Each year, for thirty-five years, the Orvis Company has recognized excellence in sporting experiences through its Endorsed Lodges, Outfitters, and Guides Program (ELOG). Awards are allocated based on a number of criteria, the most important of which is 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 resources, and their partnership with Orvis in providing the finest sporting experience possible.
Unfortunately, due to public health concerns and travel restrictions, the 2020 Orvis Guide Rendezvous in Roanoke, VA, was cancelled, and with it the much-anticipated awards ceremony. But we want to make sure that these incredible partners receive their due kudos. It is a privilege, therefore, to announce the winners here on the Orvis Fly Fishing blog. Click here to see the lists of nominees for each category.
“The Guide Rendezvous is one of my favorite events every year, as it brings together so many at the forefront of fly-fishing and wingshooting world,” says Orvis President Simon Perkins. “The Orvis-Endorsed Awards and the Lifetime Achievement Award are a chance to celebrate those whose passion and commitment are pushing the sport forward – for their guests, their industry peers, the greater community, and the natural resource.”
Here are this year’s winners, along with customer comments that caught our eyes. Click on the highlighted name of the guide or the operation to learn more about each winner.
2021 Endorsed Fly-Fishing Guide of the Year
Alberto Rey–Fredonia, New York
Western New York has a long tradition of providing some of the best world-class steelhead fly-fishing opportunities in the country. Alberto Rey has been an Orvis-Endorsed Guide for around two decades and is also a renowned artist whose work is in more than twenty museum collections. He is the founder and director of a youth fly-fishing program, as well as a distinguished professor. These qualifications have made him an interesting and patient teacher and guide who is passionate about sharing his love for steelhead, fly fishing, and nature. Here is what one customer had to say about time on the water with Alberto:
I am an amateur (beginner) fly fisherman – and this guide made me feel like a professional on the stream, He was polite, kind, friendly, and so so helpful!! He explained everything – showed me how to cast and mend – coached me every step of the way. This was my fourth time with him – and I keep coming back because the day is so enjoyable. We were on the fish all day!! Cannot wait to fish again with him – thank you Alberto!
2021 Endorsed Wingshooting Guide of the Year
Mike Goldsmith–Joshua Creek Ranch, Texas
Mike Goldsmith began his guiding career in his native Southern California before moving to Fredericksburg, Texas, to join the Joshua Creek Ranch team. For the past seven years, has provided exceptional hunting experiences at JCR, along with his nine hunting dogs—all trained at legendary Ronnie Smith Kennels—which he transports back and forth to the ranch each day. Mike’s favorite parts of the job are working the dogs and meeting people from around the world. “Being able to teach new hunters and being part of their experience is very rewarding when they leave with a smile on their face and a thank,” he says. Here’s what one such happy customer had to say about Mike:
He is truly an exceptional guide! Friendly, Technical, Knowledgeable… his dog handling ability was second to none. Whether you are a master hunter or a beginner, this is the guy you want to lead you on a hunt!
2021 Endorsed Fly-Fishing Lodge of the Year
Madison Valley Ranch–Ennis, Montana
The Madison Valley Ranch has served as a playground for anglers of all abilities since 1993. Daily drift boat trips down the upper Madison River by the region’s most experienced and friendly fly-fishing guides are the highlight, but plenty of other options exist for adventurous anglers. With five other floatable rivers within a 1.5-hour drive from The Ranch, guests can be fishing the upper Madison one day and the Yellowstone, Lower Madison, Jefferson, Beaverhead, or Big Hole the next. Every aspect of the operation is impressive, as this customer explains:
I am a beginning fly fisherman and was a little nervous about this trip, but they were so positive and encouraging. I was catching fish in no time. The guides made the fishing so much fun and enjoyable. From the warm welcome at the lodge to the amazing dinning this experience was over the top and exceeded my expectations. I’m hooked and will defiantly be returning.
