Breckenridge Outfitters has two big reasons to celebrate. Not only was it recently named the Orvis Endorsed Outfitter of the Year for 2013, but with this win, the fourth in the company’s 20-year history, Breckenridge Outfitters becomes the most decorated Orvis outfitter in the world.
“It’s pretty sweet,” said owner Ned Parker. “There are hundreds and hundreds of Orvis outfitters, so to be recognized for that is very special.”
This year’s is the first Orvis award the store has seen under Parker’s ownership. Breckenridge Outfitters won the award in 1999, 2003 and 2005 under different owners. Parker has been involved with it for more than 10 years, first as a guide, then as store manager and finally as owner.
Originally from Denver, Parker moved up to Summit County after college just for the fishing. While he didn’t originally plan to become involved in the management of an outfitter, everything just fell into place.
“I absolutely love what I do,” Parker said. “Loving to go to work every day is well worth it.”
In addition to selling fly-fishing equipment, Parker and his employees focus very heavily on the educational and instructional aspect of the sport. They provide guided tours year-round, from two hours to overnight in length.
“It’s very special to be on the water with guests teaching them how to fish and having fun with them out there,” Parker said.
While Breckenridge Outfitters certainly has a loyal base of local customers, many of its clients, particularly in the summertime, come from outside the county. Of those, however, Parker believes that nearly all of them are repeat customers.
“These families are ones that have been fishing with us for 15 or 16 years now, that have their favorite guide and always come in to say hello,” he said. “We build very good relationships with our customers. We try to make sure that there’s a professional relationship as well as a friendship relationship.”
That attitude likely is a big part of what got Breckenridge Outfitters the Orvis award. Scores for the award are based on client evaluations. Email surveys are sent out after each guide trip.
With the summer season approaching, Parker is planning to offer a free fly-fishing class at the store. Fly-fishing 101 will teach not only different styles of casts and presentation, but it includes an in-store component about flies — the various life cycles of bugs and when to use which. The class will be open to anyone and requires absolutely no fees, personal equipment or licensing.
“It takes patience,” Parker said of fly-fishing. “And I understand that it’s not for everybody, but it’s something that everybody should try in their lifetime.”
It’s obvious that fly-fishing is more than just a sport for Parker. As a biologist, he has a strong interest in the ecosystem of the rivers and lakes that he frequents. He understands the various species of insects that populate them — their names, their habits, their seasons and their life cycles. His shop sells tens of thousands of flies, each of which Parker can name and describe when and where to use. He also understands the importance of environmental awareness.
“Everybody in the industry is really into preservation and conservation of the trout,” Parker said. Every guided tour in Colorado, for example, is catch-and-release only. “We really need to maintain what we have before it’s gone. With too many people not following the rules and taking out those fish, we need to protect what we have, watch our environment, make sure our fish stay in the rivers.”
As busy as he is with the store, Parker isn’t always able to get out all that often to go fishing. His main fishing season is between October and November, he said, but his extensive knowledge of the nearby waterways allows him to be successful. And so long as he’s fishing, he’s happy.
What he loves best about it, he said, is “the peacefulness of fly fishing, the solitude, the trying to use trickery to get fish to eat a fake fly. To go out and stand in a river and wave a stick around for a while is about as relaxing a thing that I can think of.”