Orvis is on a mission-- unity and parity on the water. With the 50/50 on the Water campaign, a lofty goal has been set; an equal ratio of men to women fly anglers. What started as wishful thinking just two years ago has grown into a resounding call to action for Orvis as a company and the fly fishing industry as a whole. In less than two years, Orvis has earned three awards for its efforts. The first came from DUN Magazine. “We were pumped to receive the DUN Mayfly Award in recognition of our contributions towards women's fly fishing. We wouldn't be where we are today with the 50/50 campaign without the help of our incredible network, including Jen Ripple from DUN Magazine,” said Chrissy Atkins, Men’s Digital Merchant/Analyst at Orvis. At the International Fly Tackle Dealer Show in July, two of Orvis' three awards for product design were given to women’s products.
What stands out about 50/50? It’s the first holistic, empathetic approach to making fly fishing inclusive. The goal is to truly understand women who fly fish and, taking it a step further, to support women who are taking a leading role in the sport and industry.
The Orvis company has introduced thousands of people to fly fishing through schools and partnerships with charitable organizations, but 50/50 is the most intensive push to bring more women into the sport in its history. Orvis has embraced it as part of the company's core mission. The authentic representation of women in catalogs, on the website and in advertising has greatly increased. Messages of parity are backed up by a large assortment of gear and clothing designed for women by women anglers that really fits and performs. Orvis is going all-out to make it easy for women to get into the sport.
Steve Hemkens, Orvis VP of Rod & Tackle/Sporting Adventures, saw the need to support the visible expansion of women breaking into fly fishing over the last few years and was inspired to take action. He enlisted Jackie Kutzer, a Designer at Orvis, Chrissy Atkins, and Amanda Silverman, Merchandising Assistant, Orvis Adventures, to lead the charge. “We believe there is a group of women anglers out there who are committed to learning more about fly fishing,” says Jackie. “Our goal is to organize them into a network, connect them to one another so they can encourage each other throughout their learning process, and hopefully become passionate about a sport we all love.”
“I'm excited to see companies committed to both providing quality gear and resources for women in the sport,” explains Chrissy. “For me, fly fishing offers an escape where I can be out on the water, enjoy nature, be in the moment without work or personal stress churning through my brain. I love the adrenaline rush of catching a fish, but it's also about following the current, taking pictures of birds, finding the perfect heart rock, and delivering a beautiful cast. I want more women to have that in their lives. Our journey over the last 18 months has allowed me to work with some of the most incredible women in the fly fishing industry. I've really enjoyed learning from and getting to know them.”
Amanda remarks, “To me, 50/50 empowers. It brings women into a sport that they may have never tried before and empowers them to embrace the outdoors in a way they had not been able to before.”
It all started in the spring of 2016 at the Orvis Guide Rendezvous (OGR) in Missoula MT. OGR attracts professional fly fishing guides and lodge owners from all over the world. Orvis invited 31 women and men to attend a two-day leadership lab. The event inspired an enthusiastic, supportive bonding of diverse women (and a few men) who all shared the same passion. With the help of this amazing group, the campaign hit the ground running.
Authenticity and connection are the cornerstones of the program. This includes showcasing authentic experiences of real women fly fishing—all ages, body types, and skill levels. Connections can be created by honoring women’s inner experience of being outdoors, enjoying nature and wanting to protect it. “We believe that more women fishing means more healthy fisheries,” explains Jackie. Women also have unlimited potential to influence the next generation of conservationists by mentoring young girls and boys.
The hope is that 50/50 will naturally extend beyond Orvis as the growing network fans the flames of excitement and encouragement. Chrissy explains, “The intention is for this to be bigger than just Orvis. We're collaborating with other fly fishing brands, the media, and really, anyone that shares our goals and values. We're also looking for ways we can partner with the rest of the outdoor industry. It’s encouraging to see how our network has grown.”