2021 Endorsed Wingshooting Lodge of the Year
Flying B Ranch–Kamiah, Idaho
Flying B Ranch has been leading the industry as an exceptional wingshooting destination since 1985. Nowhere else in the world can you pursue so many upland species in such a dynamic landscape, and Flying B guides get to the core of what drives you as a discerning wingshooter, using their experience to create unforgettable days afield for you, your family, and your friends. Guests said the following of their experiences at Flying B:
The Ranch creates an incomparable outdoor environment – visually stunning, blessed by great weather, and focused on land management that produces ideal bird habitat. But they don’t just cater to the hunt… it’s the entire experience, from pick-up to lodge living, to the meals! The Ranch never disappoints in any way. 5 stars in every aspect.
2021 Endorsed Fly-Fishing Outfitter of the Year
Lillard’s Fly Fishing Expedition–Colorado
LFFE was started in 2010 while founder Will Lillard completed a graduate thesis for his master’s degree in environmental conservation education at NYU. The idea was simple: By coupling amazing wilderness fly-fishing trips for teens, with environmental education and some service learning, he aimed to help inspire future generations of fly-fishing conservationists. With over 70% of their participants returning for multiple summers, LFFE has been growing a list of world-class fly-fishing trips for teens ever since. Here’s what the parents of one teen said:
We were looking for a backcountry fly-fishing experience for our boys who love to hike and fish, and this was exactly what hoped for and more. The experience was centered on fly fishing, but leadership, conservation, and the environment were clearly their passion. If someone is looking for a camp to expose their child to fly fishing and give them the opportunity to fish some phenomenal water, I would highly recommend a trip with Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions.
2021 Orvis Dealer of the Year
TCO Fly Shop–Haverford, Reading, Boiling Springs & State College, PA
As we all know, fly shops are the backbone and lifeblood of the sport and provide a place for participants to learn, grow and progress as they gain more interest in fly fishing. If you’re ever in Pennsylvania, make sure you swing by a TCO Fly Shop location to see for yourself why they’re the best in the business.
In an age mass-market retailing, mergers and acquisitions, and the commoditization of pretty much everything, one of the things that makes our industry unique is the fly shop. These local businesses continue to be the backbone and the lifeblood of the sport.
Fly shops provide customers with personalized service and education, diverse product choices and the inside knowledge that can only come from people that have made their love of this sport into their livelihood. Fly shops also allow brands like ours to compete for the customer’s loyalty on a level playing field with our competitors. Here’s what one regular customer said about TCO:
Great local fly shop, if I lived closer I would be in trouble and probably broke. Tough to leave here without buying something. I think the expression is don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, well don’t go to this shop if you are hungry for fly fishing equipment and materials. Great staff, very informative and helpful. Visit if you are in the area and be prepared for a great experience
TCO Fly Shop earned this award because of their ability to provide customers with outstanding personalized service and education, offering them with a diverse product offering to help them have a great time on the water, and being great advocates for fly fishing by turning their love of this sport into their livelihood.
2021 Endorsed Conservationist of the Year
Brian Kraft–Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge
Despite the challenges posed in 2020, the angling community was thrilled to mark a significant victory in the fight to protect the fish and wildlife resource of Alaska’s Bristol Bay Region. Though the war is not yet over, in 2020 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Alaska District issued a record of decision that denies the Pebble Limited Partnership’s permit application under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act. This decision, and the precedent it sets, relieves the immediate threat of the Pebble Mine to Bristol Bay’s incomparable fish habitat, and some well-deserved affirmation made over the past nearly two decades by local Tribes, community leaders and residents and amplified by the conservation community and many others.
With all of this in mind, Orvis is proud to recognize an Endorsed Partner who has gone above and beyond in advocating for the protection of Bristol Bay’s salmon resource. This individual has been tireless in his efforts to push back against the unyielding force of the Pebble Limited Partnership. With characteristic scrappiness and hustle, he has served as a dauntless leader within the fly-fishing industry and beyond.