Friday, March 18, 2011

03.18.11 Back from the Orvis Guide Rendezvous & the North Country, and another deep fly fishing moment

Pete Kutzer, attendees, and Orvis Sandanona

     I can tell you a few things about me. I am a learner and a worker. Two things that I really enjoy doing. The harder I work and work to learn the happier I am. Not only do I benefit from it, but that "contentness" I feel  benefits others around me. I am a much warmer and fuzzier guy when I feel like I am achieving something. It's a win-win. So when I received an invitation to attend the 2011 Orvis Guide Rendezvous I was very excited. The annual meetings are invite only to guides who are Orvis Endorsed, which I am not, but hope to be one day. This year they opened it up by invite and I benefited from it greatly.
     On Wednesday night Orvis had dinner and drinks for the group at the Copperfield's Restaurant in Millbrook, NY. It was a short drive to Orvis Sandanona, Orvis' outdoor shooting range, bird hunting grounds and fly fishing school. I saw and met a bunch of guides that I have seen over the years at the Fly Fishing Shows and on the Upper Delaware River. It was a good time and an early St. Patrick's Day night as I was back in my room at the Cottonwood Motel by 830 pm.

Steve Hempkins talks about the Orvis product line

     Thursday was a beautiful day. We all met at Sandanona and had breakfast before a series of talks from the Orvis management team. It was really interesting to see another side of the fly fishing industry. Ever since I started fly fishing nearly 20 years ago I always thought it was all about the novice angler, which would later come to play when I named my business, The Average Angler. It's about the guy or gal who works hard, gets out when they can, are always trying to learn more, and even sometimes live vicariously through the fishing travels of others. That's who I am. That's who I like to be. That's who I like to know. And now it's the client I look to teach and build a relationship with.
     Along those same lines, Jim Lepage, the Orvis Vice-President spoke of how Orvis is trying to dispel the myth that the company is stuffy and elitist. He told a story about how he heard a new fly- fisher practiced for two years before calling a guide, hoping to avoid the embarrassment if they couldn't measure up to the guides expectations. He wants Orvis to be for everyone. In addition to Jim, we also heard about how products are being developed to both meet customer requests and  hit all the different price ranges. I am sure that other manufacturers go through the same processes to make their products more affordable, available, and within reach to the largest demographic there is, which I feel is, The Average Angler.

Getting to try out the Orvis line

     Before a great lunch they pulled out their lines of rods and reels for all of us to try. I immediately went for the Helios 9ft 10wt with the Mirage V reel and 10WFF line. It was a pleasure to cast. I knew I was spending a little too much time with it because I heard other saltwater guides asking where it was. They provided a great lunch that we ate on the grounds. It was just a great opportunity to meet other Northeast guides and in particular one special person.


                                               Tom Rosenbauer videos Pete Kutzer during the fly casting demonstration

     During a break in the talks and checking out the latest Orvis offerings I saw Tom Rosenbauer. I am sure you all know who Tom is. He was just named Fly Rod & Reel 2011 Angler of the Year. For me, he's the face of Orvis. It's his fishing guides and books I've read over the years as I continued to learn how to fly fish and way before I dreamed of becoming a guide. It's whose name you hear referred to when Orvis is mentioned. He is one of the guys who've I've never met, but kind feel like I know because I have learned so much from him. I have his books, read the interviews he has done, and I am one of the 1,000,000 people who've listened to his Podcasts. So I was surprised when I first saw him for the first time. He was shorter then I thought he would be, dressed king of regular guyish and not all Orvised up. He looked just like a regular guy. Well of course, right? Well I think when we have someone we learn from and hear about for years, we kind of build up an image of what that person might look like or be when we meet them. To relate it to something, remember the great lines in the movie Braveheart with Mel Gibson,


" Young soldier : William Wallace is 7 feet tall.

Wallace : Yes, I've heard. He kills men by the hundreds, and if he were here he'd consume the English with fireballs from his eyes and bolts of lightning from his arse.

Wallace : Sons of Scotland, I am William Wallace. "

