Each year, the Orvis Company recognizes excellence in sporting experiences through its Endorsed Lodges, Outfitters, and Guides Program (ELOG). Representatives from several categories are nominated, and ultimately one is chosen as the best of the year.
These awards are based on a number of criteria, the most important being customer feedback; the reviews from the customers who have experienced these operations are the ultimate arbiters 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 on April 28, during the 2017 Orvis Guide Rendezvous in Missoula, Montana. Click here to see the lists of nominees for each category.
Here are this year’s winners, along with one of the customer comments that caught the judges’ eyes:
Kip Vieth—Wildwood Float Trips, Monticello, Minnesota
Wildwood Float Trips is located on the banks of the Upper Mississippi River. They offer guided float trips in the Upper Midwest, on the Upper Mississippi, St.Croix, Rum, Kettle, and St. Louis Rivers. Here’s what one Orvis customer had to say about fishing with Kip:
“One of the best……period! I’ve had the opportunity to fish with several guides over the years and there isn’t anyone more experienced or more fun to fish with. I have done at least one trip with him a year for the last 10 years and plan on continuing for at least another 10. I can’t recommend anyone more than Kip.”
Capt. Lucas Bissett—Low Tide Charters, Slidell, Luoisiana
Capt. Luca Bissett fishes out of the Hopedale and Delacroix areas, which are both located a short distance to the southeast of New Orleans. Here’s what one guest had to say about a day on Captain Bissett’s boat:
“Despite poor fishing conditions and my even poorer casting skills, it turned out to be, thanks to Lucas, the trip of a lifetime! As a teacher and guide, he was simply exemplary in every way. Patient, positive, and professional, he put me on many fish throughout the trip. If you are thinking of chasing redfish in the New Orleans-area, you must hire Capt. Lucas Bissett as your guide – a game changer!”
Big Hole Lodge, Wise River, Montana
Big Hole Lodge has been hosting guests since 1984 and is ideally located on the banks of the Wise River in a magnificent wilderness setting. Guests stay in spacious private cabins with modern conveniences, all opening to a panoramic view of the scenic Pioneer Mountains. One recent customer wrote:
“I spent 5 days at the lodge this summer, it was my third year in a row. The food and lodging is truly first rate. They even bring a pop up table with table cloth for shore lunch! Dinner conversations with our hosts/guides are always lively and engaging. I believe this family and their guides fish not for business but because they are deeply driven to do so by inner desires. Their love of the sport and of the rivers they fish is not only evident but infectious. No matter our level of angling experience, they showed us techniques and tips to help make for a successful day. We enjoyed fishing different waters and using different methods each and every day. The fish were plentiful and I caught several once in a life time trophies. It was a fantastic experience and I can’t wait to get back. The solitude that they offer is simply good for the soul. This is the real deal – sparse, rugged, expansive and silent.”
The Tackle Shop Outfitters, Ennis, Montana
Located in Ennis, on the banks of the famous Madison River, only an hour from Yellowstone National Park, and set between the Big Hole, Beaverhead, and Yellowstone Rivers, The Tackle Shop has been the leader in fly-fishing and guided-fishing trips on the Madison since 1937. This reviewer certainly felt the staff’s commitment:
“John Way showed his extensive knowledge, passion, completeness of experience and obvious love of fly fishing. He inspired the same love and passion for the sport in us. This commitment is also obvious through his with work within the local community and his service on the Montana Board of Outfitters representing the sport of fly-fishing.”
The Beaverkill Angler, Roscoe, New York
Located in Roscoe New York, the Beaverkill Angler has been proudly serving Catskill area fly fishermen since 1979. Affectionately known as “Trout Town, USA”, Roscoe sits near the conjunction of two world famous fisheries: the Beaverkill River and Willowemoc Creek. With the Main Stem, West Branch, and East Branches of the Delaware River nearby, the Beaverkill Angler is a trusted source of area information, flies, and services for people fishing some of the most historic rivers in the country.
El Pescador Lodge, Ambergris Caye, Belize
El Pescador is the only lodge in Belize endorsed by Orvis that offers such a wide variety of fly fishing. Bonefish, tarpon and permit are all present and you don’t have to go far to get them. Bonefish are the main quarry, but permit and tarpon are regularly caught within a short boat trip of the lodge. The lodge specializes in fly fishing, but light tackle fishing and reef fishing are available, with the guides and boats are on hand to make it happen.
“Each time I visit is a more special experience. The owner, lodge managers, fishing director and the entire staff go above and beyond to make you feel welcome. They are amazing! You also can’t beat the location. The beachside accommodations are very nice and the food is a delight, with each meal a great experience. The fishing was fantastic – one of my best trips ever! I strongly recommend this as an outstanding fishing lodge and eagerly await my next visit.”
Southwind Plantation, Attapulgis, Georgia
SouthWind Plantation is South Georgia’s premier, reservation-only outdoor adventure plantation. From blue-ribbon hunting to trophy fishing, they offer distinctive outdoor adventures for the discerning sportsman with all of the grace and heritage of a traditional Southern plantation. This reviewer obviously agrees:
“From the moment that I arrived at Southwind Plantation I was treated like a member of the family. The entire staff made sure that I had everything I needed to make my first trip an unforgettable experience. The word “no” is not in the vocabulary of anyone there. The guides have an expansive knowledge of quail habitat and they all have a love for the outdoor experience. Dog work is unsurpassed, and the birds fly better than I have ever seen. I am already counting the days to my return.”
Eric Harrison, Joshua Creek Ranch, Boeme, Texas
Eric Harrison grew up in Kentucky along the Ohio River. He shared a passion for hunting with his father, who would regularly take Eric on his hunting trips. He graduated from South East Illinois in 2002 and moved to Texas to pursue a career as a hunting guide and started working at Joshua Creek Ranch in 2007. He’s a Texan at heart and defines “Texas Hospitality.”. Here’s an evaluation from one satisfied customer:
“We have hunted all over the world, and Eric at Joshua Creek Ranch ranks among the highest! His passion for what he does is unparalleled. Eric has a commitment to providing a unique, special customer experience every time we hunt with him. Outstanding.”
Matt P. Libby—Libby Camps, Ashland, Maine
Matt P. Libby, this year’s Orvis Fly Fishing Lifetime Achievement Award winner, became a guide at 18 and a lodge owner 41 years ago. But in reality, he has been in the business since the day he was born. For three generations before him, his family had operated one of the most renowned hunting and fishing lodges in the East, Libby Sporting Camps. He carried on a family tradition that is now in its 127th year. Looking back at this history, Matt said, “It seems that we just can’t get the camps out of our blood.” Click here to read more about Matt;s incredible career.