When most people dream of spring break, they imagine warm water, sandy beaches, and picturesque sunsets. But my trip to Manchester Vermont had none of those things. I did have the opportunity to travel to the Bahamas to visit a new lodge and pursue bonefish this week–a place where Spring Break would have felt like spring–but due to a strange convergence of events (I won’t bore you with them here) I found myself traveling to Orvis headquarters instead.
My two travel companions were George Daniel (of Dynamic Nymphing fame), and Doug Bear, a fantastic Orvis rep and one of the most knowledgeable men in the fly fishing industry, whose real claim to fame is pending legislation in 50 American states and 6 territories which would forcibly revoke his drivers license, earning him the nickname “Bearly Legal.”
George picked me up at my house, and we drove to a meeting spot in the Poconos where we left his car to ride shotgun in Bearly Legal’s new Honda Element. Though the trip was long, conversation was plentiful and evenly spaced adrenaline rushes, caused by Bearly Legal’s navigational screen which works more like a Patriot Missile guidance system, kept things interesting.
We traveled to Manchester at night, so we weren’t able to see the majestic Green Mountains that would have made our daylight ride home so enjoyable, if Bearly Legal’s driving had only allowed me to keep my eyes open to see them. But enough about Bearly’s driving. He got us there and back without the need for a medical insurance claim, and I guess that’s something. To be fair, most of our near collisions weren’t Doug’s fault. As George said, “Doug Bear is like Magneto, the X-Men character who has the ability to attract metal.”
Which one is the real Doug Bear?
Our time at Orvis was a whirlwind of tours and meetings designed to help the four TCO employees in attendance (George, Chris Frangiosa, Joe McGinley, and me) get a better understanding of the Orvis company and its current direction. We had the opportunity to test future products and learn about the ins and outs of the Orvis company. The experience was probably nothing like you imagine. Some anglers today see Orvis as the establishment. A stuffy, old company full of cigar smoking, leather-patch-on-the-jacket-sleeve wearing men who are out of touch with the younger generation of fly fishers. But what I found was a company full of youthful, energetic, hard-core anglers who are just as jazzed to chase local carp as they are to travel to any exotic location. And though I’d love to tell you about the super-secret projects that are currently in development at Orvis, I cannot. But trust me when I say that company has some really cool stuff in the pipeline that will keep anglers hungry for their new products for years to come.
One of my favorite parts of the Orvis visit was the rod shop tour. Anglers who think that all Orvis products are made overseas, or that graphite rods are somehow magically created in a giant machine, have no idea what takes place at Orvis. Its amazing to see the level of craftsmanship it takes these American workers to produce a single rod and the amount of time and care they invest to make sure that it does what its supposed to do on the water, so you’ll love fishing with it. We even had the opportunity to see the milling machine, built by fly fishing legend Wes Jordan, churn out some cane strips for bamboo rods. I love fly fishing history and cane rods, so that was really cool.
We got to meet many of the people behind the scenes who develop the rods, reels, vests, waders, and all the other items that we fly fishers need. They all seemed to love what they do for a living. But I don’t think I met a single Orvis employee who smiled more than the guys who get to test the fly rods. They really enjoy breaking stuff to make it stronger so that it doesn’t break when you use it. And they love the carnage. I did too.
If you ever get the opportunity to travel to Manchester Vermont, you should pay Orvis a visit. But please, if you know what’s good for you, don’t ask Doug “Bearly Legal” Bear for a ride.