     So it might be a bit much, but, you get the idea . So when I saw Tom standing in the back of the room I wanted to introduce myself. "Colin Archer, The Average Angler, fly fishing guide, here at the Orvis Guide Rendezvous". Simple. So when I went up to him I said, " Hi Tom, I'm Colin Archer I am a big fan." He kind of looked at me like I was someone who infiltrated the Orvis meeting, and then he read my name tag and saw I was in the right place. We then had a great quick conversation and I was really glad I got to talk with him.
     We finished up the day with some casting instruction and tips which always are a great refresher and welcomed by all. I have to thank Scott McEnaney, who runs the Northeast Endorsed Guide Program, and who always asked how things were going when he saw me throughout the two days.
     I then left Millbrook and headed up the Thruway and then Northway to Ausable Forks, my home away from home. My purpose of the quick trip was to shovel what I thought would be three feet of snow from the roofs of the lodge. Luckily, a deluge of rain took care of all the snow from the roofs throughout the Adirondacks. It may not helped with the flooding, but it did help get rid of the snow. I went for a quick bite to eat at Mad River Pizza across the river on the Jay side before coming back home and snooping around the house. I always seem to pause at my small library of books and magazines that I have left up there for the anglers staying at the house to enjoy. Well last night I pulled a bunch of them out and started to look through them. As much as everyone loves social media, and all of the different outlets for the information to flow between the authors and readers, I just think it kinda sucks. Why. Because it's all driven by content. Years ago content was important. It had value. The amount of content in a newspaper or magazine was directly related to the amount and size of ads that were sold. If you had more adds, you needed more content, more words, more pictures, more people, more staff, more people getting paid. It also worked that way when the advertising dollars weren't there. Well in this day and age, content- as important as it is- has become relatively without value, well without or less of a monetary value. Nowadays, there's so many outlets, so many free on-line magazines, so many willing to put you as as a link or for a by-line for words, stories, pictures that "you" created. Years ago that was a travel assignment for a writer and photographer. I need to shut-up. But you know what the thinking is, if you give the words and pictures up for free, then you will have exposure and then be able to make up for it in another way, ie. guiding, lodging, whatever. Sad, and kind of a rant on my part, but true.

Two binders of old Fly Fisherman magazines

     So back to that pile of magazines and books. I ran across the street and grabbed a coffee from Stewarts and came back and started looking. And soon I realized that some of the folks who are legends today, started out a long time ago. Example, Tom Rosenbauer, he's been at Orvis for 35 years, I am 43 years old. Do that math. Another example is Lefty Kreh, just celebrated I think his 86th birthday. I found an article he did in Fly Fisherman Magazine from 1972. I just shot him and spoke with him while he was giving casting demonstrations at the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset this year. Here's his article on tarpon on the fly that appeared in Fly Fisherman Magazine,

Left's Tarpon article 1972

Lefty being Lefty- Fly Fishing Show, Somerset, January 2011

The next thing that floored me was an old article by Pat Ford. Pat Ford, the well known photographer, I was just with him at the Bimini Big Game Club in February! This article is from 1972. I was born in 1968. The article is about how he discovered and started salt water fly fishing. That's 40 years ago! Here's his work from Fly Fisherman,

Pat Ford's 1972 Fly Fisherman article

Pat Ford on some bonefish, Bimini Big Game Club, Feb. 2011

And then one of my early favorites, Dick Talleur, who recently passed away. His book was one of the first I turned to when I wanted to learn how to fly fish for trout over 25 years ago. I remember meeting him several years after buying his book and asking him to sign it. I will always have that book, and the memories of having him sign it. Even though since that time I had talked with him at shows and took pictures of him, I will always remember those early memories of standing at his table and watching him tie and talking trout.

Dick Talleur signed my early edition of his book, with the later edition

Talleur at the Fly Tying Symposium, Somerset, 2009

     As I look at the names of the authors of the articles in the magazines and the books I have on my shelves, I start to think to myself, why do I continue to buy all this content that is being shared, swapped, bartered, stolen, screen grabbed, ect- when I have all I need, or want, to know from days past. Yes, technologies have changed, waters and access have changed, materials have changed, BUT, the things that haven't changed can be found from the people I admire most, just a few, Schweibert, Swisher, Kreh, Betters, Richards, Lyons, and many more. There were two more classics that I read more then my fathers Playboy, Trout Fisherman's Bible and Trout Fisherman's Digest. That was great stuff!

Excerpts from the above books

    And then I opened one last book, The Orvis Ultimate Book of Fly Fishing, by Tom Rosenbauer. The man I had met earlier in the day. That book has been sitting on those shelves up in the Adirondacks for a few years now. I took a sip of coffee and started with the Introduction. As I read I realized why I liked this guy. From Tom's intro- " You can enjoy its photographs of the more exotic fish or locations, leave the book on the shelf for six months, then pick it up in the middle of winter to dream about catching a steelhead or bonefish, or refresh your memory bon how to tie a nail knot. Down the road you might have use for other chapters. Maybe your college roommate invites you on a Bahamas bonefish trip. Perhaps your daughter moves to Cleveland and you discover there are steelhead rivers within the city limits of that city, and you can slip away to fish on family visits. I'm hoping you'll find reasons to pick up this book many times over the years, and pick up fresh nuggets every time you do." 


     So it should be no surprise that today while driving home to the Jersey Shore from the Adirondacks I looked over on the passengers seat and Tom's book was laying on top. It made the journey back. I think my search for fly fishing knowledge shouldn't always lie with the next click of the mouse or next months magazine, but maybe rather a step back in time revisiting my old collection and realizing how much content I have read and forgot along the way.