For more than twenty-five 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 2016 Orvis Guide Rendezvous in Missoula, Montana, on April 8. 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:
Carolyn Parker—River Run Outfitters, Branson, Missouri
The last four years, we have recognized the Orvis-Endorsed Guide Lifetime Achievement Award. 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.
Carolyn Parker started fly fishing Lake Taneycomo in the mid 1960s. Seeking a life that allowed them to pursue their passion, Carolyn and her husband, Stan, started the River Run Outfitters in Branson, Missouri. Focused on guiding, Carolyn attended the Joan Wulff Fly Casting Instructor School as a means of honing her craft. Through Carolyn’s leadership, positive attitude, and focus on making fly fishing accessible, River Run Outfitters has been a finalist several times and earned the 2006 Orvis Outfitter of the Year award.
Teaching expert and beginner anglers with equal enthusiasm has been Carolyn’s hallmark. It is her goal with each student to get them as excited about fly fishing as she is. It doesn’t matter who the student is—young, old, man or woman—Carolyn is going to tackle the assignment with contagious enthusiasm and total devotion. A half-day trip or class with Carolyn has been known to actually last a half day. . .as in 12 hours! She will not quit until the student or client has been exposed to the world she loves. Expect to hear Carolyn say “One more cast” at least seven or eight times during a trip or class.
Carolyn’s real passion in the sport though is to promote Women’s participation in fly fishing. She runs several Women’s classes each year, and through this has helped form The River Runners Women’s Fly Fishing Club. She is the first to share; some of her best days have been spent helping women catch their first fly caught fish.
John Herzer—Blackfoot River Outfitters, Missoula, Montana
John Herzer, the owner and operator of Blackfoot River Outfitters, has been guiding since the early 90s. He spends over 150 days a year on the water and has fished and rowed whitewater rafts across the American West and in Africa. Here’s what one Orvis customer had to say about fishing with John:
“I have been fishing with guides, two or three multiple-day trips a year since the mid-1990s. There is one that stands alone. He has taught me, my wife and my two children the joys of being on the river in pursuit of wild trout. I consider him much more than a guide. It is an honor to share a river with him. I hope and expect that my grandchildren will learn the sport through his mentorship. Top flight, professional, unsurpassed expertise and enthusiastic service – whether on the water or off. Spending time with him does not only make me a better angler, it makes me a better person. Just ask my wife, I could use the help on both counts.”
Capt. Ken Chambers—Backcountry Guide Service, Naples, Florida
Capt. Ken Chambers runs Backcountry Guide Service in Naples, Florida and was a member of 2014 Fly Fishing Team USA. A native Southwest Floridian, he has been fishing the waters of the 10,000 Islands and Everglades National Park his entire life, unlocking the mystery of the mangrove estuaries. Here’s what one guest had to say about a day on Captain Chambers’s boat:
“I just enjoyed my third trip. He is the epitome of professionalism. Smart, honest and hardworking. On Monday I hooked up with a hog of a snook that dragged me into the mangroves and driftwood on the shoreline. A lot of guides would have probably cut the line and shrugged their shoulders. Before I knew it, he was maneuvering the boat closer to the bank. He gave me instructions every step of the way, while he managed to get the line out of the driftwood. The snook took off again for open water and we had him on board a few minutes later. What a ride.”
The Lodge at Glendorn, Bradford, Pennsylvania
The Lodge at Glendorn, designed in the style of the grand family camps of yore, has been a fly-fishing destination since 1929. Adventure is in their nature. Visitors can explore miles of private brooks and ponds on the property, or venture nearby to float the Clarion or Allegheny Rivers in a drift boat. One recent customer wrote:
“We have a coffee table book of Orvis’s best fly fishing lodges in North America and have been working our way through the lodges! They have the most passionate guides we’ve ever had! They do anything and everything to make sure you have the best experience possible.”
