In Memory of Leigh H. Perkins (1927-2021)

Founding Trustee of the American Museum of Fly Fishing

Leigh Perkins set his sights on Orvis at a young age, aiming to own the company that espoused his love of hunting and fishing. This passion shifted from youthful enthusiasm to an innovative business model, prioritizing research and development of world-class fly-fishing tackle. The rods displayed here are just a small sample of the depth and breadth of the company’s dedication to providing the perfect rod for any angler in any location during Leigh’s nearly 30-year tenure at Orvis.

In the early 1970s, Orvis joined the early graphite pioneers and transitioned its rod manufacturing away from fiberglass. Graphite, a fiber long in development by various militaries across the world, had come into production first with spinning rods. Its phenomenal light weight, strength, and flexibility made it quickly evident that it was even more ideal for fly rods. While never abandoning bamboo, even during an embargo with China, Perkins believed in the future of graphite. Through serendipity, and thanks to his wide connections to big business, Perkins found technical advice outside the angling industry, while at home his mechanical staff had the engineering expertise combined with rod manufacturing knowledge that sealed Orvis’s ascendency into graphite.

Orvis’s continued success can be attributed to the vision of Leigh Perkins. He brought extraordinary teams together to meet and exceed the challenges of a leisure sport business during tough economic and manufacturing times. He remained absolutely committed to a rigorous schedule of worldwide travel to further the company, but also to fish and hunt. Thus Perkins lived the very life that he astutely and joyously marketed into an enduring global lifestyle brand.

Exhibit Design by Green Screen Graphics
With special thanks to Jim Becker, JH Becker Rodworks

The Leigh Perkins exhibition at the museum, featuring rods and reels from his tenure at Orvis.