Orvis steps up for guide relief

Through the end of the year, double your donation to the Guide Relief Program
fishing guides in boat
Photo: Gregory Houska

A fly-fishing industry leader will match all donations up to $10,000 through the end of the year to a program designed to help fishing guides deal with both personal and professional crises, according to one of the program’s creators.

Orvis and the Guide Relief Program (GRP) announced this week that the company will match all donations up to $10,000 to the program, which focuses on helping the people who coach and educate anglers and serve as resource stewards for all who fish.

“Our goal is simple, but our task is challenging,” says Mollie Simpkins, who created the GRP during the 2020 COVID-19 crises that saw many guides sidelined during lockdown. It’s since expanded its mission to offer financial help to guides impacted by natural disasters, like the record flooding in Montana in early summer 2022 to the impacts of hurricanes, like Ian, that raked across Florida in September. But it’s not just about natural disaster relief. “Life comes at fishing guides fast and hard, which is why facilitating access to no-cost mental health services also lies at the core of our mission.”

Through a partnership with BetterHelp, the GRP offers approved guides two months of access to comprehensive mental health services at no cost. The 100-percent confidential program is available to anyone who can prove they are a guide. Once approved, guides are matched with a licensed, board-certified therapist according to specific needs and preferences.

A guide’s day is much longer than most clients will ever understand. Eight hours on the river or on the flats are all most of us might notice. But days also include everything from necessary boat and gear maintenance, billing and bill-paying, marketing, and just about any other task associated with running a successful small business on a razor-thin margin.

“I think most guides would say that it’s a rewarding and demanding job,” Simpkins says, “but I know from working with guides that being ambassadors for the sport and serving as gatekeepers and stewards of our angling resources can be very taxing, too.”

As a group, Simpkins says, professional fishing guides are prone to a variety of social and economic stressors and mental health issues. Along with KynsLee Scott, Simpkins created the Guide Relief Program to lend simple, but meaningful support to those who guide and protect angling resources, both on the water and off.

In 2022, the average grant awarded to guides via the GRP averaged about $2,100.

“We are finding that more than ever, the guide community is in need of the support that the Guide Relief Program has to offer,” Simpkins says. “The cost to provide two free months of mental health benefits for each guide is $260. We need your help so we can help more guides.”

Anyone can help simply by visiting the GRP website and donating via a secure interface.

And now through the end of the year, Orvis will match all donations up to $10,000. These matching funds compound the impact of all donations while making them more meaningful and important than ever, Simpkins says.

“We’re so grateful to Orvis for stepping up to help,” she says. “It means the world, not just to GRP, but to the guides we work with and serve to see a company that can make the connection between great fishing and great guides.”