Ellensburg Angler, Ellensburg, Washington
Ellensburg Angler is the premiere fly-fishing outfitter for the Kittitas Valley and all of Central Washington, with most of their fishing focused on the Yakima River. They have almost 80 miles of great catch-and-release water to fish, from the high desert of the famous Yakima River Canyon all the way to the tree-lined banks of the Upper Yakima. They also offer a guided float trip on the Naches River for native cutthroat trout, as well as fall steelhead on the Klickitat and Methow rivers. This reviewer certainly felt the staff’s commitment:
“I’m a guy that is hard to impress when it comes to fishing guides. I have been an Alaska fish guide in my youth and fished from the Kamchatka to Christmas Island. However, this group is absolutely the best I have ever fished with–knowledgeable, personable, patient, and energetic. It was like fishing with an old friend. My highest recommendation.”
Breckenridge Outfitters, Breckenridge, Colorado
The folks at Breckenridge Outfitters pride themselves on being an honest small business that takes care of our customers, no matter what. Plus, they enjoy educating everyone who walks in the door about any question that has to do with fly fishing–whether it’s how to tie knots, get a good drift, or identify the hatches. This is the kind of review that led to this award:
“Couldn’t have asked more of the shop and staff. No attitude, all service. They took great care of us for two days of Oct fishing – real pro – patient, upbeat, passionate about their job, respect for the fish and the fishery was evident. The owner could not have been more accommodating, including scrambling around to pull together lunch at 900a when the weather broke and we decided to head out on 30 mins notice. Well done!”
Magic Waters Patagonia Lodge, Coyhaique, Chile
Magic Waters is perfectly nestled in the mountain valleys of the Aysén region in Southern Chile. The lodge’s close proximity to the coastal rainforests and eastern Patagonian steppe provides each angler with a multitude of opportunities to experience the region’s best fishing while enjoying some of the world’s most impressive, natural scenery. Whether you like to wade spring creeks, float on freestone rivers, or cast large dries at cruising fish in a turquoise blue lake, Magic Waters is a place you will fall in love with.
“What really make this lodge special are the owner and his family. From the moment I arrived to the moment I left, the hospitality I was shown makes this trip one I will always cherish. Everyone in the family is devoted to making your stay unforgettable. The food is locally grown…his mother even made homemade soup and biscuits for lunch. Every meal was a new and delicious dish served up beautifully and paired with excellent wines. Oh, and there’s fishing. The lodge is located in the heart of the country with a private lake. You get to choose from so many varied experiences from lakes to spring creeks to crystal clear streams. They cater the fishing to all guests based on their desire, ability and current fishing conditions. The guides are some of the “fishiest” guys I’ve met, and all are expert boatmen. I would go again in a heartbeat. The entire experience lived up to the name of the lodge and was truly magical.”
Paul Nelson Farm, Gettysburg, South Dakota
Paul Nelson Farm is known worldwide for its extraordinary wingshooting hunts. Located in the heart of pheasant country, the 12,000-acre farm is sustainably managed to harvest both crops…and birds. Guests can choose between accommodations in the Main Lodge, the Buffalo Suites, or the resplendent King Lodge. With unforgettable menus, unrivaled hunting, and an uncommon passion for genial hospitality, the Paul Nelson Farm experience is one like no other. This reviewer obviously agrees:
“I’ve been traveling to this hunt for more than 15 years and the continuous improvement would be the envy of a Fortune 500 company. They never settle and ALWAYS look to improve…which is very difficult to do because they are chasing no one–they are the high-end wingshooting lodge category leader. I say that as someone who has spent 25 years traveling the world visiting, writing, and producing television covering the premium wingshooting market. It’s the world’s finest wingshooting experience.”
Randy Matis, Elgin, Arizona
Randy Matis’s hunts are not for the faint of heart, as they involve walking miles in a day. However, heart-stopping memories will be your reward. If you are looking for traditional foot hunts over savvy pointing dogs, Randy is the guide for you. Upland hunting and bird dogs is his passion, and he enjoys nothing more than sharing the challenge and tradition with guests. Here’s an evaluation from one satisfied customer:
“This team of guides and dogs are real superstars and one is the poster-boy for everything I think a client should expect in a guide. Fast or slow, easy cover or hard, he will tailor the event to your abilities and desires. He’s not afraid to point out things you could do better or offer congratulations when you’ve done well. I’ve had the good fortune of chasing numerous bird species around the world but this is always the quality meter I use when filling out my game register at the end of a hunt.”