is the kind of review that led to this award:
“First class standards across all parts of the experience. But most importantly, the entire crew was so welcoming that they took all the intimidation factor out of the trip for the beginners and our moderately experienced anglers. We could not have imagined a better trip”
2015 International Destination of the Year
Rio Manso Lodge, Argentina
This fishing lodge in Argentina boasts browns, rainbows, and brook trout in nearby waters. Unlike most of the Argentinean Patagonia Fly Fishing Lodges, which are located on vast Estancias surrounded by pampas, the Rio Manso Lodge is surrounded by forested National Park land. It is common to catch fish in the 2-4 pound range daily and there is reasonable chance you will catch a 5-10 pound trout during a week of fishing. The lodge itself is very comfortable with outstanding views from each room.
“Catching large, hard fighting fish was fun, but sitting around with other guests, the owner and guides each evening was very enjoyable. The staff was incredibly accommodating. They asked me what I wanted to drink on the first night and every day I returned from fishing it was already sitting on the bar, not to mention they never let my glass run dry. The rooms were beautiful and the food was excellent. This was a perfect lodge for us; I had high quality fishing while my wife enjoyed all of her treks and the horseback riding. We intend to return.”
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